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Items filtered by date: November 2020

Sunday, 29 November 2020 16:41

Mary and the signs of the times

Mary and the signs of the times

December 2020

Mary teaches how to interpret the course of history…

The title of this section allows us to appreciate two realities:

1. the profound continuity between the Prophets in the Bible and the “Beautiful Lady of La Salette”, and 

2. the strong biblical foundation of a genuine La Salette spirituality. 

It is no coincidence that the late Cardinal of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini S.J., maintained that among the major Marian apparitions, the Apparition of La Salette is the one that best reveals features and characteristics which are typically biblical.

In order to illustrate this continuity, I would like to approach the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette from the ‘prophetic’ model developed by the Jewish philosopher and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel. When we interpret the apparition of the “Beautiful Lady” at La Salette based on the book by Joshua A. Heschel, The Prophets, we can observe the following points.

First: like the Prophets in the Bible, “the Beautiful Lady” calls to conversion. Mary’s words which open the message, as well as her admonitions introduced by words “If my people will not submit […]” and “If they are converted […]”, resonate with us as an invitation to return to the Lord. In the Bible, conversion does not only mean to stop doing evil in order to embrace the good, but also to turn more towards the Lord. According to this meaning, conversion, rather than being a single act, is configured as a gradual process of transformation that aims to conform us to the Son, to live as He lived, to make his choices our own.

Second: the various references to the concrete historical situation contained in the message emphasize Mary’s “prophetic” presence at La Salette. Like the Prophets in the Bible, “The Beautiful Lady of La Salette” embodies a spirituality deeply rooted in history, but with her gaze turned to the heavens. Within the historical context, the words of the “Beautiful Lady”, like those of the Prophets in the Bible, are a heartfelt appeal that aims to change, from within, the lives of the people she is addressing and history itself. Such a change is possible through ‘just’ relationships between us and the Lord, us and creation, and each other. At La Salette, the “Beautiful Lady” reminds us that the connection between human responsibility, justice and history is so strong as to determine success as much as failure, both social and individual.

Third: like the Prophets in the Bible, Mary, at La Salette, teaches us to interpret the course of history with the eyes of faith; she teaches us to intus-legere, in history, the voice of God; she teaches us to discern what leads to the Lord and what distances us from Him.

Fourth: like the Prophets in the Bible, Mary, at La Salette, became the voice of a God who, as Joshua A. Heschel liked to say, is in search of man, of each one of us.  At La Salette, Mary awakens in us this awareness that God is a pilgrim God, engaged in a “divine exodus” because he is in search of his children. 

Fifth: like the Prophets in the Bible, “the Beautiful Lady of La Salette” appears not to convey to us abstract truths about God or to give us religious norms to follow carefully, but rather to remind us, through her tears, that the God of the Bible is a “pathetic” God, filled with pathos, in the primitive sense of the Greek root of the term meaning ‘emotion’, ‘sentiment’, ‘passion’, or ‘suffering’. God suffers for us. The Son suffered for us. And the “Beautiful Lady of La Salette” suffers for her children. This is another trait that characterizes the Prophets in the Bible: in fact, the entire biblical prophecy is a constant cry that God is not indifferent to evil.

The words of Mary at La Salette, like the words of the Prophets of Ancient Israel, do not predict any future. Rather, they are words that show how God works within our history, and what our role and responsibility is in this divine-human interaction. 

All of creation cries out for reconciliation…

“If the harvest is spoilt, it is all on your account”

The Son of God came into the world to ‘restore’ man’s image and likeness to God. It is to this creature that the Creator entrusted the dominion over the world, more precisely to “guide the earth”. However, man often disregards the responsibility he has been given by his Creator. And when he oversteps the limits he attracts misfortune to himself and to the universe.

The message of Our Lady at La Salette reveals precisely the discrepancy between nature and man whenever he does not work in harmony with God. The spoiling of the harvest is perceived as God's punishment because man wants to be self-sufficient. We all know that a Godless humanism leads to incalculable disasters. 

