(Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 2 Kings 4:8-16; Romans 6:3-11; Matthew 10: 37-42)
Did you notice how many times St. Paul refers to death in our second reading? I count about ten. He also mentions sin, twice. His point, however, is to talk about life, which he also mentions explicitly several times.
All these elements come together in the last sentence: “You too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.“
The context is baptism, in which we died with Christ so as to live with him. Death no longer has dominion over him or us, and neither does sin.
That presumes that we are faithful to our baptismal commitments. Christians baptized as infants will be expected at some point to ratify for themselves the profession of faith made on their behalf.
But experience teaches that this fidelity cannot be presumed, that this ratification is by no means guaranteed. Thus the dominion of death and of sin comes to be reestablished.
Such was the situation that caused Mary to come to La Salette. She spoke some challenging words, but not so challenging as those we find in today’s Gospel. Jesus demands our absolute and total loyalty. We have to take up our cross. That is the cost of discipleship.
It ought not to surprise us that many people are unwilling to accept these demands—today, as in 1846 and in the ancient Greek and Roman and Asian world where the Gospel was first preached.
At La Salette, Our Lady shows regret at the situation into which her people have fallen, materially and spiritually; she cannot bear to see the dominion of sin and death in their lives. She weeps because they have lost respect for her Son and the things of God. Their baptism no longer means anything to them.
But she shows determination as well. She will not simply stand by and let them reap the consequences of their sins.
On her breast she shows us Christ crucified, to remind us that he who died for our sins did so in order that we might truly live. The cost of discipleship cannot compare to the price Jesus paid to save us.
Whose dominion will we choose: Christ’s or death’s?