(2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Isaiah 62,1-5; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; John 2:1-11)
“No more shall people call you ‘Forsaken,’ or your land ‘Desolate,’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused’... As a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.”
In all of the prophets, there are not many passages more hope-filled, more beautiful than this.
The people to whom Mary spoke through her two young messengers felt forsaken and their land had become desolate. She saw their distress and decided to intervene. I remember a conference on La Salette that I heard as a seminarian in the 1960s. The speaker made the point that the Beautiful Lady did not say, “I have been sent,” but rather, “I am here,” meaning that this was her idea. At La Salette, in other words, she took the initiative.
This is the image of Mary that we find in our Gospel text. She drew Jesus’ attention to the embarrassing situation of the wedding party. When he objected that this was none of their business, she knew he would come round, and told the servants to do whatever he told them.
The message of La Salette is the same as at Cana. It can be summed up in the words, “Do whatever he tells you.” Perhaps this is why one of the murals on the walls of the Basilica of La Salette, painted in 1989, represents the wedding feast at Cana.
The passage from 1 Corinthians further refines this thought. “Whatever he tells you” varies according to the gifts given by the Spirit. But the gift we have received has to be active in us if God is to accomplish his purpose.
Since La Salette is a spiritual gift, each of us upon whom it is bestowed is called to find his or her own way to share it. Here I am, writing this reflection, while someone else is seeking to heal a broken family, or offering up personal suffering for the cause of reconciliation, or... well, you get the point.
Mary chose to come to us. She highlighted a certain number of basic Christian duties, but the sense of her words goes well beyond those. They provide a framework for a faithful Christian life, where words like ‘forsaken’ and ‘desolate’ have no place.
(Baptism of the Lord: Isaiah 40:1-11; Titus 2:11 to 3:7; Luke 3:15-22)
The first Ecumenical Council, held in 325 A.D., stated emphatically that Jesus was the Son of God, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” The Bishops who gathered at that Council summed up in that way the teaching they had received from their predecessors, based in turn on the preaching of the Apostles and the whole New Testament.
They reflected on texts such as we find in today’s Gospel. The voice from heaven says, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This is only one of many passages that indicate the relation of Jesus to God as his Father.
The Mother of Jesus can therefore be called, according to another Council in 430 A.D., “Mother of God.”
At La Salette she directs our attention to her Son. Even before speaking a word, she shows him to us in the large, dazzlingly bright crucifix she wears on her breast. It bears repeating here that Mélanie and Maximin said that all the light that made up the Apparition seemed to flow from that crucifix. (One could almost say that, in this sense, the Beautiful Lady, too, was “light from Light.”)
But she speaks of her Son as well. “I shall be forced to let go the arm of my Son… Those who drive the carts cannot swear without throwing in my Son’s name.” All together, “my Son” occurs six times in her discourse. She doesn’t say “beloved,” but who could doubt it?
“My people” occurs three times. Again, “beloved” is not used, but who could doubt it?
A striking difference between the Gospel scene and the Apparition, is that the Father is “well pleased” with his beloved Son, whereas Mary came to tell us that her Divine Son was not well pleased with her people. She gave specific examples of things that “make the arm of my Son so heavy,” and described past and future consequences of such behavior.
But at the same time she offered simple, very basic means of remedying the situation. She did not wish to deprive us of hope.
She knew that our sinfulness does not mean we are not beloved. Why else would she have come?
Unveiling the Obvious
(Feast of the Epiphany: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12)
It sometimes happens that we don’t see what is in plain sight, or that we don’t notice what we see every day. It takes another person or some event to make us see it. La Salette is such an event, the Beautiful Lady is such a person.
It’s a bit like the scholars consulted by Herod to find out where the Messiah was to be born. They were experts. You would think they would already know, but they seem to have found the relevant passages quickly enough. But apparently nothing had been farther from their minds than to ask this question. It took the arrival of Magi to point them in that direction. Only then was the veil removed from God’s word, “hidden” in Micah 5:1 and 2 Samuel 5:2.
The Mother of God came to La Salette to reveal, i.e., to “un-veil” what her people should have been seeing all along, namely God’s place in their lives, God’s will for their lives, God’s care for their lives—we might even say, God’s stake in their lives.
Today’s Gospel, and the reading from St. Paul as well, show God extending his salvation beyond the Chosen People, universally. La Salette shows us that, in that process, God never forgets or ignores the “local scene.” Recall the story of the boy Maximin and his father seeing the blighted wheat at the field of Coin, and then sharing bread on their way back home, a scene of no special significance but remembered by Mary just the same.
I often like to say that Our Lady’s concern about wheat and potatoes and bread shows us that what matters to us matters to God. At the same time she calls us to respond in a way that shows that what matters to God matters to us.
