Fr. René Butler MS - 29th Ordinary Sunday -...
Finding our Place (29th Ordinary Sunday: Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8) In 1876, the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, not yet 25 years old, were faced with a decision. A proposal was made, to develop the Congregation in two branches: one... Czytaj więcej
Fr. René Butler MS - 28th Ordinary Sunday -...
Gratitude for Healing (28th Ordinary Sunday: 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19) Since we are going to reflect on gratitude, we begin by thanking all of you, our faithful readers, and those among you who occasionally send helpful and encouraging... Czytaj więcej
Fr. René Butler MS - 27th Ordinary Sunday -...
Increase our Faith (27th Ordinary Sunday: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1: 6-14; Luke 17:5-10) When the apostles asked Jesus, “Increase our faith,” they were implying two things: first, that they already had it; and second, that it was his... Czytaj więcej
Fr. René Butler MS - 26th Ordinary Sunday - A...
A Merciful Heart (26th Ordinary Sunday: Amos 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31) We enter into our reflection with today’s Entrance Antiphon: “All that you have done to us, O Lord, you have done with true judgment, for we have sinned against you and... Czytaj więcej
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Finding our Place

(29th Ordinary Sunday: Exodus 17:8-13; 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2; Luke 18:1-8)

In 1876, the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, not yet 25 years old, were faced with a decision. A proposal was made, to develop the Congregation in two branches: one contemplative and penitential, the other active in the apostolate. The former was to provide spiritual support to the latter.

The idea is similar to what we see in today’s reading from Exodus. As Joshua engaged Amalek in battle, Moses prayed from his vantage point on a hill. Thus, any time the soldiers looked up, they drew courage from seeing Moses in prayer.

We look to the Beautiful Lady often and say, “Our Lady of La Salette, Reconciler of Sinners, pray without ceasing for us who have recourse to you.” We know that she prays constantly for us. She told us so herself.

But we are not passive recipients. La Salette Laity, in particular, can assume various roles. The image of Aaron and Hur in the first reading is especially striking in this context. They are not with Joshua on the battlefield. They are not praying as Moses is. Instead, when Moses’ arms grow tired, they find a creative way to enable Moses to continue his ministry. They are supporting both him and Joshua.

This story from Exodus is sometimes used to interpret Mary’s words about the arm of her Son. She is seen then as acting like Aaron and Hur, holding up the arm of Jesus as he intercedes for us.

In the celebration of the Eucharist, the priest at the altar may be likened to Moses on the hill. As he looks out upon the congregation and prays for them, he is not alone, but is supported by the people through their faithful and active participation in a variety of liturgical and other ministries in the Church.

Are you a Moses? The world needs your prayer, your example. The world needs to see you on the hill with your hands held high in prayer, in order to draw strength from your example and be converted, that we may all be the people God desires us to be.

Or maybe you are a Joshua, or an Aaron or Hur, or some other scriptural figure? We can all find our place in the Church and in the La Salette world.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Gratitude for Healing

(28th Ordinary Sunday: 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19)

Since we are going to reflect on gratitude, we begin by thanking all of you, our faithful readers, and those among you who occasionally send helpful and encouraging comments.

We will also be discussing healing. In today’s first reading, one leper, Naaman, is healed, while in the gospel ten lepers are healed. Expressions of faith and gratitude follow these healings.

Our Lady of La Salette wept over the death of children and the famine that had already begun to ravage Europe. The cause was a sort of leprosy, not of persons but of the staple foods. Mary spoke of spoiled wheat and potatoes, rotting grapes and worm-eaten walnuts. The despair provoked by all this was not unlike that experienced by lepers, even in modern times.

In a prophetic vision of abundance, the Beautiful Lady promised healing for the earth, so to speak, and relief from famine for her people.

Naaman returned to Elisha, saying, "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel. Please accept a gift from your servant." Note why, when, and how his gratitude is expressed. The why is self-evident. The when: as soon as possible. The how: by offering gifts to Elisha, yes, but at a deeper level by his conversion to the faith of Israel.

Naaman plunged into the Jordan seven times. The action makes us think of baptism; the number reminds us of the sacraments, perpetual memorials of our conversion to God’s love.

Pilgrims to La Salette often return home with water from the spring where Mary appeared. Naaman took two mule-loads of earth, to use as a sort of prayer mat, as a permanent reminder of God’s mercy.

In the gospel, ten lepers were cleansed. One “realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him.” Jesus then told him: “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Cleansed, healed, saved. Such are the signs, fruits, and even sometimes the cause of conversion. The exact order is of little importance. What matters most is that, once we have first-hand knowledge of God’s mercy, we live grateful and faithful lives.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Increase our Faith

(27th Ordinary Sunday: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2 Timothy 1: 6-14; Luke 17:5-10)

When the apostles asked Jesus, “Increase our faith,” they were implying two things: first, that they already had it; and second, that it was his responsibility to improve it.

Why would they expect him to do that? Surely they themselves were accountable. Jesus’ reply seems almost to say that their faith, if genuine, was perfectly adequate.

Still, there are some basic practices that can increase. or even restore, faith. At La Salette, Mary reminds us of simple morning and night prayers, keeping holy the Lord’s day, observing the discipline of Lent.

She says, “If they are converted,”—which might include, for example, receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation on a monthly basis. Our Weeping Mother suggests, as Jesus did with the mustard seed, that if our faith is genuine, we would see wonders: rocks turned into heaps of wheat, and potatoes self-sown in the fields. Conversion can always be deeper. Faith can always be stronger. Though the Lord looks kindly on our efforts, they are never good enough without his help.

In the second reading, St. Paul says much the same to Timothy when he writes, “Guard this rich trust [God’s gift] with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in its very first paragraph, describes this gift: “God..., in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.”

In the first reading, when Habakkuk seems to be on the verge of despair, the Lord promises him, “The just one, because of his faith, shall live.” Constancy, therefore, is essential to growth in our life of faith.

So, too, is humility. We see this in the second part of the gospel, a parable about servants.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us that we are called to do more; it is not enough for us to just be. “When you have done all you have been commanded, say, 'We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'"

Jesus is not criticizing our efforts, but inviting us to be always willing to serve. When God asks for more, let us give more. Like Mary, let us give our all!

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

A Merciful Heart

(26th Ordinary Sunday: Amos 6:1-7; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31)

We enter into our reflection with today’s Entrance Antiphon: “All that you have done to us, O Lord, you have done with true judgment, for we have sinned against you and not obeyed your commandments. But give glory to your name and deal with us according to the bounty of your mercy.”

Without getting too technical about word origins, we can state that mercy means compassion or, in more poetic terms, a heart for the poor, the afflicted and the sinner. It is at the core of today’s readings, and of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette.

The first reading and the gospel are focused on a great evil: the failure to show mercy. Both describe persons who live complacently in their own world of pleasure, with no concern for the suffering of others. Their doom is therefore sealed.

In the second reading, Paul, acting as Timothy’s coach and spiritual director, calls him a man of God, and writes, “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.” These must include mercy.

The Merciful Mother of La Salette had a heart for the afflicted sinner. Her people were suffering on account of their sins. She came to show that they could obtain mercy by returning to the Lord and his Church.

There is an image in the gospel that caught our attention in a particular way. The rich man, from his place of punishment, cries out, “Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.”

It was too late for him, but it is not too late for us to offer a drop of La Salette water, figuratively speaking, through our ministry and prayer, to those who thirst for human and divine kindness.

This thought takes on a much deeper meaning when we apply it to God. A single drop of mercy from the finger of God brings coolness and a release from the suffering. A drop of Jesus’ blood, given to us in the Eucharist, can restore us to God’s favor. Let us never be complacent about our participation in the Mass.

And let us desire to have a heart for afflicted sinners, to be agents of God’s mercy where and as we can.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Called to Account

(25th Ordinary Sunday: Amos 8:4-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13)

A steward is in charge of another person’s property. It is a position of trust. The main character of today’s gospel is a dishonest steward, whose master told him: “Prepare a full account of your stewardship.”

In the Church, the concept of stewardship is often applied to time, talent and treasure and, more and more, to the planet. After reading the text from Amos as well as the gospel, we may feel that we have just been served a summons from God and must now prepare an accounting of our stewardship.

From a La Salette perspective, we might say that the Beautiful Lady dwelt on the stewardship of time. “Do you say your prayers well?” Praying well does not mean we should just be careful to avoid distractions, for example. Rather, it is a question of giving appropriate time to prayer, and making sure that we are praying from the heart, not only with our lips.

Mary also mentioned the Lord’s Day twice. First, speaking like the prophets in God’s name, she says, “I gave you six days to work; I kept the seventh for myself, and no one will give it to me.” Later she states that only a few elderly women go to Mass in the summer, and that when others do go to church, they make a mockery of religion.

Finally, “In Lent they go to the butcher shops like dogs.”

Even outside of the religious context, we need to examine our use of time. Allowing, of course, for appropriate leisure, we need to avoid wasting hours on activities—or inactivity—that we are unable or ashamed to account for. In our professional life, do we put in an honest day’s work?

As for talent and treasure, do we put them to good use for the Christian community and those in need around us? Or do we squander them for our own pleasure and greed, storing up treasure which will not go with us to the grave.

What would it be like if God would demand a full account of our stewardship? Actually, the question is not hypothetical. What will it be like, when…?

We should also be ready to give an account of one of our greatest gifts—our La Salette vocation.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Reclaiming our Inheritance

(24th Ordinary Sunday: Exodus 32:7-14; 1 Timothy 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32)

The Pharisees and scribes, in today’s gospel, complained about Jesus. “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” They would never do such a thing. For them, it was disgusting!

Jesus offers no apology. Instead, he tells three parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son. They are all about the joy of finding what was lost, and welcoming back the repentant sinner.

It is only the third parable, however, that depicts a sinner, the younger son squandering his inheritance, swallowing up the father’s property with prostitutes, as the older brother bluntly states.

In the first reading, God complains that his people are worshiping a molten calf. (Remember that they squandered their gold to create it.) He is so enraged that, in speaking to Moses, he calls them “your people,” and “stiff-necked.”

At La Salette, Mary’s language is similar. “If my people refuse to submit.” She is not enraged, quite the contrary; but she wants her people to be aware of the danger they face unless they humbly seek God’s mercy.

They once had a rich inheritance of faith, but they cast it away. Today, sadly, we can see the same reality. We ourselves need to acknowledge, claim ownership of, and take responsibility for our fallen nature, as part of a people that tends to supplant our Creator, with the false god represented by the golden calf.

To the extent that we share that attitude, we need to avail ourselves of the beautiful sacrament of reconciliation, humbly confessing our sinfulness to our Father and reclaiming our inheritance. After that, far from separating us from our people, our La Salette vocation calls us to imitate Jesus, who welcomed sinners.

Each of the three parables begins by identifying a person, the real protagonist, who has lost something precious. The intensity of their loss passes over into their frantic searching or, in the father’s case, deep longing, and is revealed still more forcefully when the lost becomes the found.

This is how Jesus wants us to feel. This is what Mary came to accomplish, by her merciful apparition, and by the commission she has given to us.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

The Wisdom of La Salette

(23rd Ordinary Sunday: Wisdom 9:13-18; Philemon 9-10, 12-17; Luke 14:25-33)

When was the last time you thought about God in these terms: omnipresent, omnipotent, all knowing, all seeing? In that context we easily understand the question raised in Solomon’s prayer in today’s first reading, “Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the Lord intends?”

The answer is simple. On our own, we can’t. This is why Solomon adds, “except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high.”

Of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the first is wisdom, which bears a special relation to faith. Fr. John Hardon, S.J. (1914-2000) explained this as follows: “Where faith is a simple knowledge of the articles of Christian belief, wisdom goes on to a certain divine penetration of the truths themselves.”

The deeper we enter into our faith, the more our faith will guide us. In particular, Jesus speaks to us in today’s gospel about carrying our cross. You will recall that St. Paul wrote, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).

Jesus took on our flesh and followed the way to Calvary, in order to teach us not to be dominated by the flesh. Without the mercy and grace of God and the working of the Holy Spirit we would find the cross to be too heavy a burden to bear.

The apparition and message of La Salette are situated in this same tradition. Mary bears the crucifix on her breast. She weeps over those who are perishing due to their lack of faith. She helps us to judge the things of the world (the signs of the times) in the light of our highest end, our salvation, to which we draw closer when we respect the things of God.

She knows, as stated in the first reading, that “the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns.” She is not unsympathetic to her people’s suffering and anxiety, but she wants us to look beyond. She is a wise Mother.

We are all called to contemplate God. In Mary’s company, the Holy Spirit’s gift of wisdom will guide us ever closer to fulfilling that noble ambition.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Humble Prayer

(22nd Ordinary Sunday: Sirach 3:17-29; Hebrews 12:18-24; Luke 14: 1, 7-14)

In today’s first reading we hear, “My child, conduct your affairs with humility.” In the gospel, Jesus says, “The one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

At La Salette, the Beautiful Lady asked, “Do you say your prayers well, my children?”

