Wiping away Every Tear
(5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-35)
When we see someone crying, our first instinct is, often, to wonder what is the matter and, perhaps not often enough, to wonder whether we can or should do something to ease the pain or grief that lies behind the tears.
Those who are sometimes puzzled or even offended by Mary’s words at La Salette need to remember the tears that accompanied them. One and the same sorrow is at the source of both.
In today’s gospel Jesus offers the ultimate key to consoling the disconsolate. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” If only we could all live this new commandment perfectly! Not only would we do everything in our power to respond to all the suffering around us and in the world at large, but we would likewise devote our best efforts to eliminating the root causes of so much unhappiness.
Like Paul and Barnabas in the second reading, we would recognize that “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” But these hardships are different from the suffering that leads to despair. They are endured out of love, and in the midst of them the disciples of Jesus can support one another. More than once Jesus made it clear that his disciples could not expect an easy life.
Mary at La Salette wept for—and with—her people as she looked on their sins and hardships. Moved by the same love that moved her Son, she responded in her maternal way. She cannot make all our troubles disappear, but she offers a way through them, a way of trust, of hope, of faith.
No one person can do everything, but each can do something, however simple, in communion with the Lord, to "make all things new."
The best-known English hymn to Our Lady of La Salette has the refrain:
I long to dry thy tears,
To make thy message known,
Of penance, prayer and zeal,
Until God calls me home.
One way to dry her tears is to look through her eyes on her people’s suffering, and then do our part to “wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
Why Don’t they Get it?
(4th Sunday of Easter: Acts 13: 14, 43-52; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:27-30)
Have you ever had the experience of knowing something to be true but being unable to convince others? To you it is perfectly clear, but everyone looks at you as though you were speaking a foreign language, and you wonder, “Why don’t they get it?”
This was the experience of Paul and Barnabas. They went to the synagogue, eager to share with their Jewish brethren the fantastic news that the Scriptures had been fulfilled and the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. There was initial interest—we are told that almost the whole city gathered to hear them. Paul’s preaching was clear, logical, verifiable. Why didn’t they understand?
At La Salette, Mary addressed a similar situation when she said: “You take no heed!” Her people were oblivious to her concern for them, and to the ways she had tried to make them aware of the consequences of neglecting their faith.
So she did what she had to do to get their attention. She came, she wept, she spoke, sometimes even harshly—whatever it might take to make her people see what she saw.
The Church has often been in the same situation. We Christians have such Good News to share, but there are obstacles to faith. Secular society has little respect for believers. Scandals in the Church make it difficult to hear the Shepherd’s voice above the outcry. Rivalries among Christians distract them from the Christ they all strive to serve. In the case of Antioch in Pisidia, jealousy on the part of the synagogue leaders led to rejection of Paul’s preaching; then came opposition and, finally, persecution.
At the time of the Apparition, among the chief obstacles to the practice of the faith in France was the anticlericalism inherited from the French Revolution. Besides that, life was hard for so many. But Our Lady of La Salette chose not to stand by and watch her people bring destruction on themselves.
Her tears, her words and even her choice of witnesses, were to make sure that we “get it,” so that we might stand among the multitude shepherded by the Lamb of God to springs of life-giving water.
Guilty as Charged?
(3rd Sunday of Easter: Acts 5:27-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19)
A question often quoted in Christian sermons asks, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would they find enough evidence to convict you?” The Apostles, in today’s reading from Acts, sought no defense against the charges brought against them. They admitted their guilt, and they left the court “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.”
When we see how Mary at La Salette described the behavior of her people, we would have to conclude they could easily have pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the accusation of being Christian.
Earlier, in Acts 4:18, the Apostles had been forbidden to speak in the name of Jesus. At that time, Peter had answered: “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” Now, in Chapter 5, though they are found guilty of again speaking “in that name,” they are released, but with a warning which includes flogging. The verse immediately after our reading adds: “And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes, they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Messiah, Jesus.”
At La Salette, on the other hand, the Beautiful Lady states that her people, in moments of anger, “cannot swear without throwing in my Son’s Name.”
In Revelation we read today, “I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever."
The whole universe praises the Father and the Son, except for “my people.” Mary complains on God’s behalf: “I gave you six days to work; I kept the seventh for myself, and no one will give it to me.”
Let us be clear. The message of La Salette is not limited to religious practices; their origin lies in a relationship of respect and love. This is what gave the Apostles courage in the face of persecution.
In the longer version of today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” If with Peter we may honestly answer, “You know that I love you,” and live accordingly, then yes, we are guilty of being Christians.