In Medugorje, on March 23, 2020, Fr. Marinko Sakota, the parish priest celebrated the Holy Mass and on this occasion we bring his entire homily here.
At that time Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honour in his native place. When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast. Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” The father realised that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe. Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea. John 4, 43-54
In the words Jesus gives to royal official, we can hear a sort of on objection - “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”This objection is Jesus’ invitation for us to strive to believe, not to seek only to see something, not to run for signs and miracles, for quick healings, but to believe! To believe in Jesus! Not to look for Him only when we need something, that would be the case of this royal official, not just to gain something from Him, for Him to do something to us, to fulfil us desires, to hear our prayers, heal us and others, but to believe in Him, to construct a personal relationship with Him, so He would be important to us when it is hard and easy for us, when we have corona virus and when all is fine.
This time of pandemic, isolation and solitude is the time of faith! This is not the time to run from one church to the other, from one Holy Communion to the other, from one spiritual director to the other, from one seminar to the other.
This is the time of faith! Faith in God – that God is with us, that we are His beloved children that we live in Him, as St. Paul says. This is the time of entrusting ourselves, our lives, our families and other people to Jesus.
Jesus is teaching that His disciples and ourselves. He is teaching us to freedom and love, to fasting and to silence. This Lent is the time of fasting and silence and the time of bare faith, of pure entrusting ourselves to Jesus.
After Transfiguration on the Mount of Tabor, Jesus forbid His disciples to talk about it: «Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.» (Mt 17, 9)
Why did Jesus not allow His disciples to talk about such a powerful experience they had, but rather invited them to silence? Is not this invitation to silence against the natural need to talk about such experience after they had it? As I was reflecting on that, I recalled the message Our Lady gave on February 25, 2020: «Dear children! In this time of grace, I desire to see your faces transformed in prayer. You are so flooded by earthly concerns, you do not even feel that spring is at the threshold. You are called, little children, to penance and prayer. As nature fights in silence for new life, also you are called to open yourselves in prayer to God, in Whom you will find peace and warmth of the spring sun in your hearts. Thank you for having responded to my call.»
Our Lady turns our eyes first towards the life in the nature so she would help us understand the laws of the spiritual life. From the creatures, she takes us to the Creator – from the transformation in the nature to the transformation within ourselves.
The winter is coming to the end, the spring is here and warmth too, the first buds appear on the trees and this is the sign of the new life. This is the fruit of the gentle and wonderous touch of sun and the nature, of the warm sun rays and the plants. It is not something that can be seen in the noise, rather in the interior and in the silence. For us it seems like a silence, but inside that plant the battle is being held – the nature fights in the silence for a new life and this battle is the process of transfiguration.
A man from the town came to one hermit that he considered to be especially wise. «What is the silence?»he asked this simple hermit.
He did not respond anything and both remained silent for a long while. It began to rain and the hermit pointed to the plot where he planted some wheat recently. «Do you hear the rain?»he said, and added: «The rain will water the soil and help those seeds to grow. This is what I call the silence.»
A man from the town nodded his head and remained silent. Suddenly, the sun came out and the hermit pointed to plant with gentle buds. «Each day sun rays fall on these buds and they open one by one. This is what I call silence.»
They continued to walk in silence.
After some time, a man from the town began to speak: “So, silence is much more than the absence of noise and sounds. Silence is not a pause, but something takes place in it – something the most important.”This is how he decided to remain with the hermit to get to know the silence.
Prayer is similar to what takes place in the nature. In it, God and man meet, God’s love and human heart. If the heart becomes opened to God’s love, it would experience similar to what takes place when a spring sun touches the plant. God’s love gently touches, embraces and fills with the warmth and peace human heart. The fruit of that divine’s love touch and human heart is transformation of one’s heart.
It is transformation inside, like those buds on the trees in the springtime that would become visible on our faces. Faces would radiate with joy, peace and serenity, radiate with the experience of gentle touch of God’s love. But, this is not something that would simply occur, there would be a battle before all this.
When Jesus speaks about the importance of hidden place for the one who prays, fasts and gives alm, He takes us from the surface into the depth of the experience. There, in the heart, we encounter with God who sees in secret. Only in the silence of our heart we can experience that God’s gaze and feel the rays of His love shine on us. “So true prayer demands that we be more passive than active; it requires more silence than words, more adoration than study, more concentration than rushing about, more faith than reason. We must understand thoroughly that true prayer is a gift from heaven to earth, the Father to his child; from the Bridegroom to the bride, from him who has to one who has not, from Everything to nothing.” (Carlo Carretto, Letters from the Desert)
Jesus forbid His disciples to talk about His Transfiguration for their hearts were not still transformed. Those hearts would be transformed only after the battle, when the «Son of Man raises from the dead»; only after Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter morning and descent of the Holy Spirit on them.
The transformation of the disciples took place in the silence, in the inner battle, in letting go of themselves, their plans and their perceptions about Jesus. In dying of their ego and in allowing Holy Spirit to come to the darkness in their hearts. Only afterwards they would be able to witness to the others about what they had experienced. If they spoke about their experience without transformation of their own hearts, those words could not reach people who would be listening to them.
Mary is the teacher of silence, for she speaks from her experience. After the words of angel Gabriel she did not understand, she remained in silent, meditates, enters into the depth and reflects on the meaning of those words.«But she was greatly troubled.» (Lk 1, 29) In every new situation, Mary does not remain at the surface of those experiences, but she enters into the interior, in the silence. «Mary kept all those things, reflecting on them in her heart.»(Lk 2, 19)Mary did not walk around and talks about what she experienced, but ponders on that in her heart. «And his mother kept all these things in her heart.»(Lk 2, 51)
From her own experience, she teaches us, her children: «That is why, little children, in the silence of the heart, remain with Jesus, so that He may change and transform you with His love.» (25. 7. 1998.) The outer silence is only the beginning of the prayer with the heart. We need to go on deeper, into the interior and in the silence.
One day people came to one monk who lived in the solitude and in the silence. They asked him: «Which is the purpose of your life in silence?»The monk was about to take water from the deep well and so he said to his visitors: «Look into the well! What do you see?»People looked into this deep well and they said they do not see anything. But after some time the monk invited them again to take a look. They looked and this time they were able to see themselves.
The monk said: «You see, earlier on when I was taking water, the water was not still, but now it is still and that is the experience of silence and solitude – You can see yourself!»
Without silence and solitude we cannot see ourselves, Jesus or other people. Also, without silence we cannot see what is before us, what was given to us. Yet, there is so much that was given to us, each day and each moment! Only we get to know that now perhaps, all thanks to something that stopped us in our rush.
What are those gifts? The members of your family, the air you breath, the birds that sing, spring that is about to come, blue sky and the flowers appearing at the meadows...
If we are in the noise all the time and we talk, we cannot hear our voice, or the voice of the other, even less we can hear the voice of God. Only when the heart is appeased and the eye becomes attentive, we can hear, notice, see and comprehend. This is not easy, this is the battle. The battle is to remain seated, to listen, to see, not to talk and not to react.
«Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.» (Mt 17, 9)
It is the time of the Lent. The Easter is about to come. We stopped, we paused. This is the opportunity to enter into the silence, to entrust to Jesus, to believe in Him. In this time when it is not easy, more than ever before, now when we cannot rely on our regular securities, when we do not see solution, or the end to this all, it is time to trust Him more than ever before! Let us learn how to say in silence – Jesus, I trust in You!