The Father-like face of God…
The question that introduces this new section is, from the biblical point of view, paradoxical. Paradoxical because, on the one hand, the question expresses the intrinsic human yearning for the transcendent, a relationship with the divinity, the search for God (see for example Am 5:4 and Ps 27:9; 42:3; 44:25; 67:2; 105:4). It is not by chance that the intercession or prayer of longing to see the face of Adonai is one of the recurring themes that occur throughout the pages of the Bible.
On the other hand, however, the Bible reminds us not only that he who “[...] sees God dies” (Ex 33:20), but that “no-one has ever seen God” (Jn 1:18; 1Jn 4:12). Even Moses, of whom Scripture reports that Adonai “[...] has spoken with Him ... face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex 33:11), does not benefit from the gift of seeing the face of God. As the matter of fact, his request (Ex 33:18) is not granted: on Sinai, Moses sees only Adonai’s shoulders, but not his face (Ex 33:23). It is clear therefore that, in the economy of the History of Salvation deposited in the scriptures of the biblical Israel, God has his own face, but hides it from human eyes. In short, the biblical texts constantly remind us of two leading features of Adonai: his face does not show itself, but speaks to man. Adonai’s face is the source of the word that is addressing man with the intention of revealing himself and into relationship with him and making himself known (see the experience of biblical Israel briefly described by the words of Moses in Dt 4:12). Secondly, Adonai’s face is experienced, but not seen. In this regard, although the testimony of biblical Israel is extremely rich and multi-layered, it converges around two dimensions. It is, in fact, a face that suffers with (compassion) and stands alongside those whose hearts are in misery (mercy) – see for example Ex 3:7; 34:7; 1K 22:17; Ps 144:8; Mt 14:14; 15:32; Lk 7:13.
In the New Testament times the human experience is now marked by something new: Jesus of Nazareth is understood as the one who satisfies the human longing to see the face of God. In the personal perception of the first Christians, the invisible God becomes visible – his face included – in Jesus of Nazareth. The invisible face of God is human-like in the son of Mary of Nazareth. And the Evangelist John reminds us of this unheard before newness at the very beginning of his Gospel, when he writes: “No-one has ever seen God: the only Son who is God and is in the bosom of the Father who has made him known” (Jn 1:18).
Following this implicit logic of the evangelist John, it can be said that to see the face of Jesus of Nazareth is to see the face of Adonai, the face of the Father. And although sparingly mentioned (Transfiguration, entering Jerusalem and Passion (Mt 17:2; 26:39.67; Mk 14:65; Lk 9:29.51.53), when the four Evangelists refer to the face of Jesus, they always put him in relation to his identity, ministry and mission. It is intended there that his face declares, with firmness, compassion and mercy.
In the small French village of La Salette the spectacle and the presentations of the faces continues. The Beautiful Lady talks face to face with Maximin and Melanie. Just as the visible face of the Son refers to the invisible face of the Father, so at La Salette the mother’s face refers to the face of the Son. Like the Son, the mother's face, bathed in delicate tears, announces, with resolve, compassion, and mercy: «Come near my children, do not be afraid».
The Son-like face of God…
“If my people do not want to submit,
I am obliged to leave my Son's arm free”
The starting point of everything is that first yes that Mary gives to the bearer of the divine message, the Angel Gabriel. Since then, Mary has made herself available to God as clay in the potter’s hand. But rather than clay Mary consciously participates in this mission in her condition of the one “full of grace”. For Mary, God, the very self-one, sets out on the path of encounter with man, contrary to the figure of the repentant younger son of the gospel who returns embarrassed to his father’s house. To go to this encounter of man, that means to come to the meeting with us, is precisely the identifying character of the act of God, through the help of his mediators. The prophets zealously have been fulfilling the mission of making God present within the human community. At this point, Our Lady, in her apparitions, does nothing else but shares the greatness of the divine heart which, at all costs, calls man to discover that feeling of God who is happy to have men with him.
La Salette reflects, in splendour, the face of God. Not so much as in regard to the mountain, although many of the great events of salvation, carried by our Lord Jesus Christ, have much to do with the mountains. The message of La Salette raises in us the decision to return to this friendship with God often broken because of the mentality of the today’s man who is boasting himself the Christian and in fact being deprived of Christ and his gospel.
At La Salette Mary is the spokesperson for a wonderful Gospel-focused message. That is, the Beautiful Lady does not proclaim herself, before taking as her own the words that her lips transmit. Just look at this part of the message: «If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let fall the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy that I can no longer withhold it. For how long a time do I suffer for you! If I would not have my Son abandon you, I am compelled to pray to him without ceasing; and as to you, you take not heed of it. However much you pray, however much you do, you will never recompense the pains I have taken for you».
Nevertheless, the entire message is full of divine tenderness; it is a message transmitted by a person who can communicate with another human being, as it similarly happened with those present at the wedding in Cana, “do everything that he will tell you” (cf. Jn 2:5). It is good to know that in the message of the Lady in tears is well clarified to us the face of God who lovingly “follows” his creatures created in “his image and likeness” (Gn 1:26).
Rather than helping us to contemplate the face of God, the message gives us the opportunity to look at the mother of Jesus, always present in the life of the Church as the maternal face of God, because «it makes us feel better and better the tenderness of the Lord». In fact, in agreement with Is 49,15, God proclaims that his love for his people is maternal and greater than that of any mother for her child; on the other hand, this category adapts to the needs of the present times when Mary responds by revealing the maternal face of God. It is God’s absolute will to send Mary into our human history as a messenger of prayer, conversion and spirituality: «The mariofanies know certain escalation in this regard, because in them the Virgin passes from words to tears and probably to bleeding. It is a cry from the Mother who takes on the shape of the prophecy and the apocalypse to stop the unreasonable steps of so vast part of the world and to show in her the merciful face of God who is Love»(S. De Fiores, «Apparizioni», in Maria. Nuovissimo Dizionario, EDB, Bologna 2008, I, 59).
The Mother-like face of God…
During the first stage Maria covers her face with her hands, in a gesture that hides the tears. During the apparition the face of the Beautiful Lady is barely visible to Melanie and totally imperceptible to Maximin because of the strong light that emanated from Mary’s face. Talking to the children, she continued shedding her tears and was very sad. This impression takes hold of both witnesses who listened to her message.
The Mother of the Lord who appears at La Salette, represents Heaven, our final destination. She is afflicted by the fact that we abandon God and do not accept what His Son, Jesus, has done for us. She also grieves that we do not accept, as she did, the grace of God that can make each one of us also such a person for whom «the Almighty has done great things».
At La Salette Mary reminds us of the fact that her being with soul and body in Heaven is also the result of God’s great mercy towards a man. She, Immaculate in her Conception, had experienced mercy in advance, because by virtue of the fullness of grace she was preserved from the original sin, keeping within her that divine reflection of holiness, of which she has not been deprived since her conception.
We, on the other hand, can again receive this divine reflection in us also by virtue of the grace we have received. As a reminder, it happened because Adam and Eve have deprived us of this divine reflection for their disobedience. At this point it is worth mentioning that each one of us always receives the fullness of grace necessary to be able, in obedience to God, to benefit from the freedom of not sinning and keeping our souls immaculate until God’s judgment.
Mary is for every one of us the example of a full correspondence to the grace of God, to such an extent that she can call herself the very Immaculate Conception. This means that she is a constant reminder for us of our destination, to which each of us has been called. And if each of us were obedient to God and did not waste any grace that God generously and abundantly gives us, we would have been like her, like Mary, without sin, because we are inhabited by grace.
Mary’s sadness is, then, the sadness of God whose appeals, that man may choose God and His will in a free and sincere way, are ignored, and in fact man’s condition is getting worse. This is because we do not go to the source of grace, that is, to Jesus in the Eucharist, but we always prefer water from the cracked tanks of our own efforts and desires.
The Face of Our Lady is that of a representative of the Family of God, to whom each of us is invited as brother and sister in Jesus. Despite this great honour, which we all received by a personal decision of God, we do not act like members of the Divine Family, but like black sheep we reject heavenly nobility and dignity by living far away from God.
Flavio Gilio, MS
Eusébio Kangupe, MS
Karol Porczak, MS
Tell his Glory
(29th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 45:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21)
Our Lady told Maximin and Mélanie to make her message known to all her people. Initially, that simply meant to tell people what they had seen and heard. Today’s Psalm suggests, however, a deeper significance.
“Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.” The joyous context of these words shows that, here too, it is not just a matter of communicating information, but sharing the enthusiasm of our faith.
The Beautiful Lady expresses her sadness not only about poor Mass attendance in the summer, but also about the disrespectful attitude of those who go to church in the winter, only to make fun of religion.
We know for ourselves the difference in attending Mass and participating fully in it. Distractions are many and often unavoidable, but our intent at least ought to be, as the psalmist says, to “worship the Lord in holy attire,” responding to his holiness.
Giving glory to God is at the core of the La Salette event. We do so when we honor his name, respect his day of rest, observe Lenten penance, pray faithfully and well, and recognize his fatherly care in our lives.
But it is at the Mass, as the Church’s chief form of public worship, that we can cry out: “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due his name!”
The Eucharist is called “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Everything else in our life of faith flows from it, and everything leads back to it. In it “is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324).
This has practical consequences for us. Not only should we give God glory in the worthy celebration of the Sacrament, but we should so live in the public square as to “repay to God what belongs to God.”
Isn’t that what Mary was doing when she sang her Magnificat?
St. Paul writes, “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” This is a goal which we all should aspire to.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
An Educational and Spiritual Journey toward Proximity, Closeness, and Empathy
The Evangelist Luke writes around the year 85 C.E. for a Greek community in Asia Minor. The community, at that time, was struggling with difficult circumstances, due to internal and external reasons. Internally, there were deep tensions and divisions: former Pharisees who wanted to follow the Law of Moses (cf. Acts 15:1); others who wanted to follow John the Baptist (cf. Acts 19:1-6), and still others who considered themselves to be disciples of Peter, Paul, Apollo, and Christ (cf. 1Cor 1:12). Externally, the persecution of the Roman Empire was increasing, and its ideology continued to exert an increasingly strong and penetrating influence.
In this context, Luke writes with a twofold purpose. On the one hand, he wants to guide and strengthen the faith of his recipients; on the other hand, he writes to encourage them to be in this world as disciples and ambassadors of Christ’s work of reconciliation (cf. 2Cor 5:20). In a similar way, The Beautiful Lady of La Salette, through the words addressed to Maximin and Melanie, aims to guide, encourage and form missionaries and ambassadors of her Son.
The Emmaus narrative is a story meant to inspire, guide and strengthen our faith; it is an account that functions as a metaphor for our faith and life journey. For this reason, Emmaus speaks to and of each of us.
The narrative of the disciples on their way to Emmaus enlightens La Salette, since the Risen Son hints to His mother. Indeed, like Mary at La Salette, the Risen Jesus appears to the two disciples as interpreter, educator and teacher. By turning to the sacred Scriptures, Jesus helps the disciples to interpret and understand the true meaning of the latest events that occurred in Jerusalem. Similarly, Our Lady of La Salette’s message invites us to read and interpret our human affairs as a receptacle for the divine.
Both the Risen Jesus on the way to Emmaus and His mother at La Salette promote a “culture of encounter”, because they are able to reach their addressees where they are. At La Salette Mary’s opening words overcome the fear of the two children. Moreover, Our Lady does not hesitate to shift from French to the local dialect when she realizes that the two children are not able to understand her words: a small detail that reveals her gentle empathy. Like the Mother, the Risen Son encounters the two disciples of Emmaus where they are: in their disappointment, discouragement, and resignation (cf. Lk 24:17), and He lets them experience a transforming encounter.
Like Mary at La Salette, Jesus modulates the rhythm of His journey to that of the two disciples. The Risen One is patient, like The Beautiful Lady of La Salette with Maximin and Melanie. Not by coincidence, Luke points out that “[...] beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (cf. Lk 24:27). In other words, the Risen One accompanies the two disciples in order to let them internalize a story that involves them directly, a story that will transform their hearts.
On the way to Emmaus, Jesus walks along with the two disciples, giving them the time and the opportunity to recognize Him. The geographical journey (Jerusalem-Emmaus) hints to a spiritual and life changing one. Indeed, Luke starts his narrative by stating that “Now, that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him” (cf. Lk 24:13-16). Then, just before the ending of the story, Luke makes us aware of the transforming moment experienced by the two disciples by writing: “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight” (cf. Lk 24:30-31). Interesting enough, Luke points out that once the two disciples learn how to recognize the Risen Jesus, He disappears from their sight, and they start to be apostles, or missionaries: “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There, they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon”. Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread” (cf. Luke 24:33-35).
The journey Jerusalem-Emmaus-Jerusalem is a journey toward both freedom and healing. The presence of the Risen Jesus heals because it sets us free. We just need to know how to recognize His presence, His “footprints” within our faith and life journey.
Luke 24:13-35 is an inspiring narrative for all of us called to be missionary-disciples of the Risen One: by looking at the pedagogy enacted by Jesus on the way to Emmaus, we can learn a lot about the “New Evangelization”. The same can be said in relation to Our Lady of La Salette: her words and actions, like those of her Son, inspire, guide and help us to live this earthly pilgrimage as new evangelizers and as ambassadors of the reconciliation offered to us by Jesus the Christ.
A Pedagogy of the Word: From Tears to Joy…
“Were not our hearts burning within us
while he talked with us on the road
and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Lk 24:32)
The focus of this reflection is the journey of the two disciples of Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:13-33) as well as the apparition of Our Lady to Maximin and Melanie on the mountain of La Salette. An unexpected message of joy comes from the French Alps, despite its warning and challenging truths. As the two disciples of Emmaus, the two children experience a profound joy after the encounter with The Beautiful Lady of La Salette. Indeed, in one of the children’s reports they state: “After (she passed away) we were very happy and we went back to took care of our cows”.
The joy of the two disciples of Emmaus is the result of their attentive listening to the words spoken by the Risen Jesus. This joy deeply transforms their lives. By the end of the story Luke portrays the two disciples as apostles proclaiming Jesus’ Resurrection.
Their joy echoes that of Mary when, at the moment of the Annunciation in Nazareth, she says, “Yes” to Gabriel’s words. The evangelist Luke clearly highlights this joy in the Magnificat, a text that reveals what it means to submit our heart to the Word of God. In continuity with the Annunciation story and with the Emmaus narrative, Our Lady of La Salette stresses the importance of an attentive listening: “If my people do not want to submit ... if they convert”.
Both the Emmaus story and the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette remind us that, if we desire to be fruitful followers of Jesus Christ, we need to listen with attention and openness of heart to His words and to apply them to our lives. It is not an easy task, but we are helped by Mary’s presence who reminds us to do whatever he tells us (see John 2:5).
Both Emmaus and La Salette exemplify a spirituality that is deeply centered around the Word of God. Moreover, both Emmaus and La Salette teach us how to walk along with our brothers and sisters like the Risen Jesus and Our Lady of La Salette; both of them remind us of the importance of being able to reread or interpret our own faith and life journey in the light of the Word of God in order to be, more and more, Christ-centered missionary-disciples.
A Pedagogy Leading to Heaven…
Mary’s Apparition at La Salette happened in three phases: the first, in a sitting position with her face hidden in her hands; the second, standing and talking to the children; and, the third, moving toward the top of the hill while communicating her last words to Maximin and Melanie.
It is interesting to notice that, before disappearing, Our Lady of La Salette does not advise the two children how to behave after this transforming encounter; Mary doesn’t even tell them to go back to the small village of La Salette, or to go to the pastor of the Parish or to the Bishop of the Diocese of Grenoble to report their encounter with her. No; Mary has only one request, and she repeats it twice: “Let all my people know.” Mary’s last words bear a twofold meaning. On the one hand, they call us to be her ambassadors by sharing her message among our brothers and sisters, and, on the other hand, they invite us to follow her example, i.e. to see and to travel the ‘uphill’ path as she did, being aware that our identity and dignity in Christ make us heirs and inhabitants of Heaven. At La Salette, Mary reminds us that this is the ultimate goal of our earthly pilgrimage. True, the road ‘to Heaven’ may be ‘uphill’ and ‘winding’ because of sin, but we are not left alone: there is the Son who reveals to us the ‘road to Heaven’ through His life, words, and, especially, through His Death and Resurrection.
Let us follow, therefore, with confidence and trust, the one who, at La Salette, walked the ‘uphill’ and ‘winding’ path bearing the cross of the Son on her chest, and we will receive the graces we need to go through such a journey. Let us keep in our hearts and minds the words we proclaim during every Eucharist celebrated here on earth, “[…] awaiting Your [second] coming” so that, at His Parousia, we will be justified by and in Him for Life Eternal. Yes, because Jesus’ followers never stop on the road of their earthly pilgrimage; they always follow the ‘uphill’ and ‘winding’ path leading to Heaven.
It is with a great joy that we announce the new Provincial Council of the Province of Mary Mediatrix (Italy). The Provincial Chapter which is currently in session in Salmata elected today September 24, 2020:
Fr. Gian Matteo Roggio, Provincial Superior (center)
Fr. Heliodoro Bernardos Santiago, First Councilor (right)
Fr. Amador Marugán Patiño, Second Councilor (left)
We recommend to your prayers the success of their ministry in the service of the Province of Italy of the whole Congregation and of the Church.
The Lord will Provide
(28th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 25:6-10; Philippians 4:12-20; Matthew 22:1-14)
Just look at all things that God promises, in our first reading, to provide for his people! The image of rich food and choice wines is so enticing, it might almost distract us from all the rest.
There is so much more: he will destroy death forever, wipe away tears from every face, remove his people’s reproach from the whole earth. See how in each case God’s intervention is definitive, complete.
So too in today’s Psalm, which sums up the reality from our perspective: “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side.”
And yet, it seems that today these images have lost their appeal. It is like the wedding guests who not only refuse to come to the feast, but abuse the messengers. How discouraging this can be for believers, as they see their numbers decrease.
