(Second Sunday of Lent: Genesis 22:1-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10)
At the conclusion of the dramatic story of what transpired on a mountain in the land of Moriah, Isaac’s life is spared, a substitute is found for the holocaust, and Abraham, who was willing to offer up his beloved son at God’s command, is rewarded for his unstinting faith. In Old Testament and New Testament times, the place where it was believed Abraham went to sacrifice his son continued to be venerated. The Temple of Jerusalem was built there.
In our second reading, St. Paul alludes indirectly to another small mount within easy walking distance of the Temple. The evangelists call it Golgotha.
And on an unnamed mountain, somewhere in Galilee, Jesus appeared in his glory, along with Moses and Elijah.
These various elements all find a resonance at yet another mountain, in the French alps, called La Salette.
In remembrance of the Passion of Jesus, the Beautiful Lady wears a large crucifix on her breast. It is the brightest point in the Apparition, the source of its light. The hammer and pincers, instruments of the Passion, draw attention to it in a unique way.
Reminding us of the covenant proclaimed through Moses, and calling us to the steadfast commitment of Elijah, she speaks in the manner of the prophets. (It is interesting to note that in 2 Peter 1:18, the place of the Transfiguration is referred to as ‘the holy mountain.’ We use the same phrase when we speak of La Salette.)
Finally, like God speaking to Abraham, Mary also makes a grand promise of hope and prosperity to those who will live by faith.
More important than any of these similarities, however, is the word Son. “Take your only son, whom you love, and offer him up as a holocaust;” “God did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all;” “This is my beloved Son.”
When Our Lady of La Salette speaks of her Son, it is to reproach her people for their ingratitude to him and their disrespect for his Name. We must never allow ourselves to forget that her Son is God’s beloved Son, handed over for us.
As he is at the heart of Scripture, he must be at the heart of our faith, of our way of life. Lent is a good time to ask ourselves if this is really the case.
(Third Sunday of Lent: Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:23-25)
Every time we recite the Lord’s Prayer, we say, Hallowed be thy name. This is raised as a concern by Our Lady of La Salette, in two distinct contexts. First she expresses her sadness at the abuse of her Son’s name. Later, she encourages the children to say at least an Our Father and a Hail Mary in their night and morning prayers.
This is also her way of reminding us of the Commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
Interestingly, the notion of “hallow” occurs in the next commandment: Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Our Lady reminds us of this commandment as well. ‘Hallow’ and ‘holy’ are what linguists call cognate words. Like ‘strengthen’ and ‘strong,’ one is a verb and the other an adjective to express the same idea.
In the Gospel, Jesus was angry that the Temple, his Father’s house, was being turned into a marketplace. The very place that contained the Holy of Holies was not being kept holy. The sellers of sacrificial animals had forgotten God’s word to Solomon: “I have consecrated this house which you have built and I set my name there forever; my eyes and my heart shall be there always” (1 Kings 9:3).
The reading from St. Paul is from the first chapter of First Corinthians. The letter opens with Paul addressing “the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” Coming so early in the letter, it states the theme of much that is to follow. Later In the same letter he writes: “The temple of God, which you are, is holy.”
Without using those words, Mary surely has that same notion in mind when she speaks of “my people.” There can be no doubt that she means the people ransomed by her Son, called to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own” (1 Peter 2:9).
Jesus taught us to pray, “Hallowed be thy name.” This is a promise on our part to hallow it. In that same spirit of commitment we might add:
Hallowed be thy day;
Hallowed be thy house;
Hallowed be thy people.
On Monday, February 5, 2018, began in the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Dębowiec, the Provincial Chapter of the Polish Province. Fr. Adilson Schio MS. from Rome chairs the Chapter. In the deliberations take part 34 delegates.