In the message of La Salette, regarded by St. John Paul II as “the heart of Mary's prophecies”, the denunciation of the deplorable moral state of the world embodied in religious indifference emerges first and foremost. Indeed, the situation had deteriorated to the point that Our Lady threatened to let fall her Son’s arm. About La Salette and its prophetic signs, John Paul II also said: “Mary, a Mother filled with love, manifested her sadness in the face of the moraI evil of humanity. Her tears help us better understand the painful gravity of sin, the denial of God, as well as the passionate fidelity that her Son, the Redeemer, maintains toward her children despite a love wounded and rejected”.

The message of La Salette is relevant in this world that seems to repeat again and again the mistakes that Mary came to correct through the message that she conveyed to Maximin and Melanie. Submission to Christ, penance and a prayerful life are the fundamental ingredients that the Beautiful Lady presents to us so that we may be reconciled with God.

This prophetic quality of the apparition at La Salette is revealed in the signs she herself bears, the symbol of the great message of the Virgin of La Salette: the cross in the center, the hammer on the left and the pincers on the right. While the hammer symbolizes the sins of humanity that nail the crucified Jesus, the pincers symbolize prayer and conversion. 

Our mission as ambassadors of Christ leads us to take on the responsibility that Mary has entrusted to the sighted, to go to all people, that is, to remind people of their duty to let themselves be guided by the one master, Jesus Christ. When this happens, when people heed the call to conversion, “the stones and rocks will change into mounds of wheat”. Mary is clear in awakening in us the deep root of the evils that the world suffers and can suffer if change, submission to Christ do not come from man. Mary invites us to return to God through Christ, whose kingship seeks to restore the righteousness of souls everywhere.

Mary is the sign of the new covenant…

It is very difficult to accept the words Mary pronounces in her Message: “If the harvest is spoilt, it is all on your account”.But they express the truth about the fact that evil does not come from God, but from his creatures. At first it was Lucifer and his followers who perpetrated it, then - the first men who had been deceived. Our mismanagement of the world leads to its corruption. Mary’s words not only contain a prophecy or a judgment about the current situation, but they remind each one of us where evil comes from. She who cannot be accused of any act of disobedience to God’s will says so. Her “Fiat” was and is present in every thought, in every word and in every action, without exception.

God's first commandment to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28), has never been revoked. But after the original sin the situation deteriorated, and it will continue to do so until the end of the world. We are responsible for everything that goes wrong around us, for we are deceived by Satan, whose disobedience to God generates the incessant pitfalls and temptations that beset us. All events that occur in the history of each of us are signs of the times.

If we follow Mary’s warning, which reminds us that - paraphrasing - we do not have complete dominion over the earth and something is always bound to go wrong, then we will cease to blame God and the world for all the evil that befalls us. We must confirm our correct reading of the signs of the times, first of all, by showing our gratitude and blessing God for the life He has given to each of us and for the vocation to eternal life in Heaven; moreover, we must be grateful to God that, despite our disobedience and disloyalty, the merciful Lord grants us grace and helps us to put order in the midst of the confusion that we ourselves have created. Within this context, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Son of God, appears to be a necessary remedy and helps us to rise up in the humble and persevering effort to bring good to this world, which also suffers for the damage it has endured.

All the evil that strikes us is a permanent sign that we have let ourselves be led by Satan to believe that we can criticize and judge God, accusing him of badly managing the world that He himself created. God has never revoked his decision to entrust the Earth to man. Responsibility for everything that happens here lies solely with humankind, with all men and women. Each one is responsible for it before God.

Therefore we can say that there is practically only one permanent sign, evoked by Mary - the sign that She at La Salette indicates precisely as the spoilt harvest. It is revealed by the word of God addressed to Adam before his banishment from Eden: 

“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it’. Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen 3:17-19).

Flavio Gilio MS

Eusébio Kangupe MS

Karol Porczak MS

Published in MISSION (EN)
Sunday, 29 November 2020 16:27

Mary and the signs of the times

Mary and the signs of the times

December 2020

Mary teaches how to interpret the course of history…

The title of this section allows us to appreciate two realities:

1. the profound continuity between the Prophets in the Bible and the “Beautiful Lady of La Salette”, and 

2. the strong biblical foundation of a genuine La Salette spirituality. 

