She who Weeps
(Palm Sunday: Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14—23:56)
The outline of the Passion is the same in all four Gospels but there are details that are unique to each one. For example, Luke alone records Jesus’ encounter with the weeping women on his way to Calvary. He tells them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children.” A similar painful image is used by Our Lady of La Salette: “Children under the age of seven will be seized with trembling and die in the arms of those who hold them.”
Anyone who has lost a child can understand the weight of grief evoked by these words. At La Salette Mary weeps, in a sense, for herself and for her children, her people. Her tears are a source of consolation for us. They are also a renewed invitation to return to the Lord with all our heart.
I am reminded of other biblical texts: “No longer shall the sound of weeping be heard there, or the sound of crying. No longer shall there be in Jerusalem an infant who lives but a few days, nor anyone who does not live a full lifetime” (Isaiah 65:19-20); “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
The old order of sin and death has been replaced by the new order of grace—of hope, of life, of love—by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Luke’s Passion also includes three “last words” of Jesus not found in the other Gospels.
The first is: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” At La Salette, Our Lady makes us painfully aware of our offenses, but assures us that she pleads ceaselessly on our behalf.
The second is addressed to a confessed criminal: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” The Beautiful Lady highlights the importance and the benefit of conversion.
And the third is: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” In encouraging us to pray, Mary teaches us to adopt Jesus’ attitude of absolute trust.
None of these similarities should surprise us, coming from her who stood at the foot of the cross and wept over us at La Salette.
The Best is Yet to Come
(5th Sunday of Lent: Isaiah 43:16-21; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)
St. Paul writes that he has accepted the loss of all things for the sake of Christ. What things? In the verses immediately before this passage, he states: “In righteousness based on the law I was blameless.” He was a perfect pharisee, in the best sense of the word, one who loved God’s Law and strove to observe it perfectly.
In his world that was a lot to lose, but compared to “the supreme good of knowing Christ,” he now considered it “rubbish.” And he concludes: “Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”
Isaiah even goes so far as to tell us to forget God’s former triumphs, because what lies ahead is greater still: “I am doing something new!”
Today’s Gospel story is usually titled The Woman Caught in Adultery.In the spirit of today’s readings, however, we ought to change that to The Woman Saved by Jesus.Saved from two things: from stoning and from sin. We must believe that at the same time as Jesus told her, “Go, and from now on do not sin any more,” he made it possible for her to live a new life. Her future would be more important than her past.
That hope is the goal of conversion, which is the point of Lent. That was the Beautiful Lady’s hope in coming to La Salette. Her people had been “caught” in their sins and were facing due punishment. Her Son was once again in the position of letting the penalty stand or offering salvation. His preference is clear, and the message for us is the same as to the woman: “From now on do not sin any more.”
But is that really possible? Actually, it is. Sin means turning our back on God. Conversion means turning to him once again, seeking his grace and strength, rediscovering the joy of his love and putting that love into practice. Our Christian life will have its imperfections, but living in Christ will remind us that it is he who saves. We sow in tears, but by his power we will reap rejoicing.
La Salette calls us to that same conviction that the best is yet to come.
(4th Sunday of Lent: Joshua 5:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:11-32)
Today’s second reading is used also in the Mass in honor of Our Lady of La Salette, and is very dear to the heart of La Salette Missionaries. It describes our mission perfectly. “We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
The story of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel illustrates the way in which reconciliation comes about. The destitute son needs what his father can provide. So he decides to humble himself and beg for it. But the father needs something, too. He needs his son to be well, to be happy, to be safe. So, given the opportunity, he makes that happen, he welcomes him home—and with what a welcome!
We cannot be reconciled to God without wanting to, without needing to. Our reasons don’t have to be perfect, but still we need to humble ourselves before him. Then we discover that the reconciliation has been there all the time, just waiting for us to accept it. In that moment, too, we discover that the Father intensely desires our return. We can say that he needs it, too.
We see this reality in the Sacrament of Penance, today more commonly called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In it we find that when we are ready to return, the Father is ready to welcome us
There are two other parables before the story of the Prodigal Son. They are the Lost Sheep and the Lost Coin. Both end by saying how much joy there is in heaven when a sinner repents.
The older son, who is now the sole heir, has nothing to lose by his brother’s return, but he has not desired or needed this reconciliation. It doesn’t make sense to him, it seems unfair.
Sometimes reconciliation requires retribution, the making of amends. But these are two different things. Reconciliation is less about justice than about relationship. The Prodigal Son has lost his position as legal heir, but his vital relationship with his father is restored.
Everything about La Salette concerns that vital relationship. Be reconciled to God!
Compare and Contrast
(3rd Sunday of Lent: Exodus 3:1-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; Luke 13:1-9)
At some point in our education, most of us have been given an assignment to analyze the similarities and differences between two or more authors, historical events, etc. I cannot resist the temptation to compare and contrast La Salette and today’s reading from Exodus.
God says to Moses, “Come no nearer!”
The Beautiful Lady says: “Come closer, my children.”
God says, “I have witnessed the affliction of my people... so I know well what they are suffering.”
Mary tearfully describes the sufferings of her people.
God: “I have come down to rescue them and lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Mary: “I am here to tell you great news... Rocks and stones will be turned into heaps of wheat.”
St. Paul writes that what happened to the ancestors of the Jewish people in the desert serves as an example, a cautionary tale, for his Christian readers. And Jesus, by the use of parables, invites his disciples to compare and contrast his words with their lives.
In particular, Jesus makes a comparison between his listeners and the victims of two catastrophes. “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”
This quotation figures significantly in a detail of La Salette history. On November 3, 1874, Fr. Sylvain-Marie Giraud, Superior General of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, had an audience with Pope Pius IX. Fr. Giraud asked what one should think about the “secrets” of La Salette, which Mélanie and Maximin had sent to the Holy Father—for his eyes only—many years earlier. Pius IX answered: “What to think of the secret? This: unless you do penance, you will all perish.”
With these words, the Pope indicated that he attached little importance to the secrets as such. That has always been the position of the La Salette Missionaries of as well. What is normative is the message as approved in 1851 by the Bishop of Grenoble.
And that message can be summed up by another comparison, from today’s Psalm: “As the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is the Lord’s kindness toward those who fear him.”