Once upon a Time, Again
(2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31)
The life of the first believers, as described in Acts, seems almost too good to be true. Their enthusiasm for the teaching of the apostles, for common prayer, fellowship and the sharing of goods—it is no wonder that “Awe came upon everyone.”
In the Psalm we read: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” But in 1846 Mary wept because the Cornerstone was, tragically, being rejected again. And today?
St. Peter, in our second reading, lists the benefits of God’s “great mercy.” Our Lady of La Salette is our “Merciful Mother.” Let us consider the parallels.
First, God “gave us a new birth to a living hope.” At La Salette, this hope lies not only in future prosperity but, before that, in conversion to the things of God.
Next is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” beyond our current needs and concerns. Peter says this is kept in heaven for us, but that does not mean we cannot draw on it even now. Prayer and especially the Eucharist give us access to it. These are essential to the message of La Salette.
Thirdly, salvation. This, above all, explains the enthusiasm of the earliest Christians, and the attractiveness of that community. “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” La Salette does not offer salvation independently, of course, but leads us to the Savior himself.
Then Peter writes, “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials.” Anyone who has truly experienced God’s mercy—as have many through La Salette—knows exactly what he means. Troubles will come and go, the joy remains.
The Apostle Thomas went through a time of darkness, and then experienced the Lord’s mercy. His first response was to acknowledge Jesus’ divinity: “My Lord and my God!”
Earlier, fear had confined the Apostles behind locked doors. Divine mercy changed all that. What it did for them, it can do for us and, through us, devoted to our Merciful Mother, for others.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse
The Greatest Promise
(Easter: Readings from the Easter Vigil and the Sunday are too many to list)
In the fourth reading of the Easter Vigil, God says through Isaiah: “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you.”
Here is contained all the message of La Salette. Is any further commentary needed?
The phrase “outburst of wrath” may make us think of Mary’s words about “the arm of my Son.” But this reading also helps us to remember that in many other places in Scripture, God’s hand or arm is, in fact, extended in order to save.
After the reading about the crossing of the Red Sea, for example, we recite, in the song of Moses: “Your right hand, O Lord, magnificent in power, your right hand, O Lord, has shattered the enemy.”
And, at both the Vigil and the Sunday Mass, we pray the words of Psalm 118: “The right hand of the Lord has struck with power; the right hand of the Lord is exalted. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”
While God’s hand and arm demonstrate his power to save, his great tenderness and enduring love express his Will to do so. Even when God uses his power to punish his people, his love always prevails.
In the Gospels the question is raised, “Which Commandment is the greatest?” Today I would like to suggest, from a La Salette perspective, a different question.
First, let me give the answer: “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you.” This quote from Isaiah is from the reading referenced at the beginning of this reflection.
Now, the question: Which Promise is the greatest?
Think about it. Is there any promise you would rather hear from God than this one? Is there anything about the Beautiful Lady and her message that is not founded on that promise?
And what greater proof is there of God’s fidelity to his promise than the resurrection of Jesus? On this day that the Lord has made, may you rejoice and be glad!
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse
(Palm Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14—27:66)
At the opening of today’s Liturgy, we hear the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Later, we hear the story of the Passion.
There is one similarity. In both, Jesus sends disciples to perform a task (arrange transport, prepare the Passover), and they “did as Jesus had ordered.” (This may remind some readers of Maximin and Mélanie.)
The contrasts, however, are many. “Hosanna” yields to “Let him be crucified.” “This is Jesus the prophet,” announced by some in the festal crowd, becomes, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,” the charge against him, placed over his head on the cross.
We might imagine certain differences that are not mentioned. For example, it seems likely that Jesus wept as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. By contrast, how do you visualize Jesus responding to the cheering crowd in his entry to Jerusalem?
The Suffering Servant in our Isaiah text says, “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” An encouraging, comforting word is seen even in the scene of the betrayal. In Matthew, Jesus calls Judas “friend,” offering him salvation even in his darkest moment of guilt.
At La Salette, the equivalent is “my people.” No matter how lost they are, Mary does not reject them. “Come closer, don’t be afraid,” is addressed first to the children, but by no means to them alone.
The Beautiful Lady calls us to submission. Jesus is the very model of submission, silent before his accusers. In the Gospel, he is “forsaken” and, as St. Paul writes, “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
The same text says that Jesus received “the name which is above every name,” dear to Our Lady but, alas! not so dear to her people.
Matthew makes no mention of Mary in the Passion, but the thought of her suffering leads me to conclude with the words of the Memorare to Our Lady of La Salette: “Remember, Our Lady of La Salette, true Mother of Sorrows, the tears you shed for me on Calvary.”
La Salette Laity and Ministry Committee
Death, Life, Love, Hope
(5th Sunday of Lent: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45)
Jesus was, in a way, testing Martha’s faith, when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die,” and then asked her, “Do you believe this?”
If he had asked, “Do you understand this?” the conversation might have taken a different turn. But Martha’s response expressed her faith in Jesus himself, and thus in everything he said or did. “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
Later we read, “And Jesus wept. So the Jews said: See how he loved him.” Love and tears are not strangers to each other.
The Beautiful Lady wept. We can see, therefore, how she loves us, and longs for us to believe that her Son is the resurrection and the life, to trust in his word.
Every time I encounter the phrase ’my people’ in the Bible, I think of La Salette. In today’s first reading, that connection is especially strong. This passage concludes the famous episode of the Valley of the Dry Bones. Until now, in Ezekiel, God has spoken about his people, rarely to them. But here he addresses them directly, and with what feeling: “O my people!” Can they ever doubt his love again?
The appropriate response to that question is found in today’s Psalm: “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness that you may be revered... For with the Lord is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption.”
St. Paul uses an image very different from that of dry bones, but to the same effect. To live in the flesh is to be spiritually dead. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The Blessed Virgin wants her people to understand this.
The message of La Salette, like all of our readings today, highlights God's will to restore us to life. In the words of the first reading: “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”
Sometimes we find ourselves praying “out of the depths.” We need never despair. Lazarus was not a lost cause. Neither are we.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse