Meditation for the Year of Vocations
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you” (Jer 1,5)
For the Year of Vocation inaugurated on September 19, we are invited to reflect on the following theme: "Come, do not be afraid, Christ lives and wants you to be alive". These are the words that Mary addressed to the two children at La Salette: "Come near my children" and the words of Pope Francis to the young in his Post Synodal Exhortation to the youth (Christus Vivit)
Vocation is a gift of God's love for his people. The call of God is to stay with Him “whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (I John 4:16)
“The source of every perfect gift is God who is Love, Deus caritas est: “Whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1 Jn 4:16). Sacred Scripture tells the story of this original bond between God and man, which precedes creation itself. Writing to the Christians of the city of Ephesus, Saint Paul raises a hymn of gratitude and praise to the Father who, with infinite benevolence, in the course of the centuries accomplishes his universal plan of salvation, which is a plan of love. In his Son Jesus – Paul states – “he chose us, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him in love” (Eph 1:4). We are loved by God even “before” we come into existence! Moved solely by his unconditional love, he created us “not … out of existing things” (cf. 2 Macc 7:28), to bring us into full communion with Him” (Message of the Holy Father (Pope Benedict) for the 49th World day of Prayer for Vocations).
When God calls us, it does not mean that everything is ready and done, but He calls us to make a journey with him. Participation in this project involves our daily response to the love of God who first loved us, and this love should draw us every day
The way I respond daily to the Lord in my daily life in a simple and safe way is the perfect freedom in my life.
The testimonies of our history as Missionaries of La Salette, the example of those who have been guided by this love, strengthen us and encourage us to renew the gift we have received from God in us!
“And yet, there can be no greater joy than to risk one’s life for the Lord! I would like to say this especially to you, the young. Do not be deaf to the Lord’s call. If he calls you to follow this path, do not pull your oars into the boat, but trust him. Do not yield to fear, which paralyzes us before the great heights to which the Lord points us. Always remember that to those who leave their nets and boat behind, and follow him, the Lord promises the joy of a new life that can fill our hearts and enliven our journey.
Dear friends, it is not always easy to discern our vocation and to steer our life in the right direction. For this reason, there needs to be a renewed commitment on the part of the whole Church – priests, religious, pastoral workers and educators – to provide young people in particular with opportunities for listening and discernment” (Message of the Holy Father (Pope Francis) for the 56th World day of Prayer for Vocations).
Manuel Dos Reis Bonfim MS
God our Father, we give you thanks for calling us to embrace the gift of life and share it.
As once, through Jesus the Christ, you chose the first disciples to proclaim the Good News, and poured out your Spirit upon the Church,
renew us now in our vocation and our mission of reconciliation;
let the same call echo in the heart of many young persons, that they may generously respond to the needs of our brothers and sisters, after the example of Mary, the Beautiful Lady of La Salette;
inspire in men and women of our time the desire to be “light” and “salt” in the Church and the world. Amen.
Called, Formed, Sent
(2nd Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 49:3-6; 1 Corinthians 1:1-3; John 1:29-34)
St. Paul presents himself as “called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus,” and reminds the Corinthians that they are “called to be holy.” In the first reading, we read of one who says that the Lord “formed me as his servant;” John the Baptist speaks of “the one who sent me to baptize with water.”
All of these are reflected in the Psalm response: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
God’s servant further declares: “I am made glorious in the sight of the Lord.” He claims no merit other than what the Lord has done for him and promises to do through him: “I will make you a light to the nations.”
When God chooses persons for his service, it is not necessarily because they possess special skills. On the contrary, he looks upon them, makes his choice and then bestows his gifts on them. John the Baptist, for example, was empowered to recognize Jesus as Lamb of God and Son of God.
We have often observed that the children chosen by Our Lady of La Salette had no special talent for the mission she confided to them. She provided what they lacked, and they were remarkable in resisting bribes and threats, in answering objections and trick questions. Thus did she call them, form them, and send them.
We may say the same for ourselves. Whatever our vocation may be, however we were attracted to it, it was God’s doing. Thus, one of the most important principles of the spiritual life is this: go where you are drawn. Discernment, after all, is precisely the prayerful discovery of the answer to the question asked by Saul on the road to Damascus: “What shall I do, Lord?” (Acts 22:10)
A La Salette vocation is often, so to speak, inserted into or overlaid onto another vocation. In the varied circumstances of our life as laity, religious or clergy, we find ourselves drawn to the Beautiful Lady. She who declared herself the handmaid of the Lord, invites us to serve the Lord with her.
Like Maximin and Mélanie, we might not be the candidates we ourselves would choose, but we can trust Mary to provide guidance and inspiration.
Voice of the Lord
(Baptism of the Lord: Isaiah 42:1-7; Acts 10:34-38; Matthew 3:13-17)
Great singers and speakers know how to modulate their voice. In this way they can communicate the subtleties and depths, the infinite variety of emotions of the words they say or sing. God knows this.
This explains why there are so many books in the Bible. As varied and ‘modulated’ as they are, they all speak with God’s voice, which in today’s readings is heard from the heavens, from a prophet and from an apostle. The psalmist hears it in the thunder, perhaps, and describes it as mighty and majestic.
We cannot hear God’s voice as we do those of the people around us. At Mass we rely on lectors and priests (or deacons) to announce the word eloquently but simply, to speak it in such a way that the word may live, and so touch our hearts and minds directly.
The Scriptures do not hesitate to speak with a woman’s voice, most notably in the Song of Songs, and in the books of Ruth, Judith and Wisdom. La Salette is well situated within this tradition.
As we listen to the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, we might wonder what he means when he says to John, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Many scholars, ancient and modern alike, agree that it means carrying out God’s will.
