(Sixth Sunday of Easter: Acts 8:5-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21)
Our Gospel text begins with, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments;” and ends with, “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
We are accustomed to the comforting message of God’s unconditional love. But here it seems Jesus is placing a condition on his love, namely, the keeping of his commandments. This might trouble us, especially when we are particularly conscious of our sinfulness. Could we ever be completely cut off from God’s love? The answer, of course, is an emphatic No.
But a similar concern arises when people first hear the message of La Salette. After calling the children to her, Our Lady said: “If my people refuse to submit, I shall be forced to let go the arm of my Son. It is so strong and so heavy, I can no longer hold it back.”
What to make of this? It is unthinkable that Mary is trying to prevent an angry Jesus from inflicting punishment on us. He is the Savior; he took our guilt and punishment on himself.
Many attempts have been made to explain away the obvious meaning of Our Lady’s words. Early accounts of the Apparition sometimes have “hand” instead of “arm,’ and “hold up” instead of “hold back,” but that seems to make little difference.
Isaiah 5:25 has this: “Therefore the wrath of the Lord blazes against his people, he stretches out his hand to strike them... For all this, his wrath is not turned back, his hand is still outstretched.”
Like the prophet, the Beautiful Lady uses an image familiar to her “audience.” Unfortunately that was a time and a world when harsh physical discipline and domestic violence were common. Had she appeared in our time and world, no doubt she would have used a different image.
It would be interesting to speculate what that image might be. It would have to be striking enough to get our attention and strong enough to convince today’s “audience” of the urgency of turning back to God.
Once that goal is achieved, there is no fear. “Perfect love casts out fear,” leaving “great joy.”