Ready for the Pilgrimage?

(19th Ordinary Sunday: Wisdom 18:6-9; Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19; Luke 12:32-48)

Brothers and sisters, are we ready?

Have you ever planned to leave home at a certain time for a special event, only to have last-minute delays? These can be due to unforeseen causes, or to our own procrastination.

As indicated in today’s first reading, the Hebrews in Egypt knew that their deliverance was at hand as they celebrated the first Passover meal. In Exodus 12, they were told to eat in haste, with staff in hand, sandals on their feet, and dressed for travel. They had to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. They were about to become a pilgrim people. Their hope was in God.

The Beautiful Lady of La Salette came to renew her people’s hope in the midst of a desperate situation. She didn’t just say, “Everything will be all right.” Rather, her message is that of today’s Psalm: “See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.”

In the Gospel Jesus tells his disciples, “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” This is not about Christ’s second coming, but about our availability to respond when he calls.

This same spirit appears in our second reading. Abraham’s faith is presented as a model. At La Salette, Mary came to revive her people’s faith.

At the beginning of today’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his disciples: “Sell your belongings and give alms... For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” He is speaking of charity. This term has two meanings. In ordinary usage, it means kindness, especially to the poor. In theological language, however, it refers to holy love, the greatest of all virtues, poured into our hearts by God. It is our inexhaustible treasure.

Mary did not speak of charity in her Apparition. Rather, she demonstrated holy love in her words, in her tears, her tenderness toward the children.

We can join our efforts to hers. For example, when we recite the rosary, we can offer a portion of it for an increase of faith, hope and charity, in ourselves first, and in all with whom we walk our pilgrim way.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

What Matters to God

(18th Ordinary Sunday: Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23; Colossians 3:1-11; Luke 12:13-21)

Ecclesiastes, from which the first reading is drawn, makes the famous statement, “Vanity of vanities!” In Hebrew this mode of expression is used as a superlative, as in Holy of Holies, and King of Kings.

The text continues, “All things are vanity!” The author insists on this thought. Jesus, In the Gospel, says much the same in his parable, “You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you; and the things you have prepared, to whom will they belong?”

In a limited, more specific way, Mary at La Salette twice notes the futility of human efforts: “You will never be able to recompense the pains I have taken for you,” and “If you have wheat, you must not sow it.”

Paul writes to the Christians of Colossae, who seem to be struggling with their own vanities. “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Stop lying to one another.”

He calls them to continued conversion: “Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” This parallels the conclusion of today’s Gospel, where Jesus warns us not to be like “all who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich in what matters to God.”

Reflecting on all this, one could get discouraged. Don’t we have the right to work in view of improving our situation? Is everything we do meaningless?

That cannot be. In another letter, in fact, Paul reminded the Thessalonians: “We instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”

So, we are not insinuating that one must not labor. But we have a responsibility to be prudent stewards, properly directing or redirecting our labors, our lives back to the one who created us and called us to his service.

Here let us remember the Beautiful Lady’s injunction to pray well. In the morning we can offer our day’s work to God, and at night give thanks for what we have been able to accomplish, and, during the day, say a prayer before we begin any work. All things are vanity only if we fail to do them for the glory of God.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Powerful Prayer

(17th Ordinary Sunday: Genesis 18:20-32; Colossians 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13)

Today the obvious theme of the first reading and the Gospel is prayer. The Psalm, too, always a prayer in itself, acknowledges, “Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.”

When we say God answers prayer, we usually mean that he gives us what we ask, as Jesus promises. But the parable in the Gospel shows that we may need to ask repeatedly. Abraham, in the first reading, understood this. He kept returning to the same subject. At La Salette, Mary said, “If I want my Son not to abandon you, I am obliged to plead with him constantly.”

God tells Abraham of the “outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah.” There is an echo here of Genesis 4:10, where God says to Cain: “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” God cannot ignore the gravity of the sin. The time has come to act.

When the Beautiful Lady speaks of the heavy arm of her Son, she implies a similar outcry. The situation warrants an urgent response.

What is the outcry today? What should be at the heart of our prayer? Where are we called to bring our charism to bear?

