01 Jan Minister General concludes visit to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina
The Minister General’s Fraternal Visit to the four provinces of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina ended with a Prayer Vigil and Mass in Medjugorje between 31 December 2021 and 1 January 2022
During the Mass, the Minister encouraged those present to welcome the gift of peace that is Christ from above: “Let us welcome this gift of peace insofar as we recognise ourselves as children of God in Christ, that beloved Son, God incarnate”. He added the reason that brought him to Medjugorje as a pilgrim: to start the New Year, to present the whole Franciscan Family to the Mother of God and to invoke a more living faith in Jesus on the part of all.
At the end of his homily, Br Massimo invited those present to pray that peace may promote the integral development of people, that the faith and work of the Friars Minor may grow in the Franciscan Family, and that the shrine may become a lasting place of listening and mercy for the many who come there.
Accompanying the Minister General in Medjugorje were Br Konrad Grzegorz Cholewa, Definitor General, Br Miljenko Steko, Minister Provincial of Mostar and Br Vjekoslav Miličević, Personal Secretary. After the celebration, the Minister returned to Italy.
Full text of the Minister General’s homily in Medjugorje:
Solemnity of the Most Holy Mother of God
Medjugorje, January 1, 2022
May the Lord turn his face to you and grant you peace
On this first day of the year, annually dedicated to the Mother of God and to prayer for peace, the words of the blessing of Aaron give us light for the new time that is opening before us: it is the face of God that shows us the way and gives us peace.
Let us not begin the year trusting in ourselves and in our own ability to sow and obtain peace. We know that peace is a gift from above, a blessing addressed to us, a promise of good: Christ is our peace!
We accept this gift of peace insofar as we recognize ourselves as children of God in Christ, that beloved Son, God incarnate: “He became man, and did not enter into a man”.
We are children of God through the gift of the Spirit of the beloved Son himself. It is the Spirit who enveloped the Virgin Mary, giving her through the purest of grace to bear “in the flesh one of the Holy Trinity, Christ our God”, as the Seventh Ecumenical Council proclaims.
The Holy Spirit so filled the Virgin Mary that her womb was able to receive Christ and her heart, mind and will were ready to listen:
Mary, for her part, kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Mary is the faith-filled disciple and the Mother of God: that is why our earth was able to germinate from her the One who is true peace.
In this solemnity which completes the octave of Christmas, we are allowed, as we prayed at the beginning of the Mass, to taste the first fruits of his merciful love. For peace is truly a gift of God and not the result of our own poor efforts.
How beautiful it is, then, that the first day of the year should make us look to Mary the Mother of God, she who gave life to God in her flesh as a woman and remained bound to that child in an unique and unrepeatable way: that is why we call her Theotokos, Mother of God, because she is bound to the person of the Word of God made flesh, one of us!
With a single word (Θεοτόκος-Mother of God), we confess the heart of faith in the Incarnation of the Word of God. We say that man becomes a child of God and a worker of that peace which is He who was born, died and rose again for us!
I have come as a pilgrim to this shrine to begin the New Year and to bring here with joy and faith especially all the brothers of the Order of Friars Minor, the Poor Clares and the many members of the Franciscan Family.
I have made myself a pilgrim here in order to invoke on behalf of all of us a more living faith in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, the centre of the cosmos and of history.
I am a pilgrim here as the successor of St Francis, who “surrounded the Mother of Jesus with an unspeakable love, because she had made our brother, the Lord of majesty. To her honour Francis sang special praises, raised prayers, offered so many and such affections that human language could not express them.” Thomas of Celano tells us this.
In this place, for many years now, many people have seen the flame of faith rekindle as they listen to the word of God and celebrate the sacraments, especially those of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
And it is here that freedom opens up to discover the gift of prayer, especially through silence and adoration. And this is why so many have been able to taste the gift of reconciliation and peace in this place.
Do we not find all this in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our sister in faith? St Paul VI wrote: “Mary is the demonstration of what God does when he finds a willing person: she is what we must become”.
St Francis called Mary virgin made Church: we can become what we see realized in her. This is the deepest path of conversion, a gift of the Spirit that makes our freedom new and makes it grow.
We can truly become with Mary the house, the palace, the tabernacle of God in the midst of the world. As on her, so on us the Spirit of the Lord will rest and make his dwelling and abode with us. And we are children of our heavenly Father, and spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ. In this way we can generate him through the holy work that must shine as an example for others.
This is the new life, the fruit of the peace that comes from welcoming Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary: this is the gift that many have experienced in this place and that many others will be able to receive. Let us pray that this work of God may continue and grow according to his will.
Let us pray that peace may promote the integral development of people, above all, that “Dialogue between generations, education and work: tools for building lasting peace” may grow.
Let us pray that faith will grow in our Franciscan family and that the presence of the Virgin Mary will once again be discovered at the heart of our charism.
Let us pray that the presence and work of the Friars Minor in this place may become a stable door of listening and mercy for the many who come here.
May the Mother of God, who made the Lord of Majesty our brother, continue to bless us and accompany us in peace. Amen