It is no coincidence that the late Cardinal of Milan, Carlo Maria Martini S.J., maintained that among the major Marian apparitions, the Apparition of La Salette is the one that best reveals features and characteristics which are typically biblical.

In order to illustrate this continuity, I would like to approach the apparition of Our Lady of La Salette from the ‘prophetic’ model developed by the Jewish philosopher and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel. When we interpret the apparition of the “Beautiful Lady” at La Salette based on the book by Joshua A. Heschel, The Prophets, we can observe the following points.

First: like the Prophets in the Bible, “the Beautiful Lady” calls to conversion. Mary’s words which open the message, as well as her admonitions introduced by words “If my people will not submit […]” and “If they are converted […]”, resonate with us as an invitation to return to the Lord. In the Bible, conversion does not only mean to stop doing evil in order to embrace the good, but also to turn more towards the Lord. According to this meaning, conversion, rather than being a single act, is configured as a gradual process of transformation that aims to conform us to the Son, to live as He lived, to make his choices our own.

Second: the various references to the concrete historical situation contained in the message emphasize Mary’s “prophetic” presence at La Salette. Like the Prophets in the Bible, “The Beautiful Lady of La Salette” embodies a spirituality deeply rooted in history, but with her gaze turned to the heavens. Within the historical context, the words of the “Beautiful Lady”, like those of the Prophets in the Bible, are a heartfelt appeal that aims to change, from within, the lives of the people she is addressing and history itself. Such a change is possible through ‘just’ relationships between us and the Lord, us and creation, and each other. At La Salette, the “Beautiful Lady” reminds us that the connection between human responsibility, justice and history is so strong as to determine success as much as failure, both social and individual.

Third: like the Prophets in the Bible, Mary, at La Salette, teaches us to interpret the course of history with the eyes of faith; she teaches us to intus-legere, in history, the voice of God; she teaches us to discern what leads to the Lord and what distances us from Him.

Fourth: like the Prophets in the Bible, Mary, at La Salette, became the voice of a God who, as Joshua A. Heschel liked to say, is in search of man, of each one of us.  At La Salette, Mary awakens in us this awareness that God is a pilgrim God, engaged in a “divine exodus” because he is in search of his children. 

Fifth: like the Prophets in the Bible, “the Beautiful Lady of La Salette” appears not to convey to us abstract truths about God or to give us religious norms to follow carefully, but rather to remind us, through her tears, that the God of the Bible is a “pathetic” God, filled with pathos, in the primitive sense of the Greek root of the term meaning ‘emotion’, ‘sentiment’, ‘passion’, or ‘suffering’. God suffers for us. The Son suffered for us. And the “Beautiful Lady of La Salette” suffers for her children. This is another trait that characterizes the Prophets in the Bible: in fact, the entire biblical prophecy is a constant cry that God is not indifferent to evil.

The words of Mary at La Salette, like the words of the Prophets of Ancient Israel, do not predict any future. Rather, they are words that show how God works within our history, and what our role and responsibility is in this divine-human interaction. 

All of creation cries out for reconciliation…

“If the harvest is spoilt, it is all on your account”

The Son of God came into the world to ‘restore’ man’s image and likeness to God. It is to this creature that the Creator entrusted the dominion over the world, more precisely to “guide the earth”. However, man often disregards the responsibility he has been given by his Creator. And when he oversteps the limits he attracts misfortune to himself and to the universe.

The message of Our Lady at La Salette reveals precisely the discrepancy between nature and man whenever he does not work in harmony with God. The spoiling of the harvest is perceived as God's punishment because man wants to be self-sufficient. We all know that a Godless humanism leads to incalculable disasters. 

In the message of La Salette, regarded by St. John Paul II as “the heart of Mary's prophecies”, the denunciation of the deplorable moral state of the world embodied in religious indifference emerges first and foremost. Indeed, the situation had deteriorated to the point that Our Lady threatened to let fall her Son’s arm. About La Salette and its prophetic signs, John Paul II also said: “Mary, a Mother filled with love, manifested her sadness in the face of the moraI evil of humanity. Her tears help us better understand the painful gravity of sin, the denial of God, as well as the passionate fidelity that her Son, the Redeemer, maintains toward her children despite a love wounded and rejected”.

The message of La Salette is relevant in this world that seems to repeat again and again the mistakes that Mary came to correct through the message that she conveyed to Maximin and Melanie. Submission to Christ, penance and a prayerful life are the fundamental ingredients that the Beautiful Lady presents to us so that we may be reconciled with God.

This prophetic quality of the apparition at La Salette is revealed in the signs she herself bears, the symbol of the great message of the Virgin of La Salette: the cross in the center, the hammer on the left and the pincers on the right. While the hammer symbolizes the sins of humanity that nail the crucified Jesus, the pincers symbolize prayer and conversion. 

Our mission as ambassadors of Christ leads us to take on the responsibility that Mary has entrusted to the sighted, to go to all people, that is, to remind people of their duty to let themselves be guided by the one master, Jesus Christ. When this happens, when people heed the call to conversion, “the stones and rocks will change into mounds of wheat”. Mary is clear in awakening in us the deep root of the evils that the world suffers and can suffer if change, submission to Christ do not come from man. Mary invites us to return to God through Christ, whose kingship seeks to restore the righteousness of souls everywhere.

Mary is the sign of the new covenant…

It is very difficult to accept the words Mary pronounces in her Message: “If the harvest is spoilt, it is all on your account”.But they express the truth about the fact that evil does not come from God, but from his creatures. At first it was Lucifer and his followers who perpetrated it, then - the first men who had been deceived. Our mismanagement of the world leads to its corruption. Mary’s words not only contain a prophecy or a judgment about the current situation, but they remind each one of us where evil comes from. She who cannot be accused of any act of disobedience to God’s will says so. Her “Fiat” was and is present in every thought, in every word and in every action, without exception.

God's first commandment to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28), has never been revoked. But after the original sin the situation deteriorated, and it will continue to do so until the end of the world. We are responsible for everything that goes wrong around us, for we are deceived by Satan, whose disobedience to God generates the incessant pitfalls and temptations that beset us. All events that occur in the history of each of us are signs of the times.

If we follow Mary’s warning, which reminds us that - paraphrasing - we do not have complete dominion over the earth and something is always bound to go wrong, then we will cease to blame God and the world for all the evil that befalls us. We must confirm our correct reading of the signs of the times, first of all, by showing our gratitude and blessing God for the life He has given to each of us and for the vocation to eternal life in Heaven; moreover, we must be grateful to God that, despite our disobedience and disloyalty, the merciful Lord grants us grace and helps us to put order in the midst of the confusion that we ourselves have created. Within this context, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Son of God, appears to be a necessary remedy and helps us to rise up in the humble and persevering effort to bring good to this world, which also suffers for the damage it has endured.

All the evil that strikes us is a permanent sign that we have let ourselves be led by Satan to believe that we can criticize and judge God, accusing him of badly managing the world that He himself created. God has never revoked his decision to entrust the Earth to man. Responsibility for everything that happens here lies solely with humankind, with all men and women. Each one is responsible for it before God.

Therefore we can say that there is practically only one permanent sign, evoked by Mary - the sign that She at La Salette indicates precisely as the spoilt harvest. It is revealed by the word of God addressed to Adam before his banishment from Eden: 

“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it’. Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen 3:17-19).

Flavio Gilio MS

Eusébio Kangupe MS

Karol Porczak MS

Published in INFO (EN)

Who? Me?

(4th Sunday of Advent: 2 Samuel 7:1-16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38)

When they first saw a globe of light at the place where they had eaten their lunch of bread and cheese, Maximin told Mélanie to hold on to her staff, in case of danger. They were terrified.

The Beautiful Lady understood their fear. She, too, had been “greatly troubled” at the greeting of the angel. So she did for the children what the angel had done for her, saying: “Don’t be afraid,” and explaining the purpose of her coming. 