Abraham hoped his prayer would be heard because he had a special relationship with God. Even more so, the Blessed Virgin, as the “Queen Mother,” could rely on a favorable hearing from her Son, but she needed a response from her people as well: submission, conversion, trust.

Jesus encourages us to pray with confidence. This does not mean we are entitled to everything we ask the Lord for. God, whom Jesus compares to a caring parent, knows what is best for us.

That said, God takes the initiative, as St. Paul writes: “Even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us.”

In fact, through the trials of life, God may actually be guiding us to prayer, whether we are immediately aware of it or not, so that he may communicate with us and direct us toward his plan for our lives. Let us therefore persist in prayer and in living out our faith.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Hospitality

(16th Ordinary Sunday: Genesis 18:1-10; Colossians 1:24-28; Luke 10:38-42)

In the spirit of Mary’s words, “Come closer, children, don’t be afraid,” we welcome you once again to our weekly reflection. Make yourself at home.

Abraham, in the first reading, is a model of hospitality. He ran to meet the Lord and his companions, made them comfortable, and provided a festive meal. In our experience, aren’t food and drink almost always part of special events?

In Matthew 25, Jesus stressed the importance of meeting the needs of others, starting with food for the hungry and drink for the thirsty. And remember that he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, and gave them precious food and drink which we gratefully continue to receive to this day.

As reconcilers, we are also aware of the spiritual works of mercy, as we strive to help people understand the truth of God’s mercy and love, and his desire to draw us to himself. This requires a welcoming spirit on our part, patiently guiding, instructing, comforting, admonishing, etc. It helps if we can put ourselves in the place of the persons we reach out to.

As St. Paul describes himself in the second reading, we too are ministers, stewards of a grace which we are eager to share. We do so together at times, in a common effort. But as each of us is unique, we need to adapt our service to our own personality and gifts.

Here, Martha and Mary in the gospel are excellent examples. According to the gospel of John, Jesus was a regular guest in their home. We mustn’t think that Martha never listened to Jesus or Mary never helped with the serving. On this occasion, however, they demonstrated equal hospitality in different ways.

Someone had to make sure a meal was prepared. Martha assumed that responsibility.

Someone had to make Jesus feel welcome by being attentive to him in another way. It is unlikely that Mary was the only person sitting there and listening to him speak, but Jesus acknowledged that her presence was the right choice. It mattered to him.

The Beautiful Lady addressed the spiritual and material needs of her beloved people. But first she had to invite the children to come to her. To accomplish our ministry, we need to do the same.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

The Obvious Answer

(15th Ordinary Sunday: Deuteronomy 30:10-14; Colossians 1:15-20; Luke 10:25-37)

In the first reading, Moses states that the Law is not beyond his people’s ability to know it or carry it out. Mary at La Salette touches on some of the simplest and most obvious requirements of Christian and Catholic life. Both seem to be stating the obvious.

In today’s Gospel, a legal scholar is challenged by Jesus to find his own answer to the question about attaining eternal life. He doesn’t hesitate. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” Pretty obvious, really.

Moses speaks of “this command that I enjoin on you today.” To enjoin means to prescribe, to encourage, to admonish, to prompt, etc. It implies an expectation of compliance. Mary hopes for the same, not only from Mélanie and Maximin, but from all those who will someday hear her words.

Observance of the law carries with it certain rewards. Today’s text from Deuteronomy follows upon a passage reminding the people of the blessings that come to those who heed the commandments. Jesus, in the Gospel, says, “Do this and you will live.” At La Salette, the Beautiful Lady promises an end to famine for those who submit to her Son.

Acting in view of a reward, however, is not an adequate fulfillment of the great commandment. The more perfectly we love God, the more natural it will be for us to live by his will.

Consider Jesus in his passion. He loved his Father with all his heart, pierced for our sins as blood and water poured forth; with all his being, as he entered fully into his Father’s will in the Garden of Gethsemane; with all his strength as he carried his cross; with all his mind as he prayed even for his enemies.

Mary, at the foot of the cross, united her love to his. At La Salette, she asked nothing for herself. It was natural for her to respond to the needs of her people, the obvious thing for her to do.

What must we do to inherit eternal life? Love the Lord, our God... Love our neighbor... Go and do likewise. Is that too mysterious, is that too remote?

