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.

Ready, Willing, Able

(7th Sunday of Easter: Acts 7:55-60; Revelation 22:12-20; John 17:20-26)

The death of Steven is recorded in the first reading. The account includes this sentence: “The witnesses laid down their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul.” This is the same Saul who would be later known as Paul.

Steven is venerated as the first Christian martyr. So, it might surprise you to learn that the original Greek word for the witnesses in this passage is martyres. How can this be?

During the Easter season, we have often encountered the same word. The Apostles present themselves as witnesses of the Risen Christ, always martyres in the Greek. That’s what the word means. A martyr, in our modern sense, is first a witness to Jesus, but one who shed his blood for the sake of the Gospel.

Stephen witnessed by word and by imitation. His dying prayer was, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit... Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Jesus crucified prayed, “Father, forgive them” and, later, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk 23:34, 46).

During his trial before the Sanhedrin, Jesus said, “You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Mt 26:64). That is exactly the vision described by Stephen, which so enraged his audience.

Saul, too, would become a faithful and persecuted witness. Over the centuries, how many? How many more to come?

The La Salette Missionaries chose to remain in their mission, witnessing Christ to their people, during Angola’s civil war. Three of them died in the crossfire. Another accompanied the refugees to a camp in Zambia, where he nearly died of starvation. As we write, our Missionaries from Poland are continuing their mission in Ukraine in spite of the war with Russia.

Most of us, “ordinary” witnesses, have not had to make such sacrifices. But it is not enough just to admire their courage as we bring the Beautiful Lady’s great news to the world, by word and example.

Like them, we have to be ready, willing and able to accomplish the mission entrusted to us. If we have the necessary preparation and desire, we can count on Our Lord and Our Lady to give us the courage.

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

The Holy Spirit and Us

(6th Sunday of Easter: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev. 21:10-14, 22-23; John 14:23-29)

The letter sent to the Gentile Christians, in today’s first reading, is essential to our understanding of the Church. The resolution of the crisis is prefaced with the phrase, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us.”

It is not conceivable that the Apostles and elders might disagree with the Holy Spirit. Why then do they add their decision to that of the Holy Spirit? We will get back to this.

The other readings express similar ideas. Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” In the Apocalypse we read, “I saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.”

All of these texts reflect the intimate union of the human and the divine in the Church. We have rightly become accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the Church. Without Jesus and the Father and the Spirit, however, we are no different from any other organization. Without us, on the other hand, God lives in trinitarian glory, but there is no Church.

The Beautiful Lady of La Salette spoke to Christians who were Church in name only. Many, by cutting themselves off from the sources of faith provided by the Holy Spirit in the sacraments, were no longer God’s dwelling place or temple.

Two expressions in today’s readings are heard at every celebration of the Eucharist, close together in the Communion rite. They are, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” and “the Lamb.” Mary came to restore us to a state of peace with the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Now we return to the question raised above. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls “the Advocate,” is the teacher sent by the Father. We the Church cannot go astray when we teach what the Spirit teaches, through our institutions and structures, and in our individual lives. Thus the decision of the Holy Spirit is ours as well.

The very existence of La Salette Laity is a fairly recent manifestation of this reality. Let the new holy temple be within each of us as we allow the Advocate to work within us to the glory of God and the Lamb.

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

All Things New

(5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-35)

The closing words of today’s reading from the Apocalypse, “Behold, I make all things new,” seem to radiate through all of today’s liturgy. The word “new” occurs at least eight times: three times in antiphons and prayers, once in the Gospel, and four times in the second reading.

We have been celebrating Easter already for four full weeks. Three more lie ahead. Hopefully we are still filled with the joy and newness of the resurrection.

Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment, and goes so far as to say, “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Faithful observance of this law of love is certainly a challenge, but it ought to make it more natural for us to keep the rest of the commandments. It creates the new heart promised by the prophet Ezekiel (26:36).

No one can doubt that it was love that moved Our Lady to appear at La Salette. Like the light of the apparition, her love, too, is a reflection of the love radiating from the image of her crucified Son, who died and rose for our sake. She is telling us, “I love you as much as my Son loves you.” She promises a new manifestation of God’s tenderness and power.

By urging her people to turn away from sin and turn back to the practices by which they would be recognized as Catholic Christians, she was, like Paul and Barnabas in the first reading, “exhorting them to persevere in the faith.”

We can do the same. Some of you reading this are missionaries, bringing the Gospel to peoples of other lands. Most of us need only step outside the door of our homes and hearts to meet people and, by word or action, “strengthen their spirits.” Either way, it is a challenge as we fulfill the new commandment.

We want to contribute to the manifestation of the new heaven and the new earth, here and now. The psalm expresses our hope: “O Lord, let your faithful ones bless you. Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might.”

“The old order has passed away,” says the Lord, as he offers us a new heaven, a new earth, new hearts, new courage.

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

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