Have you ever fantasized how you would react if you found yourself in a similar situation? You might think, What? Who? Me? Not possible! 

But look at the patriarchs, the prophets and the apostles. Some felt unworthy of their call, or unready, even afraid; but not one of them doubted its authenticity. Though some faltered along the way, all but one remained faithful.

Look at King David. In our first reading, as in many other places, God calls him “my servant David.” Yet David, as we know, had serious flaws and had committed grievous sins. Being absolutely perfect is clearly not a precondition for serving the Lord.

Today’s psalm describes God’s promise to David as follows: “I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant: Forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations.” The angel in the Gospel declares that those words are fulfilled in Jesus: “Of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Paraphrasing today’s opening prayer, we recognize that God has poured forth the grace of reconciliation into the hearts of those who have responded to the invitation of Our Lady of La Salette to “come closer.” She calls us to have hearts that are entirely with the Lord, as the Scripture says of David (1 Kings 11:4). That is our part in the covenant relationship.

Then we will be ready to undertake God’s work, which he has entrusted to us, even though he knows our faults better than we do.

Mary has given us the example. Her yes to the angel changed the world. We can say yes to her, acting on her words and hoping to make a difference. Who? You!

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

Published in MISSION (EN)

Rejoice Always

(3rd Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 61:1-11; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-28)

We all know people who are not cheerful. Some are simply of a somber disposition; others are afraid of what lies ahead, or they may be mourning a loss, recent or old. In these and similar cases, it is hard to hear St. Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice always.”

The Weeping Mother of La Salette bewails her people’s suffering and danger, and even complains of being obliged to pray for us without ceasing. Her Apparition could be considered an unhappy event, except for one thing: “I am here to tell you great news.” Those words are similar to Isaiah’s: “The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” 

Mary appeared in the hollow of a ravine, but after speaking to the children she climbed to a higher spot and then rose beyond their reach before vanishing from their sight. It was a movement from grief to glory.

La Salette is a place of joy. This is true not only of the Mountain where the Beautiful Lady stood, but of every La Salette shrine. Many come in sadness, yes; but most leave with a spirit that, like Mary’s, “rejoices in God my savior,” echoing Isaiah: “I rejoice heartily in the Lord, in my God is the joy of my soul.”

This is often a deep interior joy, a quiet peace, which is not the same as joviality. It might not dispel fears or stop tears or change one’s personality. It cannot always be described, it cannot be denied either.

John the Baptist is introduced in today’s Gospel with these words: “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.” 

Here is a challenge for you. Change the text to “A person named [your name] was sent by God, to testify to the light.” Is this a joyful thought?

We have reason to believe that the Baptist was happy in his ministry, because in John 3:29, when he learned that everyone was now going to Jesus, he responded: “This joy of mine is made complete.”

The verse just before today’s Gospel text reads: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This should be true of our joy, too. May nothing ever overcome it.

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

Published in MISSION (EN)

Comforting Justice

(2nd Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8)

About four months ago, we had the same Responsorial Psalm (85) as today, and we commented on the words, “justice and peace shall kiss,” as opposites. In the context of today’s readings, however, the perspective is different.

In modern languages, justice is a legal term. In the news, we hear of persons or groups “demanding” justice. But in the Bible, it is primarily theological. Like peace, it is God’s gift to his faithful people.

Isaiah speaks wonderful words of comfort, predicting the end of the exile, which was God’s punishment upon the iniquity of his people. St. Peter reminds us of God’s promise of “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” Some translations have “justice.” Either way, it means the state of those who are such as they ought to be.

In this sense, John the Baptist was just, because he was faithful to his vocation. Mary, too, was just when, at the annunciation, she acknowledged and accepted her role as handmaid of the Lord. Both, in their humble service, were as they ought to be.

When we consider Mary’s message at La Salette, we are inclined to associate justice with “the arm of my Son.” But once we admit our sinfulness and make the humble submission that she asks of us, we are ready to hear her tender word of comfort.