“Nations shall walk by your light,” says Isaiah to his people. We, too, individually and collectively, are God’s people, and we can be a light, a star, if you will, by which others can see to find their way to (or back to) God.
Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy, “Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow,” will continue to be fulfilled. With Mary, we can be part of the unveiling of God’s loving presence, which has been there all along!
La Salette Family
(Feast of the Holy Family: 1 Samuel 1:20-28; 1 John 3:1-2, 21-24; Luke 2:41-52)
Hannah had made a deal with the Lord. If he gave her a son, she would give her son back to the Lord. And so she did. He would minister in the Lord’s house. In becoming a member of Eli’s household, he entered what we might call the Temple family.
In the Scriptures, house and family and similar words are often used and translated interchangeably. Today I would like to reflect on the La Salette family.
Unlike natural human families, we have not grown up together. On the contrary, we live in different worlds: country, language, culture. There are many things that divide us. What unites us, however, first and foremost, is our love for a Beautiful Lady. We take her words to heart, we try to live by them, we do our part to make them known.
Then there is a ‘La Salette culture,’ which is filtered through our local cultures. For many, it is summed up as Reconciliation; for others, the Weeping Mother, or the invitation to ‘come closer,’ or the challenge to recompense the pains she has taken for us.
Everywhere events, political and otherwise, raise concerns that touch the La Salette heart. For example, who of us can fail to be aware of famine and the death of children, of which Mary spoke, and which is still a reality in many parts of the world. Such things evoke a La Salette response in us, tears first, perhaps, but also a desire to reach out to those who suffer.
Here we can read again the words of St. John: “We should believe in the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another just as he commanded us.” Mary at La Salette leads us to a renewed faith, which in turn, especially through the sacraments, nourishes our love of neighbor.
At the end of the Gospel, we are told that Mary “kept all these things in her heart.” Her coming to La Salette was, precisely, a matter of the heart. Without love, her presence and her message make no sense.
The boy Jesus said, “I must be in my Father’s house.” Members of the La Salette Family who go to the Holy Mountain for the first time, often have the experience of being home. Why not? After all, they are in their Mother’s house.
“The Word, the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him’’. (John 1: 9 and 11).
Each year the celebration of Christmas offers me, and all the members of the General Council, the pleasant opportunity to be with your communities, and to present to each and every one of you our fraternal good wishes for a Blessed Christmas and a fruitful New Year!
I want to address these good wishes in a special way to our seniors, and those who are ill, to those who are experiencing difficulties at this time in their spiritual or community lives, to our younger members in formation, as well as our benefactors, the La Salette Laity and the Sisters of La Salette who, along with us, are dealing with the challenges and difficulties of announcing the Good News in different areas of the world, and in a special way at the Shrine on the Holy Mountain.
I hope that the light which shines forth from the grotto of Bethlehem will illumine the heart and conscience of all of you, so that our personal life as well as our ministry may always be clearly seen in such a way as to make clear to today’s world the mercy and the loving face of the Father, as these were seen in the Lord Jesus.
To all I wish the rediscovery, in this Christmas, of the joy of community living, with all its challenges, and also the rich diversity which exists in community life; working and praying together, as well as discerning together the best way to serve the Church and the Congregation in the light of our charism.
With the aim of helping and stimulating personal and community reflection, the General Council has, the last few years, proposed to the whole Congregation an annual theme, judged to be especially important for the human, spiritual, pastoral and charismatic development of each La Salette religious.
The theme this year, “Witnessing to the Beauty of Diversity,” seeks to accentuate in a positive way the many diversities (culture, language, sensibilities) which make up the richness and beauty of our life together as the great international and intercultural family that our Congregation is today.
Little by little this will prepare us for the celebration of the Year of Vocations, which begins next September, and then for the Marian Year.
Like a slogan, this theme wants to highlight some of the important aspects which should be visible in our religious, community and apostolic lives in today’s world.
Witnessing: as religious, in view of our commitment to follow the Lord, chaste, poor, obedient, we are called to give witness to our deep union with Him, doing this with all our strength, all our mind, and all our heart, knowing that our witness has true value only if it comes out of a serious and radical commitment at the depth of personal being.
Beauty: we are invited to see not only the beautiful and the good inside ourselves, but also that which presents itself all around us, in our confreres, in our everyday pastoral ministry, in the people we meet, in the world of our lives. In other words: we are asked to see the people and the reality which surround us as God sees them (cf. Genesis 1).
Diversity: to see the differences around us less as negative elements to fight off, and more as occasions of grace to live and value fully. Meeting this challenge with serenity and without prejudice allows our faith to ripen in fraternal communion; it allows us to build bridges, which facilitates our contacts, our listening, our sharing, and eliminates the temptation to build walls or outdated barriers, which are more apt to divide and create distances between us.
