God’s Free Gift
(2nd Sunday of Lent: Genesis 15:5-18; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36)
In the discussion of the value of faith and works, no text is more essential than Genesis 15:6: “Abram put his faith in the Lord, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.” St. Paul commented on it at length in Romans 4.
Psalm 143:2 pleads, “Do not enter into judgment with your servant; before you no one can be just.” Abram’s faith, therefore, is not a proof of his righteousness before God; but the Lord “credited” it to him, as if to say, “It’s not perfect, but it will do.”
This is important to remember when we reflect on La Salette. The conversion Mary seeks is not only to respect the Lord’s name and the Lord’s day, to observe Lent, and to pray faithfully. The importance of these attitudes and activities lies in their meaning, which comes from the faith that accompanies them.
James 2:26, however, makes the point that faith without works is dead. In other words, real faith requires concrete expression in the manner of our life.
Neither faith nor works have the power to qualify us as righteous. That is God’s free gift, to Abram and to us. It is by his mercy that he chooses to consider our faith strong and our works great.
We often long for what is beyond our grasp. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” writes St. Paul. He speaks of our status as not yet fully achieved, with the expectation that Jesus will bring about its fulfillment.
Jesus chose just three of his Apostles to witness his transfiguration on the mountain. That also was a free gift they didn’t deserve. Peter was right to say, “Master, it is good for us to be here.” He understood the privileged nature of the event.
Many La Salette pilgrims share this feeling. Even the mountain itself hints at the spiritual heights to which the Beautiful Lady wishes to raise us.
After Mary disappeared on that September 19, 1846, Mélanie said she thought the Lady must have been a great saint. Maximin answered, “If I had known that, I would have asked her to take me with her.” Indeed, with her help we can dare to pray the words of today’s Psalm: “I believe that I shall see the bounty of the Lord in the land of the living.”