We often draw attention to the crucifix on Mary’s breast. Today is no exception. See how it reflects Isaiah’s words as if they were addressed to the Beautiful Lady: “Go up on to a high mountain, fear not to cry out and say: Here is your God!” 

As St. Peter writes, “The Lord does not delay his promise, ... but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 

Comforting words indeed. What he adds a bit later is more challenging: “What sort of persons ought you to be, conducting yourselves in holiness and devotion?”

How full our life would be if, unworthy as we are, we were always able to give comfort, to speak tenderly, and to proclaim the forgiveness of sin, in kindness, truth, justice and peace. This is yet another way to make the La Salette message known.

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

Published in MISSION (EN)

The Return of God’s Favor

(1st Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 63:16—64:7; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37)

The prophets love to remind God of things he already knows. Today’s first reading begins with just such a statement: “You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever.” Isaiah goes on to recall God’s past “awesome deeds” in favor of his people.

He is really saying: “Lord, you’ve done this before. Do it again!” 

Rather than force Israel to return to him, God had allowed his people to wander from his ways and to suffer the consequences. It was in just such a circumstance that Mary came to La Salette.

Isaiah adds, “Would that you might meet us doing right, that we were mindful of you in our ways!” He knows that this does not describe his people’s attitude and behavior; for he adds: “There is none who calls upon your name.”

The Beautiful Lady tells us she prays constantly to her Son on our behalf. Part of that prayer surely consists in reminding him of what he has done for us. Then, speaking to the two children, she acknowledges her people’s infidelity, and the crucifix she wears serves as a reminder of the redemption achieved by her Son, the source of our hope.

In the Opening Prayer of today’s Mass we ask God to grant us “the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming.” We must understand this correctly. It is not that we hope to earn salvation by our deeds. Rather, to the One who has already saved us we desire to offer what he himself tells us will please him.

There may have been a defining moment in your life, when you embraced your faith in a truly personal way. Your life changed in certain ways, and you resolved to live your Christian life as fully as possible.

Advent is the perfect time to pray for the return of God’s favor, as we do in today’s psalm response: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

In our hearts we might hear him respond: “My child, turn to me; let me see your face and you shall be saved.” Perhaps he will remind us of our former devotion and say, “You did it once; do it again!” 

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

Published in MISSION (EN)
Tuesday, 03 November 2020 17:16

La Salette: from fear to trust

La Salette: from fear to trust

November 2020

Do not be afraid…

Nothing about the human existing is excluded from the Bible. Including the issues of fear and trust. Fear and trust: key words that determine the difference between simple “exist” and “living fully”. The Bible, which records more than 365 passages referring to the invitation to not to fear, seems to be aware of this.

The Holy Scriptures recognize two kinds of fear. One fortifies, and is what the Bible calls the “fear of Adonai”, the principle of wisdom (cf. Prov 1:7). The second is a spirit of fear, which consumes, grips, paralyzes and disables. We’ve all experienced it, at least once. We can make bad choices because they have matured in fear; or we prefer, intentionally, not to choose because they are blocked by fear of the unknown, uncertainty, failure, what others may think of us, etc. And most of us want “not to fear” in order to truly live and not just exist, to be free to love and to be loved (see 1Jn 4:18).

In the life of the believer, fear and trust coexist. What is relevant is the question: what do we listen most to? What inspires and directs our lives? Fear or trust? It is interesting to note, in this regard, that even our Fathers and Mothers in faith have experienced both fear and distrust, despite being chosen by God and willing to follow the voice of the Lord. See, for example, the figures of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the great legislator Moses, the biblical king par excellence, David (Ps 56:10-11), Sara, Ruth, Rachel, Miriam the sister of Moses, Peter, or the Twelve Apostles...

Even Joseph (Mt 1:20) and Mary of Nazareth experience the feeling of fear. Immediately after the words of the angel Gabriel, the evangelist Luke reports that Mary “was very upset and wondered what it was like for a greeting like this” (Lk 1:29). Yes: on the one hand, the main protagonists of the History of Salvation are assailed by fear, but on the other hand, they know how to trust the Words of the Eternal One.