We are called by our charism to oppose with all our strength, by our words, and especially by the example of our lives, a kind of bourgeois mentality that opposes, excludes, and rejects anyone who is different—we see this type of mentality gaining ground in our society, sparking alarmism and fears which are often unfounded.
To welcome diversity as an offered gift and an enrichment: that will surely make us credible prophets in the eyes of today’s world (cf. Decision 8 of the 2018 General Chapter).
So that the whole congregation might walk a communal and “synodal” path, the General Council will prepare some short and simple papers for personal and community reflection. The General and Provincial Secretaries will make these available to each religious.
As already announced, starting January 1, 2019, there will be changes in the General Administration. Fr. Belarmino (Angola), who has served so well as Secretary General, will be replaced by Fr. Meme Romuald (Madagascar). Fr. Alex, General Treasure for eleven years, will be replaced by Fr. Andrzej Zontek (Poland), and Fr. Paulo Banga (Angola) will become Director of the House.
The new members should have arrived in Rome during the first two weeks of December. We pray they will have a fruitful ministry in the General House with the General Council; and we thank their respective Provinces for having freed up these confreres, so they might serve our larger religious family.
I extend my personal thanks, and those of the General Council, to all those who will leave us in the coming months. The work they have generously done in the last administration was important and appreciated. May the Lord, and the Virgin of La Salette, reward them for all the good they have done for the general house and for the Congregation!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Fr. Silvano and the General Council
News from Rome
+ Frs. Jojohn and Nunda are continuing their study of Italian at a school in central Rome. For some time now, they have been presiding at the community Eucharist celebrated in Italian. The general house community congratulates them fraternally for their progress in inculturation thus far.
+ During the latter part of November, we had the pleasure of extending hospitality to three of the La Salette Laity from Brazil, collaborators of Fr. Isidro Perin, pastor and rector of the La Salette Shrine in Curitiba.
+ Fr. Antoni Skalba, Rector of the La Salette Shrine (France) and Frs. Michel, Gomes and Albert, members of the international community, spent a few days of R & R amongst us. While Fr. Antoni was participating in an international meeting of shrine directors, the others changed into tourists and pilgrims in order to visit Christian and historic sites of the Italian capital.
+ November 29 was a big day for Fr. Jojohn. Three months after having submitted all his document for his stay in Italy, he was granted the card which will allow him to travel freely throughout Europe, and in the world, as he serves the community.
+ On December 4, Fr. Silvano went to France in order to take part in the meeting of the Board of the A.P.S. (Assn. of La Salette Pilgrims), which took place in Gières, at the mother house of the La Salette Sisters. Many thorny questions about the organization of hospitality services and the pastoral care of the Shrine of La Salette were considered at this meeting.
+ On December 7, Fr. Jacek flew to Busk, in Ukraine, to receive the perpetual profession of Fr. Ivan Diakiv, the first La Salette Missionary from that country.
+ On December 9, Frs. Silvano and Jojohn left for Rutete (Tanzania) to visit the La Salette community there. This year they celebrated the second anniversary of their presence in the country and in the diocese of Bukoba. They will return to Rome the morning of the 23rd.
(4thSunday of Advent: Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45)
Mary had received great news, two things. First that she was to be the mother of the Messiah. Second, that Elizabeth, an elderly relative, was six months pregnant! Her response was to go, indeed, to hurry to Elizabeth’s home to help her. She who had called herself the handmaid of the Lord, eager to do his will, placed herself also at the service of her kinswoman.
When Mary arrived, her greeting was great news to Elizabeth’s ears, literally a revelation, as she suddenly understood Mary’s place in God’s plan and called her “mother of my Lord.”
At the birth of Elizabeth’s son John, his father Zechariah rejoices that God has “visited” his people, a typically poetic biblical expression to say that God has intervened in his people’s life and history.
Angels visited shepherds with “good news of great joy,” the shepherds visited the Holy Family in the stable, later the Magi, guided by Micah’s prophecy, also found him.
Through missionaries especially, the Church “visits” many peoples, bringing the great news that we call the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Our Lady of La Salette is often called a “heavenly Visitor.” She “visited her people,” bringing what she called “great news.” The news was not just for the two children to whom she appeared, since she told them—twice—to make this known to all her people.
The children did indeed make it known. Then, in 1852, just six years after the Apparition, the Bishop of Grenoble founded the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette for the same purpose, and in 1855 his successor stated clearly that the Church had taken up the mission originally entrusted to the children.
“The Church” means both the Bishops who have the first responsibility to see that the authentic Good News is passed on from one generation to the next, and the Christian faithful who share how both the Gospel and, in the case of the Beautiful Lady, the great news of La Salette, have touched their lives with peace.
Micah says of the Messiah: “He shall be peace.” Our world sorely needs that Visitor still.