The 32nd General Chapter began its deliberations at Las Termas de Rio Hondo, Argentina
(Fourth Sunday of Easter: Acts 4:8-12; 1 John 3:1-2; John 10:11-18)
This is Good Shepherd Sunday. Each of the three years of the liturgical cycle has—on the fourth Sunday of Easter—we hear a different portion of John 10, where Jesus calls himself Shepherd.
“I know mine and mine know me,” Jesus says. This is the basis of trust for those who follow him. They know they are his; he will never abandon them. The Shepherd and his flock belong to each other. How many times God promises, “I will be your God, you will be my people.”
In his first letter, St. John uses a different image: “We are God’s children now.” This, too, is an invitation to trust.
“Come closer, my children, don’t be afraid.” Our Lady of La Salette claims Maximin and Mélanie as her children and, through them, all of us as well, whom she calls “my people.” She belongs to us, we belong to her. After being terrified at first, the children came to her with perfect confidence. Even though much of what she said was unpleasant to hear, she did not inspire fear.
St. Peter in his discourse powerfully urges his audience to put their trust in Jesus. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved."
In the rite of infant baptism, the priest addresses the child with the words, “The Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross.” Child and Savior belong to each other, so too the child and the Christian community. This means that each has a claim on the other.
In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that people of faith should expect God to hear their prayers. In Hebrews 4:16 we read: “Let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.” (This verse, by the way, used to serve as the Introit for the Mass in honor of Our Lady of La Salette.)
But God has a legitimate claim on us: obedience and respect. This is not burdensome. It is part of the trust that we place in the Good Shepherd.
We belong to Christ’s flock, to the family of God’s children, to Mary’s people. Why would we ever be afraid?
Facts of Life
(Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 3:13-19; 1 John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48)
St. Peter takes a conciliatory approach in addressing those who crucified Jesus: “You acted out of ignorance.” And he offers them the prospect of having their sins wiped away.
St. John writes something similar to his Christian community. He takes for granted that they will commit sin, and assures them that they have an advocate, Jesus, who will not only plead their cause but is himself expiation for their sins.
Neither Peter nor John is remotely suggesting that it is all right to sin. That would be like saying it is all right to drink poison as long as you have the antidote.
Continuing the health analogy, it is a fact of life that people do eat things that are bad for them, or neglect things that are good for them. Diabetics can find it hard to resist sweets; overweight persons may be unwilling to exercise. So, too, a “besetting sin” can have tremendous power over us.
Peter and John were realists. They understood human nature and recognized that sin is a fact of life. They also realized that sin should not lead to despair. Peter knew this from personal experience. He denied Jesus. Afterward he proclaimed him to any who would listen.
Ignorance and doubt are also a fact of life. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ has trouble convincing the disciples that it really is he standing there, and finally he proves it by eating baked fish. At the same time he, too, points to the gift of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
At La Salette, Mary is painfully aware of the reality of sin. Her list of offences is not exhaustive, but enough to indicate the nature of the sins that cause her the deepest concern. Here, too, there is no need to despair. “If they are converted,” is a turning point in her discourse.
In all of the above, the promise is based on the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. That is why Jesus draws attention to his hands and feet, rather than his face, to verify his identity. That is why the Beautiful Lady wears a large crucifix. He who conquered death can surely conquer sin.
Yes, sin is a fact of life. But thanks to Peter and John and Luke, and Our Lady of La Salette, we are reminded of another fact of life, which we call hope.