|Look at them and love them|
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by Christine Hammill
I was blessed to return to Medjugorje in May 2006 after nearly 18 years. I had been a pilgrim at the invitation of my mother in January 1987 and again during the summer of 1988 when I returned to Medjugorje while backpacking through Europe. In 1987 Yugoslavia was the first foreign country I ever visited and since then I have been around the world and back a few times, living in Asia, Africa, Europe and Central Asia for nearly eight years working as a lawyer and teacher, and traveling to more than 50 countries. In May 2006 I invited my mother to return to Medjugorje and I am not sure who was more surprised by the invitation, because at the time I was not a practicing Catholic. My week in May was wonderful as I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for how perfect my mother is for me. I embraced the gift of my parents, and how blessed I am to have been introduced to God’s love through my parent’s love. The week in May was a much needed precursor for me to return to Medjugorje less than a month later as I felt called to return for 40 days, which extended to seven weeks.
During my summer in Medjugorje I experienced countless perfect moments and received many gifts that connected like a never ending string of Mother Pearls. The only way I can succinctly describe my time there is by comparing it to a well tuned television. In Medjugorje it felt as if I saw and felt life free from any static on the screen as things seemed clear and more in tune. Life continued to present challenges for me, both generated from within me as well as people whom I met. Yet the direction to face the challenges came lovingly, compassionately, and with clarity. I was able to surrender more in each moment, which brought me to a space where I received comfort, respite and support from the Holy Spirit, experiencing those “ah ha moments” in life more frequently. Upon my return home to New York the static has slowly come back and I now struggle to remain open and to surrender - something which seemed effortless and so supported in the way of life in Medjugorje. I can’t attempt to share all the perfect pearls of the summer as Mary’s Mantle would need a several thousand word addendum to this issue. But what I can share are some moments that lead me to embrace my daily reminder to “look at them and love them”.
At the outset of my pilgrimage in June I felt it would continue to be a path of healing and reconciliation with the Catholic Church as I had been working on letting go of hurt, disappointment, anger and resentment for a while. But it proved to be more than that as it expanded into reconciling with the Sacraments and coming to appreciate the mystery of the Eucharist. My pilgrimage was a time of deepening my relationship with Christ, and particularly trying to live by emulating his way and trying to become more Christ like. It occurred to me during a talk given by Father Svett that my life’s pilgrimage is a path of wanting to ‘experience God’ in addition to praising and worshipping God. For me to truly experience God I want to build a relationship with God that emanates from my heart rather than from a sense of fear or obligation. Perhaps most of all, I want to feel open and present with God rather than resistant and reluctant to God’s way.
On July 2, 2006, I was blessed to attend the monthly apparition of Miriana, whose mission is to pray for those who don’t feel the love of God. I couldn’t help but feel that this refers to more people than we would hope. Few of us live truly feeling God’s love, not because God doesn’t love us, but because we don’t open ourselves to feel it completely. It became clear that my seven week stay in Medjugorje was a time for me to fall in love with God and only then could I truly love others. During the apparition I asked Mary for support in the gift of feeling the love of God, Jesus, and her love. I want to feel their love just as I feel my own mother’s love. Medjugorje always provides confirmation and a few hours later the Irish priest celebrating Mass in English concluded by calling on the congregation to fall in love with God. I smiled at what I came to recognize as the perfect string of Mother Pearls, each moment strung together by the Blessed Mother in a loving way.
My seven weeks of falling in love with God became synonymous with striving to love everyone. One of the gifts of my summer was to start each day climbing Krizevac (Cross Mountain) and following the Stations of the Cross along the 1.7 kilometer path. One morning as I was descending along the path I came upon a challenging group climbing the mountain. I had been in Medjugorje long enough to recognize the groups that were likely to plow me over without any regard for my space or prayer time. I decided to close my eyes to maintain my peace and make it easier to refrain from becoming irritated by them or judging them. As I stood with my eyes closed, I felt a gentle voice say “look at them and love them”. I took a moment, processed it and then slowly opened my eyes. The message was clear in an instant - I wasn’t meant to walk through life closing my eyes to difficulties, I was meant to open my eyes and love people as they are and with all their differences. On that occasion and many others I was called to love those who were more challenging for me to love. And I was even called to love them in the same way I love my own mother. I smiled at the seemingly impossible nature of that call, yet I was reminded of the most powerful message of the New Testament for me. Love one another, just as I love you! (John 15:12)
Gratitude for my mother’s love, surrendering in the moment, reconciling with the Sacraments, opening to Christ and the mystery of the Eucharist, and the willingness to feel God’s love is a string of Mother Pearls I grasp onto and try to live, albeit with limited success. In giving myself the space to fall in love with God I was able to receive the direction of a lifetime – look at them and love them. In each moment I remind myself that love of God and love of each other are one and the same. As I try to live it, successful moments come and that is only by the grace of God. Thanks to Medjugorje and the Tunin Vasilj family, with whom I stayed, who provided the ideal place to experience God’s love!
|Last Updated ( Friday, 07 December 2012 )|
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