(7th Ordinary Sunday: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48)
“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This sentence occurs four times in the Book of Leviticus.
Observe the reason given for the command. It is not the promise of prosperity, which we might expect. No, the reason is even more important. Everything connected to God is holy. His will is sacred. We obey out of reverence.
There is a similar passage in Leviticus 22:32: “Do not profane my holy name, that in the midst of the Israelites I may be hallowed. I, the Lord, make you holy.” Our holiness is God’s doing. St. Paul echoes this thought when he writes, “The temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
The psalmist exclaims: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name.” Mary at La Salette wept at the profanity directed at her Son’s name. This was but one of the signs that her people had abandoned their identity as God’s temple. Instead of praying, they blasphemed; they made a mockery of religion.
The call to holiness is a tall order. It needs to permeate every aspect of our life. St. Paul expresses this as follows: “If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”
Mary chose Mélanie and Maximin as her witnesses. The message of divine wisdom was entrusted to uneducated children, so that no one could miss the meaning of her words.
The wisdom of this world is contrary to the message of today's gospel in particular. Turning the other cheek is (and probably always has been) counter-cultural. It is hard even for committed Christians.
Fortunately, our holiness is not a matter of who is right or wrong, of winning or losing. It is first and foremost a question of sharing in the Lord’s holiness or, as Jesus puts it, being “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In our efforts to make the Beautiful Lady’s message known, we can advance toward that goal, and maybe transform some little part of our world along the way.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse
Hammer and Pincers
(6th Ordinary Sunday: Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37)
Among the most distinctive features of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, as you well know, are the hammer and pincers on either side of the crucifix. We are used to seeing them attached to the cross, but in fact they were not.
People seeing these for the first time always ask what they mean. You are familiar with the traditional interpretation, but I think it might be more helpful to respond with another question. Supposing Mary simply showed herself to the children without saying a word, how would we understand her purpose?
Carpenters’ tools in and of themselves would have no special meaning. But, as they are associated with the Crucified One, they must have a connection with the Passion of Jesus. And they served opposite purposes.
It is no wonder that they have always been explained as calling us to choose between “life and death, good and evil,” as we read today in Sirach, who is paraphrasing Moses’ speech in Deuteronomy 30:15.
All of today’s readings are about choice. The psalmist chooses fidelity to God’s statutes; Paul has opted for “God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden;” and Jesus says four times, “You have heard... but I say to you,” demanding our allegiance to his teaching.
We tend to see choice as a moral question, and that is often the case. That is certainly the perspective of Sirach. It is easy to forget that the Sermon on the Mount is more demanding than the Commandments. That is what Jesus meant by saying, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Still, what Sirach says is true: “No one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.” In other words, when we sin, it is because of our choice. There may be mitigating circumstances, of course, especially if we are not truly free.
That said, before any concrete decision there must be an underlying fundamental resolve: as disciples of Christ, to strive with all our heart to live by his word.
That is what the Beautiful Lady came to tell us. She put before us a choice: failure to submit, with its consequences, or conversion, with its benefits. Exact opposites, just like the hammer and pincers.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse