Wisdom, Submission, Tears
(Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-39; Matthew 16:13-10)
The readings are about authority. A certain Shebna is replaced by Eliakim as master of the palace; Simon is established as the rock foundation of the Church, with power to loose and bind; and God’s judgments require no advice from anyone.
From another perspective, however, they are less about authority than about God’s free choice. Why God chose Shebna or Simon is not stated, but God’s wisdom and knowledge are deep and rich, and he knows what he is doing and why. This can be difficult to grasp, especially in moments of public or private tragedy. ‘It’s God’s will’ is not always perceived as a satisfactory explanation. Even Job and Jeremiah seemed to expect God to justify his treatment of them.
It should not surprise us, then, that the farmers around La Salette railed at God when their crops were ruined. Theirs was a hard life at the best of times, and rules about Sunday rest and worship were for them just old wives’ tales, of interest only to the ‘few elderly women who go to Mass’—to use the Beautiful Lady’s words.
Mary feels no need to defend God. Quite the opposite, she calls us to submit. The submission she envisions is not mere passivity. It is an active recognition of who God is and who we are, of God’s all-encompassing knowledge and infinite wisdom.
This theme is not new with La Salette. Spiritual writers have long used the language of ‘abandonment’ and ‘surrender’ to God’s will. What stands out at La Salette is what happens when the People of God do not recognize his will, accept it and submit to it.
Natural disasters, for example, are exactly that: natural, though they are often called ‘acts of God.’ Not every catastrophe is a punishment. Still, the suffering and unhappiness that often surrounds us can make us wonder about our world and our place in it.
Mary provides a detailed list of troubles appropriate to the place where she appeared: crops of all kinds were failing, and young children were dying. If she were to appear in our country, what disasters and tragedies would bring tears to her eyes today?