If / Then
(6th Sunday of Easter: Acts 8:5-17; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21)
“If you love me,” Jesus says, “you will keep my commandments.” He describes some of the things that will happen as a result: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth.”
Best of all, “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” This explains, I think, why there was such joy in the city of Samaria, when Philip proclaimed the Christ to them, and confirmed his preaching by many signs.
Our Lady of La Salette tells of what will happen, “if they are converted.” Externally, there will be abundance instead of famine.
What about internal effects? We might borrow some ideas from our second reading and the psalm.
If they are converted:
They will “sanctify Christ as Lord” in their hearts. They will no longer abuse his name.
They will learn to pray well. They will sing praise to the glory of God’s name, crying out, “Blessed be God who refused me not my prayer or his kindness!”
They will be ready to give an explanation, gently and respectfully, to anyone who asks them for a reason for their hope. This presupposes they will live in such a way that others will actually notice their Christian commitment. (That is what Maximin’s father did when, after years of not going to church, he then went to daily Mass.)
They will keep their conscience clear, and accept suffering, if it is God’s will, even when they are innocent.
In 1852, Bishop de Bruillard decided to erect a Shrine, and at the same time to call into existence the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, noting: “Their institution and existence shall be, like the Shrine itself, an eternal monument, a perpetual remembrance, of Mary's merciful apparition.”
Nothing quite so public would be expected of most persons who accept Mary’s call to conversion, but if we are to persevere, then it would good, it would be wise, to ensure that our first encounter with the Beautiful Lady will never be forgotten.
Wayne Vanasse and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
Mind your Step
(5th Sunday of Easter: Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12)
St. Peter, in today’s second reading, combines three distinct Old Testament texts: Isaiah 28:16, Psalm 118:22, and Isaiah 8:14.
The first two are used to give force to his exhortation: “Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.”
The third, however, refers to “a stone that will make people stumble,” and he adds, “They stumble by disobeying the word.”
This is an apt image for the people whom Mary complained about at La Salette. They were stumbling in many ways. Blighted wheat and potatoes, rotten grapes and worm-eaten walnuts, the prospect of famine—it is no wonder that they were anxious and demoralized.
Mary saw all this, but she also saw their blighted inner harvest—their indifference to and mockery of religion, their blasphemous disrespect for her Son’s name. These had brought them very low indeed.
Not all spiritual stumbling is sin. In our first reading, for example, we learn that dissension over the distribution of food was threatening the harmony of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. A solution was found before permanent harm could be done.
The same is true of our doubts and questioning. These are most often honest expressions of our inability to understand the ways of God. When we are tempted to go so far as to blame God for our troubles, we do well to remember St. Peter’s quotation of Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.”
We must believe in the cornerstone and build a structure of hope upon it. It is one thing to stumble. It is quite another thing not to get up.
Let us not forget the Gospel, in which Jesus says, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me,” and “I am the way and the truth and the life.” Along this Way no stumbling is fatal, before this Truth no doubt is permanent, and in this Life, death shall not have dominion.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse
Shepherd, Gate, Life
(4th Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:36-41; 1 Peter 2:20-25; John 10:1-10)
“Faith is not a noun but a verb.” Grammatically this assertion is patently false, and yet its meaning is obvious.
Continuing last week’s theme of the path, we can say that faith is taking the first step. Here I mean the precise moment when our faith becomes a genuinely personal encounter, when we discover that our relationship with the Lord is essential to our existence.
In the first reading, Peter concludes his Pentecost speech: “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” The Apostle is making the message known to all his people.
In his letter, Peter gives words of encouragement in a time of suffering: “Christ bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” The Beautiful Lady shows the image of her crucified Son even as she speaks of sin and conversion.
She is addressing those who, in the first reading, are called “this corrupt generation.” We need to separate ourselves from everything, within and without, that debases us in any way.
Her call to conversion expresses a hope that Peter states as fact: “You had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” Which leads us to our Gospel, where it seems John could have used a good editor. Distinct images are jumbled together.
First, Jesus is not a thief or a robber, but the shepherd who “calls his own sheep by name and leads them out;” then he is “the gate,” then “All who came before me are thieves and robbers,” then he is the gate again, then once more not a thief, and finally he declares: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”
This last sentence is what holds the rest together. Whichever image we prefer, abundance of life is what it is meant to convey. Mary’s discourse at La Salette lacks a certain logic in parts, but the message is clear: when we return to the Shepherd, we find life.
And he will lead us to that place which the Psalmist this week tells of.
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse
La Salette Path
(3rd Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:14,22-33; 1 Peter 1:17-21; Luke 24:13-35)
The notion of a path appears throughout today’s readings. The reading from Acts paraphrases today’s Psalm, including the words “You will show me the path to life.” The Gospel shows Jesus and two disciples on the road to Emmaus.
At this point I need to acknowledge Mr. Wayne Vanasse, a La Salette Associate, who has become a precious collaborator in these reflections. We study the readings independently, and then compare notes on what we perceive as “La Salette links.” On this occasion we were both struck by the image of the path of life.
There is no doubt that the Beautiful Lady came to show her people that path once again. Part of her message is, if you will, an echo of Peter’s words in the second reading: “Conduct yourselves with reverence during the time of your sojourning,” that is, while staying in one place temporarily, on our way to another destination.
One of the distinctive features of La Salette is that Mary moved. She was seated when she first appeared, then she rose and took a few steps to the spot where the children joined her, and finally she stepped between them, crossed a little stream and climbed in the typical mountain zig-zag pattern to a level spot, where she disappeared.
Like Jesus for the disciples on the road, so for Mélanie and Maximin she took the initiative, she “drew near and walked with them.” Not only did they follow her movements, but she invited them to make her message known “to all my people.” This opened up a unique path for each of them.
In the path of our life, it happens all too easily that our eyes are prevented from recognizing Jesus as our companion along the way. It was in a Eucharistic moment shared by Jesus with the two disciples that “their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
He had prepared them, however, by interpreting the Scriptures for them, setting their hearts to burning within them.
As we travel our path of life, what makes our hearts burn within us? How can we spread that fire?
Fr. René Butler, M.S. and Wayne Vanasse