In 1846, the anticlerical legacy of the French Revolution was still strong. This was the context of Mary’s Apparition at La Salette. Reproaching her people, she hoped to remove their reproach; speaking of the death of small children, she hoped they would turn in trust to the One who has destroyed death forever.
It is one thing, like St. Paul, to know how to live in humble circumstances and with abundance, materially speaking. Many people manage that. But it is quite another thing to deprive ourselves of what the Lord offers us. Paul makes a promise every bit as wonderful as Isaiah’s: “My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
This requires chiefly one thing: the wedding garment, which is faith. And the living faith that the Beautiful Lady wishes to reawaken will enable us to do the three things she asks of us: to convert, to pray well, and to make her message known.
Conversion includes but is not restricted to returning to the Sacraments. If we remember the seven “Capital” sins, we can ask the Lord to “enlighten the eyes of our hearts,” so as to discern what virtues and behaviors we personally will need to cultivate, and “so that we may know what is the hope that belongs to our call.”
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
The Marian Year will begin on 19 September 2020. The Congregation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette and the Lay faithful Who carry and are very close to the message of the Beautiful Lady of La Salette are preparing for the 175th anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady at La Salette (19.09.2021).
(For further information, see the letter from the Superior General for 19 September 2020. In the attachment…)
Anxiety, with Trust
(27th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43)
St. Paul writes, “Have no anxiety at all.” Surely this is unrealistic. In fact, the same Apostle wrote to the Corinthians, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:3).
The world we live in has always provided every generation ample cause for worry. Natural disasters, disease, social unrest, economic uncertainty are all around us. We also deal with personal loss, conflicts and self-doubt, etc. How is it possible to be without anxiety?
For some it is even hard to find time to pray, or have a proper frame of mind for prayer, so as to live in the peace of Christ.
Strangely, Isaiah’s song about his friend’s vineyard was, in fact, meant to heighten his people’s stress. The things the Lord will do to his vineyard are listed in order to get his people’s attention. He would rather not punish them, but how else can he persuade them to change their ways?
At La Salette, Mary used the same approach as Isaiah, and for the same purpose. If her people refuse to submit, the causes of their anxiety will only get worse, and it will be their own fault for, in their own way, like the chief priests and the elders in the Gospel, they have rejected her Son.
It certainly is appropriate for us to apply Isaiah’s message, and Mary’s, to ourselves. The vineyard lovingly planted in each of us by God at our baptism, needs to be watered and pruned, so that we can produce sweet grapes to make fine wine. The Beautiful Lady provides us with an examination of conscience, in view of our ongoing conversion.
St. Paul further says, “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.” When thanksgiving is at the heart of our prayer, trust is reinforced. This is part of praying well.
In this context, I highly recommend the Book of Tobit as a marvelous example. Two unhappy persons, in separate scenes, pray for death. In each case the prayer begins with praise of God!
Are anxiety and trust incompatible? No, but Mary’s love and tears will inspire trust and relieve anxiety.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
Seeing Signs, Being Signs
(26th Ordinary Sunday: Ezekiel 18:25-28; Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 21:28-32)
“As for you, you pay no heed!” says the Beautiful Lady, speaking of her efforts on our behalf. A little later, in reference to the poor harvests: “I warned you last year with the potatoes. You paid no heed.”
The attitude she describes might be mere heedlessness, a failure to notice. After all, how could Christians of such weak faith be expected to recognize signs coming from heaven? But that is no excuse, because they did not even care to see.
In the Gospel, Jesus says to the chief priests and the elders: “When John came to you in the way of righteousness, you did not believe him; but tax collectors and prostitutes did.” The chief priests and the elders were aware of this, but they did not see it as a sign, least of all intended for them. This is what St. Paul calls vainglory.
The Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette state in their Rule, “Attentive to the signs of the times and after prayer and discernment, we generously undertake those apostolic tasks to which we believe Providence is calling us.” The La Salette Sisters are “mindful of the urgent needs of people contingent upon the milieux, countries and times.”
La Salette Laity, too, must be aware that times change. The charism of reconciliation is one, but its expression is infinitely variable. We need to pay heed to the circumstances where it is needed, and find the appropriate way to bring it to bear.
This requires a certain death to self, i.e., the acknowledgement that we are not all-knowing and the willingness to work together. This is the point St. Paul makes to the community of Philippi, and he gives the example of Jesus, who “emptied himself,” so as to be truly one with us.
The psalmist often humbles himself by admitting his sins, but today he asks God, as it were, not to notice them, as he prays: “The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not.” In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we trust that “He guides the humble to justice, and teaches the humble his way.”
When we are open to receiving and sharing God’s mercy, who knows? We may ourselves become a sign.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.