Indelibly Sealed, and Clothed

(Baptism of the Lord: Isaiah 40:1-11; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Luke 3:15-22)

“One baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” This phrase near the end of the Creed reflects the conclusion of a debate in the early Church. The question was whether Christians who were baptized by heretics, had to be baptized a second time when they became Catholics.

The answer was no, on condition that the baptism was in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For it is through that baptism that one becomes a Christian. This is often referred to as the seal of baptism, indelible and permanent.

It is no wonder that the church looks upon this sacrament as foundational and the first of the sacraments received, required before all of the other sacraments. Just as Jesus at the river Jordan was, so to speak, introduced and prepared for his public ministry, so too we are introduced into the Church by our baptism and receive our share in the priesthood of Christ.

The voice from heaven said: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In the rite of baptism, we are clothed in a white garment as a sign of our Christian dignity, and are encouraged to live accordingly.

Mary came from heaven, where she lives in the light of God, who is “clothed with majesty and glory, robed in light as with a cloak,” as we read in the Psalm. Upon the physical heights of a mountain, she wept over the spiritual depths to which her people had fallen. The baptismal garment of her people was stained, and the Christian seal was barely recognizable.

Like the prophet, she spoke tenderly. In her own words she called on us to prepare or, better yet, repair the way of the Lord, in our heart and in our way of life.

In the second reading, St. Paul gives a wonderful description of baptism when he writes that God “saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he richly poured out on us through Jesus Christ our savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.”

At the heart of our La Salette message and ministry of reconciliation is hope. To nourish it, let us never forget or neglect the gift we received in our baptism.

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

In the Path of the Magi

(Epiphany: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12)

The best definition we found for the Epiphany is: “The manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi” (Oxford Languages). In other words, their story is our story—as Christians and as La Salettes.

The Magi were guided by the light of a star, to him whom we call “Light from Light, true God from true God.” At La Salette Mary appears in light, but she is not the light. Like the star, she leads us to her Son, she manifests him to us in the dazzlingly bright crucifix she wears.

Isaiah tells Jerusalem, “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” while other peoples are covered with darkness and thick clouds. The Beautiful Lady speaks to just such a people, inviting them to turn to the light which is Christ.

We are modern-day Magi. Mary helps us as we seek Christ. She reminds us of the importance of Sunday worship, daily prayer, and Lenten discipline, that we may do him homage.

St. Paul dwelt in darkness until the day of his epiphany, his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He writes to the Ephesians that this revelation was not only for him. but “for your benefit.” He had become a guiding light, and wanted the Christian community to be the same.

We who have accepted the gift of faith, should see it as given to us for the benefit of others. We can share it by our words, of course; but by our own example of faith, hope and charity, Christ our light can shine through us, dispelling the darkness and guiding others to him.

It is not expected, nor is it necessary, that each of us be a great star, visible from afar. Stars also have different colors. Scientists say this is because of their surface temperature, among other things. The ardor of our faith will vary from time to time.

Remember that the flame even of a tiny candle dispels the darkness, and the darkness can never overcome it. A gentle, comforting light can be as attractive as a brilliant sun.

La Salette is a light meant to be shared through our reconciling mission. What an epiphany we can be!

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

Always Welcome

(Holy Family: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:1-52)

At the General Audience of August 11, 1976, Pope Paul VI addressed parents as follows: “Mothers, do you teach your children the Christian prayers? ... And you, fathers, do you pray with your children?” Here we are reminded of the question Mary asked at La Salette, “Do you say your prayers well, my children?”

True prayer is not a matter of words alone. It creates bonds between us and God; but let us not forget that it also deepens the sharing of faith among those who pray together. It is essential to the life of the Christian family, which St. Augustine and other Fathers of the Church called the “domestic Church.” Vatican II revived this expression, and several Church documents have used it since then. (Some are quoted or paraphrased below.)

