(Seventh Sunday of Easter: Acts 1:12-14; 1 Peter 4:13-16; John 17:1-11. NOTE: The Ascension readings are different.)
Jesus’ last extended discourse in John’s Gospel ends with a long prayer, which includes these words: "I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
Over time, alas! the situation deteriorated. Some scholars claim that when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, it lost its fervor. Many became Christians because there was now a material advantage in doing so—like being a card-carrying member of the Party in Communist countries.
Be that as it may, Christianity in France in 1846 had certainly lost its fervor. A Beautiful Lady appeared on a mountain in hopes of restoring it. She used the words, “my people,” reminiscent of Jesus’ words, “those whom you gave me.” She, too, prayed for them, as she said, “without ceasing.”
In those days there was little material advantage in being a Christian. Observing the Day of Rest, for example, seemed counter-productive in a world where there was much poverty, complicated by the prospect of famine. There certainly was none of the rejoicing “to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ,” recommended by St. Peter.
We can wring our hands and bemoan the state of religion in today’s world, but that is not helpful. We can join Mary in praying “without ceasing” for a discovery of faith, or a return to faith, or a deepening of faith.
The list of names in the Acts of the Apostles gives us hope, especially as Mary was among those gathered in prayer. There is a very long unwritten list of those who have been and continue to be faithful disciples. Our Lady came to La Salette to draw others back to discipleship.
In a recent homily, Pope Francis said: “Whenever Mary puts Jesus in the midst of his people, they encounter joy.”
Mary appeared in tears in that isolated spot in the Alps. But she retains her title, “Cause of our Joy.” And think of her joy when her people welcome her Son back in their midst!