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

The Joy and Boast of Missionaries

(14th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 66:10-14; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20)

[NOTE: The following is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Bishop Donald Pelletier, M.S., 90, lifelong missionary to Madagascar, who died when struck by a car on June 4, 2022, even as this reflection was being prepared.]

In today’s gospel Jesus commissioned seventy-two disciples to precede him to towns and villages he intended to visit. He provided them with specific, rather daunting instructions as to the how, what, where, etc. of their mission. They had already spent significant time in his company, they were ready, off they went.

Their mission was a success, as we read: “The seventy-two returned rejoicing, and said, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name.’" La Salette Missionaries and Sisters and Laity are not strangers to this experience. Whether in unfamiliar lands and languages, or in our own little worlds, we know the joy of bearing a message of peace and promise, especially when it is well received.

But Jesus saw the possibility of failure, too, and told the disciples what to do in that case. St. Paul provides further guidance in the second reading: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here it is good for us to remember once again that all the glorious light of the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette emanated from the crucifix resting over her heart. When we experience failure or rejection in our mission of reconciliation, we may imagine ourselves bathed in that same light.

That said, the dominant theme of today’s liturgy is joy. The first reading sets the tone. Isaiah has a vision of the exiles returning to Jerusalem, and compares them to an infant nursing exuberantly at its mother’s breast—an image of perfect happiness!

The Psalmist takes up the theme: “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth,” and then finds as many ways as possible to say it again.

Naturally we are delighted when our missionary efforts bear fruit. But let us not forget Jesus’ words, “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” An added comfort for us, if needed, is that our names are inscribed in the heart of a Beautiful Lady.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Which Yoke?

(13th Ordinary Sunday: 1 Kings 19:16-21; Galatians 5:1, 13-18; Luke 9:51-62)

Anyone who has seen traditional farming knows what a yoke is: a wooden structure placed over the neck of animals, for plowing or pulling heavy loads. Often two animals are yoked together, sharing the burden. This is part of the setting of the first reading.

St. Paul, however, uses the term in a figurative sense. “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” He goes on to say that if we abuse our freedom, we are not free.

Does this remind you of a saying of Jesus? It is not in today’s Gospel, but rather in Matthew 11:30: “My yoke is easy, and my burden light.” This is usually understood as a yoke that Jesus places on our shoulders. But another possible reading is that he is inviting us to bear his yoke with him, to share in carrying his burden.

Either way, a right submission is required, a willingness to know his will and a desire to carry it out. This means, in a sense, exchanging one yoke for another. At La Salette, Mary offers a choice: submit humbly to the simple requirements of faith, or submit grudgingly to sufferings over which we have no control.

In today’s Gospel, three different persons decide to follow Christ. In the third case Jesus uses a farming image, close to that of the first reading: “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”

St. Paul also reminds of another dimension of conversion: “The whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is close to what he writes in the next chapter of this letter: “Bear one another’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

It is hard for us to change, and we often bear the burden of sin. The Church offers us the sacrament of Reconciliation to remove that weight, and to restore us to our freedom in Christ. The Beautiful Lady did not speak of this, but she had the same result in mind.

There is another striking image in the first reading that we do not wish to omit, that of Elijah’s mantle, symbolizing the passing on of the prophetic role. Has not Mary spread her mantle over us?

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

La Salette, a Blessing

(Corpus Christi: Genesis 14:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-36; Luke 9:11-17)

“Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you.” These words are recited by the priest at the offertory of every Mass.

This is such an ancient prayer (as reflected also in Jewish practice), that one is tempted to think that when Jesus, in the Gospel, “said the blessing” over the loaves and fish, and over the bread and wine at the Last Supper, he may well have used words almost identical to those.

Melchizedek, in the first reading, prays in similar terms, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, the creator of heaven and earth,” and then adds, “Blessed be God Most High.” Who is blessing whom? We understand how God blesses us, but how can we bless God?

The Hebrew verb “to bless” is related to the Hebrew noun meaning “the knee.” When we bless God, we are bending our knee to him, a gesture of worship. But in that case, how does God bless us, since he cannot possibly worship us?