Something similar can be said of Maximin and Melanie in La Salette. When Melanie suddenly sees a globe of light right there where they had previously deposited their lunch bags, she calls to Maximin agitated and intrigued. Both are caught by fear: Melanie drops her stick and Maximin tries to take it back, in case it is necessary to defend herself from that mysterious source of light. Their fear leaves room for confidence when, after seeing within the globe of light the figure of a “Beautiful Lady”, sitting with her elbows resting on her knees and her face hidden between, they are listening to her who was saying following words: “Come near, my children, do not be afraid, I’m here to announce to you a great message”.

The primary dynamic of this meeting follows the dynamic of the numerous encounters with the Lord recorded by the Bible. Often these are the encounters that, initially, generate fear in the one who experiences them. But with the initial fear there is always a divine word, capable of instilling confidence and opening up to unexpected horizons. Jesus of Nazareth, for example, heals Peter’s fear by not only encouraging him to “not to fear”, but also giving him a mission: “From now on you will be a fisherman of men” (Lk 5:10). Similarly, at La Salette, the “Beautiful Lady” not only invites the two children to “not to fear” and to approach her to carry on their mutual meeting, but, once freed from the initial fear and having gained their trust, she entrusts to them a mission.

Both the Son and the Mother, just like the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Jesus of Nazareth, do not demand a faith without fear from us. The God of our Fathers in Faith, the Son and the “Beautiful Lady of La Salette” have faith in us before we believe in them. They believe in us, together with our fears and our abilities. They give us confidence. They want to forge an alliance with us. And when we become aware of this, we are healed of our fears, because we begin to trust the Spirit that is in us (cf. Mt 10:19-20). We’re transformed. And this trust in the Spirit and our transformation open up for us surprising horizons, because they allow us to open ourselves to the voice of the Lord that entrusts to us a mission.

The trust – an expression of love and faith…

“Come near, my children, do not be afraid,

I’m here to announce you a great message” 

The event of La Salette opens with this vehement appeal to two Shepherds. The Holy Scripture is filled with the two words (fear and confidence) in the density of its content. We could say that the Bible is a book that invites us to see in God as a friend who finds the pleasure in walking with man in the most varied situations of his life.

Mary in La Salette makes her own the words with which God addressed the people or particularly to the prophets: «Do not be frightened. Don’t be afraid». “Don’t be afraid, because I’m with you; do not cast desperate looks because I am your God” (Is 41:10); Jesus said in the New Testament, “Don’t be afraid, then; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (Mt 10:31).

Hence the secret of overcoming any fear rests in a total and complete trust in God. The two shepherds moved inwards to take a step forward and make themselves available to the Lady who brought them a beautiful message.

When fear overwhelms us, we lose all the trust and confidence we could have had. Fear makes us desperate, and where there is despair, God is not present there! Because despair drives away the presence of God, despair is a lack of trust in the Lord, despair is a lack of faith.

The fear that engulfs us takes away our faith and our trust in the one true God; fear makes us weak and sick. Just as one day on the lake with His disciples, Jesus looks at us today and takes his eternal words through his Mother: “Courage, it is me! Do not be afraid!” Behind Our Lady’s voice is hiding the eternal Word of God, because Mary reminds us of our duty to do what her Son recommends to us.

The constant “fear not” draws our attention to our commitment to place our trust and faith in the Lord, as the psalmist writes: “In God I place my trust and I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?” (Ps 56:12). Thus, the secret to overcoming fear is total trust in God. The two shepherds were moved interiorly to step forward and make themselves available to the Lady who carried the most beautiful message.

The fear triggered by the “powerful” Covid-19 has become the word of reference in today’s world. It is at this moment that Mary’s words at La Salette invite us to trust, to “not to be afraid” because the Lord continues to lead the destinies of this world. The Mother of God, acting as the ambassador for God’s saving project, shares with us the experience of trust in God that was passed on to her by the angel at the event of the Annunciation.