In Jewish practice, the family is the primary place of worship. Through his incarnation, the Son of God “chose to be born and grow up in the bosom of the holy family.” Joseph and Mary taught him to pray, and to feel at home in the Temple—though they never anticipated the scene described in today’s Gospel!

Christian parents are described in recent documents as the first heralds of the faith. In the blessing of parents which concludes the rite of Baptism, we hear: “May God bless the father of this child. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do.”

The Beautiful Lady continues to exercise this role, calling us to live as she and Joseph and Jesus did, honoring God, and obeying his will.

Like any family, the domestic Church is “a school for human enrichment,” where we learn precious family values. But it is different, too. A family that lives its faith, receiving the sacraments, praying and giving thanks, and demonstrating holiness of life through self-denial and charity, can be an “island of Christian life in an unbelieving world,”

The Psalmist exclaims, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” We are always welcome in our Father’s house. As a domestic Church, he in turn is always welcome in ours.

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

Elizabeth and Mary and Us

(4th Sunday of Advent: Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45)

The opening lines of Micah’s prophecy about Bethlehem, in today’s first reading, are best remembered as the text used by the scholars of Jerusalem to tell the Magi where to look for the Christ child. Bethlehem played a significant role in salvation history.

But the rest of the text is equally important. Two phrases stand out in particular: “she who is to give birth,” and “he shall be peace.” These, too, point to Bethlehem, but in today’s Gospel they can be heard, so to speak, at a town in the hill country. less than five miles from Jerusalem.

Mary and Elizabeth can both be identified as “she who is to give birth.” As for their children, Jesus “shall be peace,” while John will be, like Micah, a prophet to announce the Lord’s coming.

Elizabeth’s words, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb,” were incorporated (along with the greeting of the Angel Gabriel) into the Hail Mary in its earliest forms. We can imagine those scenes when we say this prayer.

The second part of the Hail Mary is clearly reflected at La Salette, when Our Lady tells us that she prays for us without ceasing—which is the same as when we say, “now and at the hour of our death.”

Her prayer is “for us sinners,” i.e. for our forgiveness, and that we may prepare to meet the Lord with clean hearts and converted souls, beginning now and until death.

We always call Our Lady of La Salette the Beautiful Lady, or the Weeping Mother, but today let us think of her as she who is to give birth or, as Elizabeth says, “the mother of my Lord.” Luke tells us Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when she heard Mary’s greeting. She received a spiritual gift (charism) that prompted her to speak in a prophetic way.

Mary’s greeting at La Salette brought with it a peaceful spirit, calming the fears of Mélanie and Maximin. It drew them to her, opening them to hear her great news, empowering them to make it known.

In this same spirit, let us press forward eagerly on our Advent journey to Bethlehem, and invite others to join us and be introduced to our Savior.

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

Mission of Joy

(3rd Sunday of Advent: Zephaniah 3:14-18; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18)

Today is Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday, so we are not surprised to hear Zephaniah telling Jerusalem, and Paul the Philippians, to rejoice. Both are beyond enthusiastic!

But someone else is rejoicing, too. Look at the end of the first reading. “The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” Is there any image of God more likely than this to bring joy into our hearts?

Zephaniah gives the reason: “The Lord has removed the judgment against you... The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.”

God’s judgment was certainly just; his people were rightly punished. But mercy triumphed, and once again God was willing to make a fresh start. The tears of the Beautiful Lady of La Salette, falling on the crucifix over her heart, are a sign of mercy, Mary’s way of telling us that the Lord, whose judgment is just, has no desire to abandon us entirely. She is letting her people know that God wants to be close to us, to renew his love for us and restore his covenant with us.

The Lord Emmanuel is near. Therefore, we ought to rejoice always, and the expression of this joy should flow out of us into the world around us. That, however, is easier said than done. During Advent, in particular, some experience more stress than at other times, due either to the many preparations for Christmas, or to the painful loneliness that, strangely, the season can intensify.

