Some Thoughts On Sensationalism
By Michael K. Jones

According to Webster Dictionary, sensationalism is something intended to thrill. Classifying a precise and accurate guideline as to what is and is not sensationalism, I think is a fine line. An apparition, a spinning sun and pictures of unusual events makes the subject matter even more difficult to address. Where do we draw the line, when the line drawn varies with each individual person. Below I offer my personal thoughts on sensationalism.

The media is famous for using sensationalism to increase ratings. I'm sure we recall the LA police chasing O.J. Simpson in the white Bronco. Millions tuned in to watch the chase unfold. However what about sensational claims of apparitions, miracles, cures, photos, etc.?

The Bible makes no real mention of the word sensationalism, yet the Scriptures are full of countless stories that have sensational impact. Our Lady of Medjugorje has given us hundreds of messages since June of 1981 but makes no mention of this topic, as of May 2001.

Millions have visited Medjugorje and return home offering witness and testimony, of events taking place. We come home as messengers, sharing what we have seen and felt. Sharing the witness and testimonies of our pilgrimage I think is acceptable and I do not consider it sensationalism, even though some of our stories are sensational to read.

In the Grotto of Lourdes, little Bernadette was witnessed to have placed her hand over a lit candle, during a visitation of the Virgin Mary. Upon inspection there was no sign of injury to the hand. This was a sensational happening for those who witnessed it. This and thousands of other testimonies surrounding Lourdes have been offered as witness.

Three shepherd children claimed that the Holy Virgin would perform a miracle on October 13, 1917. The spinning rotation of the sun appeared coming closer to the earth, it dried the rain soaked land in just few short moments. Believers and non-believers alike were stunned. Again we find a sensational event which impacts thousands, even to this day, as does Medjugorje.

Just sharing personal witnesses and testimonies are considered sensationalism by some. Others who witness these events first hand see it as quite the contrary. What we do see is that sensationalism seems to be an individual decision without clear and decisive guidelines.

Jesus performed many healings during His ministry. Some who received miracles were told by Jesus to show themselves to the elders. This was done as a witness and testimony. We also learn in Scripture that "works without deeds are lost in themselves." So in my opinion if someone has experienced an event that is unexplainable by human reasoning, it is seemingly acceptable to share the experience for witness and testimony. I also believe that attempts to share such an occurrence should not be exploited for some sort of personal gain. As Jesus sent forth the disciples to do good works He instructed them by saying, "Freely you have been given, freely so shall you give."

Those who consider sharing their testimonies should spend a great deal of time in pray for discernment. In so doing, the sharing of their testimony is (as they see it), the will of God. Mostly I personally think that sharing our stories is the will of God, as "works with deeds are lost in themselves." I also believe as Scripture tells us, having been given a coin we seek to make gain for the Master.

When Thomas heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, he did not believe it. Thomas said, "Not till I put my finger into His wounds, will I believe." Later Jesus told Thomas to put his finger into the wounds that he may believe. Upon seeing Jesus, Thomas marveled saying, "My Lord and my God." Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen me, you believed, blessed are they that have not seen and yet believe."

Thomas did not have to put his finger into the wounds of Jesus, he believed by seeing. Undoubtedly today when we say, "You're a doubting Thomas, or "Seeing is believing," we are referring to this story in Scripture.

Even as Jesus told Thomas, "blessed are they that have not seen and yet believe," we the faithful who do believe should not need to see, to believe. It is far better that we the faithful, believe and not see, for we know according to Scripture that we are blessed for it. Yet what of those who doubt in the world?

Thomas doubted and was allowed the opportunity to place his finger into Christ's wounds. This tells me that although those who have not seen are blessed, God also has a heart of mercy for a doubting Thomas.

It is my personal opinion that supernatural evidence at times may appear to promote the act of sensationalism, when placed in the wrong hands, or in some cases used for personal gain. However, I don't think we should disregard the doubting in this world who have need of seeing to believe. God did not deny Thomas for his lack of faith, and God did not deny Saul of Tarsus either. Therefore I do not think we should deny the doubting in this world. We all need to exercise discernment is such matters.

If some visitors find information on Medjugorje USA sensational, the intent is for the sake of the doubting in the world and certainly not posted to thrill the faithful, who should believe by faith. If "seeing to believe" is what it takes for a doubting Thomas, just maybe it is okay to provide for poor souls who have need of evidence, even though we should come to stand on faith alone.

In the April 26, 2001 Medjugorje Press Bulletin, the issue of sensationalism is briefly addresses. The brief statement tells us that we need to use discernment in matters where news is being spread. I agree with this statement. Discernment at time is a difficult thing and requires much prayer that we may know the fruits that are presented to us.

It is easy to be lead away by sensationalism, rather than focus on the things that are most important, such as, Mass, prayer, reconciliation, penance, and atonement. There are far more benefits for those who seek the place inside of them where God dwells, rather to be swallowed up by the things around us. Saint Teresa of Avila tell us in her writings, "…conforming to God's will is the highest perfection we can attain, and those who practice prayer with the greatest care will be favored by God's greatest gift and will make the quickest progress in the interior life…" These are words of wisdom which we all should live by.

In Chapter 9 of the Book of Acts, we read about Saul of Tarsus. Saul was considered a good and humble servant of the Jewish faith. In his zeal he sort to persecute the sect of the day called Christians. On the road to Damascus while seeking out these Christians, the Lord came unto him and said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Saul asked, …'Who are you?' "I am Jesus, who you persecute," spoke the Lord. After the visitation, in order to lead Saul to truth scales blinded Saul eyes.

The Lord appeared to Ananias with instruction that the scales may fall from Saul's eyes that Saul would not longer be blind. Jesus said to Ananias, "Arise and go into the street which is called Straight and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus…" Ananias was reluctant to do this saying, 'I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to the saints in Jerusalem.' The Lord spoke to Ananias again, "Go thy way for he is a chosen vessel unto me to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him great things he must suffer for my names sake."

Saul persecuted Christians but God had a heart of love for Saul. So the Lord did come to Saul, that he might believe. Saul was to witness for himself the amazing power of the Lord though a sensational event. (See Acts 9 for complete story).

As we all should know, Saul changed his name and he became Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles. The writings and teaching of Paul are (for me) an amazing message of conversion, witness and testimony. To think that though the conversion of Saul we the Gentiles have gained access to the Kingdom of Heaven is without question a most spectacular and sensational event.

In light of long debated issue of sensationalism throughout Catholic History, Medjugorje USA is making a few changes on the website. Witness and testimony will still be considered for publication. Interviews will continue per usual as I can find time to do them. However, there are pictures on Medjugorje USA that are designed with the Doubting Thomas in mind and are not posted for any other reason. After careful prayer and discernment I have decided that for the sake of souls such as Thomas in this world, the current unusual photos will continue to remain posted, but new photos will no longer be entered into the archives. I feel there are enough pictures of supernatural origin to enlighten any Doubting Thomas that may visit Medjugorje USA.

It is my hope none the less, that we all come someday to live by faith and not by seeing. For the faithful who seek out God through prayer in patience, will not be disappointed! "The charity of God will be poured into their hearts by the Holy Spirit that has been given us." In this, we seek not the treasures of this world, which we can see, but instead long for the things in the "Kingdom of Heaven, which dwells within us, where the moth can not consume nor a thief steal."

Thank you for taking the time to read this.
In the Love of the Two Hearts
Michael, webmaster Medjugorje USA

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