Mary - model of trust…

Mary knows the feeling of fear well. When the Archangel Gabriel appeared to her, She was terrified. The Divine Messenger calmed her down with the invocation: “Do not be afraid!” Only later does the dialogue of the Representative of Heaven with the most worthy representative of the whole humanity follows in the most important event in the world, that is in the Incarnation of the Son of God.

At La Salette the roles are reversed: now it is Mary acting like the divine messenger who speaks with the simplest representatives of the mankind – with the children who feel frightened for having experienced something extraordinary. The Beautiful Lady perfectly understands the fear of Maximin and Melanie even if they, seeing a weeping woman in her outward appearance similar to other women in that region, feel so acquiesced to such an extent that they do not flee terrified.

The true respect for human sensitivity to any supernatural things, that require special help to get used to them, is revealed in Mary’s conduct. At the beginning of time, before we fell into the condition of sin and death, it was our natural characteristic. Adam and Eve, and only them among all mankind, lived in a natural and friendly confidence with God, until they ate the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Firstly they, and then all of us, have lost that wonderful state of friendship with God free from all kind of fear, until the first coming of the Saviour to this world. Only in Jesus Christ are we able to stand face to face before God - even if His face is hidden behind the likeness of the Son of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth and after His Ascension to Heaven is hidden under the species of Bread and Wine - and we do not die of fear. But it only happens because we are sustained by the grace of the Saviour, merited on the Cross and sealed by the Resurrection. There is no fear of death in Him, there is no terror in front of the Divine Majesty, but there is great awe, based on the belief that God loves us, regardless of who we are and how much we possess.

Mary was the first, together with St. Joseph, to see the Incarnate God and she has got used to His earthly ordinariness and has contemplated His Divine Majesty hidden behind the appearance of the human nature of her Son, Jesus. And in this spirit she said to the children at La Salette: “Come closer, do not be afraid!” It said so, because in faith in the communion of the saints we are all united: some of us on this Earth, still on the pilgrimage to Heaven, some others now beyond, in Heaven, waiting for the resurrection of their bodies.

Let us trust God, through Mary’s intercession at La Salette, that He will grant us the grace to receive God’s love in true awe, based not on fear, but on the praise of God for His great mercy towards us.

Flavio Gilio, MS

Eusébio Kangupe, MS

Karol Porczak, MS

 

Published in MISSION (EN)

Works of Mercy

(Christ the King: Ezekiel 34:11-17; 1 Corinthians 14:20-28; Matthew 25:31-46)

For three weeks now the Gospels have pointed to a moment of judgment, using a different standard in each case. Two weeks ago it was readiness for Christ’s return; last week it was resourcefulness in his service; today it is the works of mercy.

A king on his throne is at the top of the social hierarchy. Christ our king, however, identifies himself with “these least ones,” those at the margins of society. Serving him must include reaching out to them.

The Church teaches that, besides feeding the hungry, we must work to eliminate the underlying causes of hunger. This principle applies to every work of mercy we can imagine, whether “corporal” or “spiritual.” It often requires the courage to speak unwelcome truths.

Mary at La Salette, not forgetting that she was a lowly servant, identified with “these least ones” in her choice of witnesses. She offered a remedy for the spiritual causes of her people’s bodily sufferings, by speaking the truth about their lack of faith in and reverence for her Son, Christ the King.

The goal of reconciliation is to restore peace; this is an appealing and comforting thought. The work of reconciliation, on the other hand, as exemplified by the Beautiful Lady, is not easy. It calls for gentle firmness. This can be a challenge. 

In the rite of baptism, the anointing with sacred chrism unites us symbolically with Christ as Priest, Prophet and King. This means we share his role of guiding, leading, and protecting his flock, of caring for his people. How we do this depends on many factors, including our personality, our talents, and our most deeply held values.

If nothing else, most of us can try to lead by example—speaking truth and acting rightly, in such a way as to attract others to do the same. 

At the same time, the spotlight is not on ourselves. Whatever form our works of mercy might take, they are never a performance. Jesus is at the center, and at the beginning, and at the end. If we can serve as channels of his truth and love, we need never fear the coming judgment.

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

Published in MISSION (EN)
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