In this context, let us remember John the Baptist. The Gospels do not depict him as especially joyful, but today’s Gospel Acclamation seems to apply to him the text from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” His glad tidings take the form of a call to genuine conversion, but in view of the promise of another who is to come.

Whether our La Salette mission is more like John’s or like Zephaniah’s and Paul’s, let us carry it out with all the joy we can.

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

From Misery to Glory

(2nd Sunday of Advent: Baruch 5:1-9; Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11; Luke 3:1-6)

The opening of today’s text from Baruch is wonderful: “Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever.” In fact, the entire reading brims over with hope and consolation.

Depending on our circumstances, we might replace “Jerusalem” with our own name, or our family or some larger group. There are moments in every life when we need to throw off the robe of misery. God’s will for us is joy.

St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you... And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value.”

John the Baptist appears in the Gospel, “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Mary came to La Salette in tears, but she too brought hope and left a message of reconciliation. She wanted, in the words of the Psalm, to “restore our fortunes like the torrents in the southern desert.”

In fact, consider how many words of today’s Psalm can easily be associated with the Beautiful Lady and her message: tears, seed, sowing, reaping, etc.

The same may be said of the first reading. Mary shows herself in both an attitude of mourning and the splendor of glory. She stands upon the heights, looking upon her children—the two innocents standing with her, as well as her wayward people whom she desires to gather “by the light of God’s glory, with his mercy and justice for company.” In our own way, as reconcilers, we must also stand upon the heights. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden... Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5: 14, 16).

May we all be cloaked in justice and mercy, bearing on our heads “the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name.” In this way we may hope to attract others to Christ and, in the words of St. Paul, help them “to discern what is of value.”

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

Teach me your Paths

(1st Sunday of Advent: Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-36)

Today we begin Year C in the Church’s three-year liturgical cycle. We have been this way before, and much will be familiar. Still, it is a new year, a new spiritual journey, for we have changed, as has the world around us.

Every journey has a starting point and a final destination. So let us make ours the words of today’s Psalm: “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me.” We do not want to lose our way.

There will be a number of stops along the way. The first will be in Bethlehem, as we celebrate the coming of the promised Messiah.

We hear in the first reading, “The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made... I will raise up for David a just shoot; he shall do what is right and just in the land.” The One who is to come will teach by word and example.

At La Salette, the Weeping Mother appeared to two children to give a message of hope, that promises made would be fulfilled. She was offering guidance to a people that was not doing what was right and just. They were on a path that did not lead toward God but away from God.

Mary is also urging us to be faithful in prayer. We should want to pray worthily, that is, from the heart, asking the Lord to always direct our steps on the path toward him.

The second reading is from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians, which is full of instruction intended to keep the young Christian community on the right path. Here, in the context of Christ’s return, we read: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” This reminds us that we are connected to others, on the same path with us.

Jesus tells us to be vigilant. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life.” We cannot afford to stray from the way he shows us as he guides us.

Most of the Gospel readings in Year C will come from Luke’s Gospel. Let us allow him to be our guide, leading us along a path toward God, who is the source of all we need and hope for.

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

King Forever

(Christ the King: Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:5-8; John 18:33-37)

Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; Omega is the last. In the New Testament (written in Greek), they appear only in Revelation, always together, four times, on the lips of Jesus who says, “I am Alpha and Omega.”

In each instance, they are accompanied by a phrase similar to what we find in today’s second reading: “the one who is and who was and who is to come, the almighty.” Elsewhere in Revelation, Jesus is called King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All of these notions, taken together, express his absolute dominion.

Daniel, in the first reading, speaks prophetically of Christ, saying, “His kingship shall not be destroyed.” In the Creed we echo the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary, “Of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

In most parts of the modern world, monarchies have been replaced by republics with various forms of democracy. Individual Christians, too, though they call Jesus Lord, are more likely to visualize him dressed in the typical garb of his day than in royal robes. Some relate to him more easily as brother, or friend, and might even rebel against the image of Christ the King.