This principle lies at the heart of Mary’s message at La Salette. God’s will for us is always for our good. Giving thanks to him is, as we say just before the Preface at Mass, right and just. But this justice goes beyond the fulfillment of legal requirements.
The biblical concept of justice refers to a state of being in which all is as it ought to be, where everyone does what is right and just. It brings joy and peace to all.
Without using the word, the Beautiful Lady was describing the injustice of her people. In neglecting the things of God, they had placed themselves in a state in which all was not as it should be, and found themselves far from joy and peace.
Like Jesus, God calls us to be his beloved children, with whom he is well pleased. By modulating her voice to that message, Mary communicates it to us anew, in a wondrous way.
Mystery of the Magi
(Epiphany: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:2-6; Matthew 2:1-12)
For a brief time, all Jerusalem was talking about mysterious foreigners who had arrived from the East, asking a strange question. Biblical Scholars of the day found the answer, and King Herod sent them on their way.
Who were they? How many? How did they recognize the star? What identified it with the birth of Jesus? How could it move in a southerly direction from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? Theories abound, some quite interesting.
But none of these things really matters. They can easily distract us from the essence of the text, the object of the Magi’s quest: Jesus.
It seems unlikely that St. Paul had ever heard of the Magi. But he makes the point of their story most effectively: “The mystery was made known to me by revelation... that the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” Thus is fulfilled the promise of Isaiah to Jerusalem: “Nations shall walk by your light.”
In late 1846, everyone in the diocese of Grenoble, and beyond, was talking about a mysterious Beautiful Lady who had arrived, it would seem, from heaven. Her objective was similar to that of the Epiphany star: to point the way (in this case, to point the way back) to the one whom she calls “my Son.”
The Wise Men “were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother.” At La Salette, Maximin and Mélanie saw a different Madonna and Child, where Jesus is represented not as a babe in arms but as the crucified Savior. The universal salvation anticipated in the accounts of Jesus’ birth was accomplished on Calvary.
As we reflect on the Gospel story and on the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, we look to the past. But both invite us to enter into the mystery of the present, and of the future as well.
The Church reminds of the Magi for a reason. We remember La Salette for a similar reason. Both hold the hope expressed in the refrain of today’s Psalm: “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.” Can we play a part in bringing that about?
What to Wear, How to Behave
(Holy Family: Sirach 3:2-12; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23)
One of the first things one notices about Our Lady of La Salette is her attire. Besides the typical women’s garments of the locality—long dress, apron, shawl, shoes and bonnet—there are roses, a broad chain, a smaller chain supporting a crucifix, and a particularly bright light around her head, usually depicted as a crown.
But that is not all. She has also put on “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,” as St. Paul recommends to the Christian community of Colossae, whom he calls “God's chosen ones, holy and beloved.”
In the first reading, these qualities are expressed by the verb “honor,” specifically towards parents. The Gospel reminds us that no family is without its crises.
Paul even acknowledges a painful reality, “if one of you has a grievance against another,” and emphasizes the need for mutual forgiveness. It is a fact of life that, even in the best families and the best communities, we don’t always like the people we love.
I suppose this is true in the greater La Salette family as well: Missionaries, Sisters, Laity. When we often rub elbows with the same people, we sometimes step on each other's feet. As apostles of Reconciliation, this is especially troubling to us. What to do about it?
First, while such moments are indeed inevitable, they can to a certain extent be anticipated. We can cultivate the attitudes proposed by St. Paul, especially the readiness to forgive. Sometimes, dialogue can lead to better understanding; forgiveness may not be necessary. Desiring to put things right among us, we can be creative in using the tools of charity at our disposal (see also 1 Corinthians, 13).
Mary recommended reciting at least an Our Father—where we pray “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”—and a Hail Mary—in which we are reminded of “the hour of our death.” These should help us put personal tensions into proper perspective.
In her own words, the Beautiful Lady echoes the rule of thumb enunciated by St. Paul: “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Being and Doing Amen
(4th Sunday of Advent: Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24)
In the verses preceding our first reading, we learn that Judah’s enemies were joining forces to attack Jerusalem. At this news, “the heart of the king and heart of the people trembled.” So God sent Isaiah to King Ahaz to tell him, “Take care you remain calm and do not fear... Unless your faith is firm, you shall not be firm!”
This last sentence translates the same Hebrew verb, “Aman,” twice. This is the source of the word, Amen, which we use, for example, to express our firm faith in the Eucharist as we receive Communion. Depending on context and grammatical form, “Aman” can be translated in a dozen or more ways.
Taking certain liberties, I propose a translation that you will never find elsewhere in print: “If you are not Amen, you shall not Amen.” In the first part, as a noun, it indicates faith in all its dimensions; the verb in the second part indicates standing fast. King Ahaz was not Amen. Unwilling to trust God’s promise, he refused to seek a sign.
St. Paul writes that, as an Apostle, he was sent “to bring about the obedience of faith.” He was Amen himself and wanted all to be Amen.
The story of Joseph is an Amen story of faith. “He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.”
Mary at La Salette called for the obedience of faith: “If my people refuse to submit,” she said, and, later, “if they are converted.” She who had said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord,” found among her people an attitude that responded No to the things of God, not Amen.
Our Gospel today recounts “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.” It is a wondrous story, requiring the obedience of faith. That is true of every aspect of Jesus’ life.
At La Salette the Virgin Mother displays her crucified Son on her breast. It is especially in his passion that he is, as he is called in Revelation 3:14, “The Amen, the faithful and true witness.”
I pray that the coming feast of his birth will lead us all not only to say Amen, but also to be Amen and to do Amen, always and everywhere, like Mary, like Paul, like Jesus himself.