At first, this connection between La Salette and the readings may come as a surprise. But when you think about it, what is prayer if it does not come from a humble heart? Is there any other way to approach God? We are not the creator but the creation. If we happen to be blessed with talents or enjoy a certain prestige in our community, it is especially important for us to humble ourselves the more, as Sirach says.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor,” Jesus told his fellow guests at the pharisee’s home. This advice applies even more to prayer. When we come into God’s presence, any comparison we might make between ourselves and others is pure vanity. (Remember the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector? More on that in two months.)

When Mary was offered the honor of becoming the mother of the Messiah, she answered, in genuine humility, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.” In her prayer of praise, the Magnificat, she acknowledges that God “ has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

When, at La Salette, Mary speaks of her own prayer, we see that she humbles herself in two different ways. First, she comes before her Son in the attitude of a beggar. Second, she identifies herself with a people of sinners, “my people,” for whom she pleads constantly.

Many of us pray with our heads bowed. Isn’t this an act of humility, submitting ourselves before our Lord and Savior?

We may find joy in our ministry of reconciliation, but there is no place here for arrogance or superiority. Yes, we have a gift to share, but we need to set ourselves aside, so that Our Lady’s message may shine forth. We never take credit for what the Lord may accomplish in answer to our humble prayer.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Ingathering

(21st Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 66:18-21; Hebrews 12:5-13; Luke 12:22-30)

In recent weeks we have reflected on some challenging readings, and today seems to be no exception. In Hebrews we are told to accept trials as a form of discipline. In the gospel, Jesus tells us to enter by the narrow gate.

Fortunately, this is not the whole picture. Discipline “brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness,” and Jesus concludes, “People will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God.”

The first reading reflects this more optimistic view. God declares, “I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.”

This reminds us of an American hymn composed 40 years ago. Its title is Here in this Place, but it is also commonly called “Gather us in,” from a recurring phrase in the text. (We apologize for using a source unfamiliar to many. We hope it will remind the readers of our French, Spanish or Polish editions of similar hymns in your own language.)

“Gather us in, the lost and forsaken/Gather us in, the blind and the lame.” We may feel the weight of our sins, like the famous ghost of Marley in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, who dragged behind him a ponderous chain forged by selfish greed.

Still, we hope to be admitted to the grand assembly. The next two lines read: “Call to us now and we shall awaken/We shall arise at the sound of our name.”

The first pilgrim to La Salette was the Blessed Virgin. She called two children to herself. That was the beginning. Since then, many hundreds of thousands have walked the mountain paths or driven the steep and winding roads so as to stand where she stood, and hear her words in the very place where she spoke.

Here the words of the second reading take on a new resonance: “So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be disjointed but healed.”

The first line of the hymn we have quoted is: “Here in this place new light is streaming.” How could we not think of the light emanating from the Beautiful Lady’s crucifix? La Salette Laity, Missionaries, and Sisters in all the world can reflect that light, gathering others in.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

Radical Faith

(20th Ordinary Sunday: Jeremiah 38:4-10; Hebrews 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53)

Jeremiah, committed to his prophetic ministry, was deeply disliked. His enemies, in the first reading, accused him of demoralizing the people.

The message of La Salette has a strong prophetic character. It is not surprising, then, that La Salette is less well known, less popular than other Apparitions.

Jesus encountered opposition on many sides. One of his Apostles betrayed him. In today’s gospel he tells his disciples to expect the same, even from their own family.

The second reading does not minimize the struggle we face. The last verse even raises the prospect of shedding blood. But it reminds us that Jesus “endured such opposition from sinners, in order that you may not grow weary and lose heart,” and exhorts us, “Let us persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.”

We cannot be expected to enjoy conflict. In fact, in many social situations it is considered bad form to discuss politics or religion; it is too unpleasant, too divisive; it causes too many arguments, too many hurt feelings.

It pains us, as people dedicated to the cause of reconciliation, to see so much dissension. It can be so overwhelming that we are tempted to look away. But then we would not be true to our vocation.

Every time we hear Jesus’ words, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division,” it comes as a shock. After all, at every Mass we hear his other saying, from John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” Can both of these sayings be true? Yes. External conflict need not exclude inner peace.

We need to understand and accept just how radical it is to believe in God and to seek to do his will. Is our faith on fire? Is it blazing with love for God? Do we have that most precious of gifts from the Holy Spirit—a proper fear of the Lord?

We must not be lukewarm in our faith. Nor may we be belligerent. But imitating the Beautiful Lady’s gentle approach, “Come closer, don’t be afraid,” we may, like her, offer Christ’s peace to the world.

Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.

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