Remember and Return
(1st Sunday of Lent: Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15)
God’s covenant with Noah was accompanied by a sign, the rainbow. Its stated purpose is to keep God from forgetting his promise, “There shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
Ordinary signs point us in the direction of something ahead of us. The rainbow, and other signs of other covenants, do the opposite. They tell us to look back, to remember what God has done for his people, and especially why.
La Salette is about conversion, repentance, and reconciliation. Those whom the Beautiful Lady calls “my people” had forgotten their covenant relationship with her Son, who had called on the people of his day to repent and believe in the Gospel. Her message is similar: remember, and return.
It is not surprising that she spoke in particular about Sunday Mass. “For on this day Christ's faithful are bound to come together into one place so that; by hearing the word of God and taking part in the eucharist, they may call to mind the passion, the resurrection and the glorification of the Lord Jesus, and may thank God.” (Vatican II on the Liturgy, 106)
In every celebration of the Eucharist we hear Jesus’ words, “Do this in memory of me.” In today’s Psalm we pray, “In your kindness remember me.” This is not only a matter of looking back. As with all covenant signs, the purpose is to let the Lord renew his presence and action in us, so that we can move forward with new strength and courage.
Lent is an opportunity to recognize to what extent we have strayed from our first fervor, so that we can return to a faithful covenant relationship going forward. This is the “clear conscience” of which St. Peter writes in the second reading.
Both the rainbow and La Salette (especially Mary’s crucifix) serve as reminders of God’s fidelity. Both are miracles of light and hope. God will never again destroy all mortal beings with a flood, and Mary, if we heed her words, will never again weep at the prospect of letting fall the arm of her Son.
If during these forty days we can remember and return, maybe we can show others the way back, too.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.