When he blesses us, God “bends the knee” in order to come down to us in our need, much as we might kneel by the side of a person who has fallen.

In today’s solemnity we give thanks for the Eucharist—which itself means thanksgiving—and for the priesthood which makes it possible for the Church to carry out Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Most of us are able to attend Mass daily if we wish. But in many parts of the world the faithful cannot receive the Eucharist daily or even weekly, but only when a priest makes the rounds. Then they flock to the Mass from miles away. (Please pray for priestly vocations.)

Those whom Our Lady of La Salette called “my people” had fallen so low that they did not recognize the gift of the Eucharist, even though it was easy to get to the local Church. So Mary, having so often bent the knee to her Son on our behalf, came down to us in the hope of raising her people to a life worthy of the name of Christian.

Through the Beautiful Lady, God has blessed us. There are many ways in which we may bless him in return.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Faith, Peace, Grace, Hope

(Trinity Sunday: Proverbs 8:22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15)

In his prayer the amazed psalmist asks God, “What is man that you should be mindful of him, or the son of man that you should care for him?” This is a very important question, which we might ask again as we read the last words of the first reading, where Wisdom, God’s collaborator in creation, declares, “I found delight in the human race.”

We might ask the same question of Our Lady of La Salette. Why should she care about us? Why does she still take such pains for us, when she herself tells us we can never repay her? And it was obvious in her apparition that she did not find delight in her people, but a source of tears.

What does this have to do with the Trinity? The Son of God, her Son, is visible on Mary’s breast. The Spirit who, as Jesus says in the Gospel, “will guide you to all truth,” may be perceived in her message and in the mission of the children. And it is, of course, the Father, not Mary, who sanctified the seventh day and kept it for himself.

Those connections are not necessarily the most important, however. The second reading may be even more relevant. Paul, inspired by the Spirit, writes: “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.”

Mary came to revive our faith and hope, restore our peace, and renew our access to grace, by drawing us back to participation in the sacred mysteries and to a loving, prayerful relationship with God the Father, Son and Spirit. Should we not be grateful for his care, and find delight in the one who delights in us?

All of salvation history revolves around this reality. Of all creation, the human race is God’s favorite. It’s no wonder—and yet so wonderful!—that he reaches out to us in so many ways, even by revealing the Trinity.

The Beautiful Lady, too, has gone to great lengths for us. How could she ever forget the circumstances in which Jesus entrusted her “people” to her? We must never forget them either.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Suddenly, Quietly, Pentecost

(Pentecost: Acts 2:1-11; Romans 8:8-17; John 20:19-23. Other options possible.)

By way of encouragement, St. Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome: “You are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit.” He then compared them to non-believers. “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”

By way of admonishment, a Beautiful Lady spoke to Christians in and well beyond the village of La Salette: “If I want my Son not to abandon you, I am obliged to plead with him constantly.” She wept at the prospect of hearing him say, “I don’t know those people, they don’t belong to me.”

The Spirit of God can dwell only where he is welcome. Mary’s aim was to prepare hearts to receive him. This is essential to our charism. Mary gives us the example of compassion paired with forthrightness, warnings with promises, reproaches with tenderness, and tears throughout—whatever it takes to touch us.

This echoes much of what we find in today’s Sequence, a magnificent poetic text composed some eight hundred years ago. We invoke the Spirit as “the soul’s most welcome guest;” he is “grateful coolness in the heat,” but we also ask him to “melt the frozen, warm the chill.”

In this same context we pray: “Bend the stubborn heart and will;... Guide the steps that go astray.” The Spirit was surely empowering the Blessed Virgin to accomplish these things at La Salette.

Our need of the Spirit is forcefully expressed: “Where you are not, we have naught.” This aptly sums up the second reading.

In Acts the Spirit is described in wind and fire, evoking the creation of the universe in Genesis 1. John, on the other hand, tells how Jesus breathed on the Apostles, closer to the creation of man in Genesis 2, where God “formed the man out of the dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

The first is more dynamic, the other more intimate (in keeping with Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you” and the experience some have had of “resting” in the Spirit). Both offer life. However the Spirit comes to us, let us welcome him and place ourselves at his service.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

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