The last French monarchy was on its way to extinction at the time of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette. At that same time, religion was being ignored, if not attacked, in large swaths of the population. Anything that was perceived as domination was being rejected.

Mary did not come to restore a monarchy of any kind. She shows us her Son on the cross, stripped, wearing a crown of thorns. Submission to him is not simply submission to his authority, but to his boundless love and endless mercy.

Today, in many places and various ways, there is an effort to thrust Christian faith out of public life. In a sense, Jesus stands before a new Pilate, insisting once again, “My kingdom does not belong to this world.” His dominion is not domination.

He adds, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” This is where we come in. With our charism of reconciliation, and In our La Salette tradition of penance, prayer and zeal, let us testify to his truth. As we come to the end of this liturgical year, let us pray that he will reign forever in our hearts.

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

Gathered in Hope

(33rd Ordinary Sunday: Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-18; Mark 13:24-32)

Today, Daniel prophesies “a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began.” Jesus describes alarming signs preceding the end-time. We may be tempted to draw a correlation between these readings and our own time.

If so, we wouldn’t be the first. In fact, there has hardly been a time in the history of the Church when persecutions, natural disasters, epidemics, etc., were not seen as signs of the Second Coming of Christ.

This is not a bad thing. It reminds every generation to remain steadfast in the faith, as we joyfully anticipate the return of our Savior, who offered the necessary blood sacrifice to redeem us from sin.

The opening prayer of today’s Liturgy asks God to give us “the constant gladness of being devoted to you.” How many of us have found this? At La Salette, Mary noted that very few people attended Mass. In 1846, France was not known for its religious fervor. On the contrary, it was suffering from what we might call “faith deficit disorder (FDD).”

The Beautiful Lady proposes a kind of FDD therapy: prayer, Lenten penance, respect for the day and name of the Lord. Ever attentive to her people’s need, she not only speaks of frightful events, but offers hope as well.

Daniel writes of “everyone who is found written in the book.” Jesus says, “The Son of Man... will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” Mary uses simple words to express the same reality: “My children.. my people.”

She knows the wonderful truth that we find early in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (no. 27).

The psalmist rejoices to call the Lord “my allotted portion and my cup.” All the readings today point to the God who created us in his image and who wishes to gather us to himself. Steadfast in faith, we do not fear his coming.

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

The Last Full Measure

(32nd Ordinary Sunday: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44)

“Here, my child, eat some bread while we still have it this year; because I don't know who will eat any next year if the wheat keeps up like that.” When the Beautiful Lady reminded Maximin of these words spoken by his father, the boy admitted candidly, “Oh, yes, Madam, now I remember. Just then, I didn't remember it.”

Mary appeared to a people who were down to their last measure of wheat, potatoes, grapes and nuts, staring famine in the face. But their faith was weak, and they didn’t know where to turn.

Such was the situation of the widow in the first reading. But her trust in the prophet’s promise inspired her to let him have her last measure of food. In the Gospel, too, another widow, of whose history we know nothing, gave her last measure of personal means to the temple. Jesus drew his disciples’ attention to her, showing the value of true generosity animated by faith.

In the second reading the author writes of Christ: “Now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice.” This is Jesus as Mary shows him to us at La Salette: her Son, giving the last full measure of his love, the price of our redemption.

The crucifix calls us to do the same, to give not from our excess, but generously, of our resources, or time or talents. The more we recognize what we have received, the more we should be willing to share. In Luke 6:38, Jesus says, “The measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”

It may be that we have none of those things to give. But we share in the priesthood of Christ, and in the Eucharist we offer what he offered.

There is always something we can do. Look at today’s Psalm. Among God’s merciful actions we find, “The Lord keeps faith forever... the Lord loves the just.” We can foster attitudes of trust, praying for those who serve others. We can forgive, and accept forgiveness.

The full measure may not be required of us. However, Mary pleads with us to submit to her Son, and to trust in her promise of abundant harvest and abundant mercy. What is that worth to us?

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

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