On Friday morning a new Provincial Council was elected. On the picture from the left, Fr. Piotr Ciepłak MS Vicar, Fr. Grzegorz Zembroń MS Provincial; Fr Jan Kijek MS, provincial councilor. At the another sesion, delegates for the General Chapter were elected: Fr. Piotr Cieplak: Fr. Piotr Szweda; Fr. Jan Potoplak; Fr. Maciej Kucharzyk; Fr. Jacek Pawlowski
Peace with God
(First Sunday of Lent: Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15)
The noun “bow” occurs 77 times in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. It always refers to a weapon of war, even in today’s first reading. But God says he will set his bow in the clouds as a reminder of the covenant between himself and humanity, a covenant of peace.
After the flood, God had made a resolution: “Never again will I strike down every living being as I have done.” He was now renouncing forever the violence with which he had wiped out all but eight persons on the earth.
This explains why this passage from Genesis is the first reading at the Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette. One might even wonder whether Bishop de Bruillard had this same text in mind when he wrote of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette: “Their institution and existence shall be, like the Shrine itself, an eternal monument, a perpetual remembrance, of Mary’s merciful apparition.”
There are many Scripture passages after the story of Noah, in which God fights with the armies of his people, and Psalm 24 says that God is “mighty in war;” but Psalm 46 presents a different image. God “stops wars to the ends of the earth, breaks the bow, splinters the spear… [saying,] ‘Be still and know that I am God.’”
‘Be still’ can be variously translated as let go, stop, desist. It is not so much an invitation to be quiet as a call to refrain from acts of war and violence.
“Know that I am God” means acknowledging and, above all, respecting God. This is an important element in the Beautiful Lady’s words. She twice laments the abuse of her Son’s name and the failure to give God the worship and honor that is his due.
Today, Mark’s Gospel gives no details about the tempting of Jesus in the desert, but we know them through Matthew and Luke; there we find that Jesus holds fast to the importance of worshiping God alone.
There is always the temptation to forget who God is and who we are. This does not mean we are unimportant. On the contrary, God tells us, “I, the Lord, am your God, … you are precious in my eyes” (Isaiah 43:3-4). We are meant to be at peace with God. That is the message at the heart of the message of La Salette.
A Reconciling Touch
(Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Leviticus 13:1-2 and 44-46; 1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1; Mark 1:40-45)
St. Paul may appear to be vain when he writes, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” But he was, in fact, a good model of discipleship, and all of us are called, likewise, to be imitators of Christ, doing everything for the glory of God.
Very recently I met a woman who had a wooden sculpture, a gift from a missionary Sister. It was carved by a leper, who gave it to the Sister to acknowledge his special gratitude, because she was the only person who had ever touched him. She was an imitator of Christ as we see him in today’s Gospel.
His touch produced more than the physical healing. It was surely unexpected, perhaps even shocking, and, therefore, a very powerful sign, an example to follow. It was a healing and reconciling touch.
Normally we think of reconciliation as the restoration of a relationship between persons separated by some deep offense. It is, as you know, a key word in the vocabulary of La Salette Missionaries, Sisters, and Laity, who desire all to be reconciled to God and fully incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ.
How does this apply to leprosy? Apart from two clear examples (Miriam in Numbers 12, and Gehazi in 2 Kings 5), there was no offense associated with the disease.
The fact remains that, by law, as we read in Leviticus, lepers lived in a state of alienation. Unclean, they could have no association with others, and anyone who had contact with them became unclean as well, though only for a short time. That situation was here reversed. By a touch the leper was restored to health and to a normal life. He could once again enter the temple. His alienation was over. This was an act of reconciliation.
In the 1960’s the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette founded a leprosarium in Burma. Fr. William Doherty wrote: “We established a leprosarium for the many people afflicted by this dread disease—people until that time unwanted and uncared for.” This was perfectly in keeping with our mission of reconciliation. These persons, unfortunately, could not be restored to their families. But their total alienation was ended.
Not only sin committed or offense given, but any form of alienation, calls for a reconciling touch.