Fr. René Butler MS - 2nd Sunday of Easter - Once...
Once upon a Time, Again (2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31)  The life of the first believers, as described in Acts, seems almost too good to be true. Their enthusiasm for the teaching of the apostles, for common prayer,... Czytaj więcej
Fr. René Butler MS - Easter - The Greatest Promise
The Greatest Promise (Easter: Readings from the Easter Vigil and the Sunday are too many to list) In the fourth reading of the Easter Vigil, God says through Isaiah: “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an... Czytaj więcej
Fr. René Butler MS - Palm Sunday - Two Gospels
Two Gospels (Palm Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14—27:66) At the opening of today’s Liturgy, we hear the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Later, we hear the story of the... Czytaj więcej
Fr. René Butler MS - 5th Sunday of Lent - Death,...
Death, Life, Love, Hope (5th Sunday of Lent: Ezekiel  37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45) Jesus was, in a way, testing Martha’s faith, when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will... Czytaj więcej
Fr. René Butler MS - 4th Sunday of Lent -...
Anointing (4th Sunday of Lent: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41) David was anointed with oil by Samuel, and “from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” One of the many peaceful images in today’s Psalm is,... Czytaj więcej
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Once upon a Time, Again

(2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 2:42-47; 1 Peter 1:3-9; John 20:19-31) 

The life of the first believers, as described in Acts, seems almost too good to be true. Their enthusiasm for the teaching of the apostles, for common prayer, fellowship and the sharing of goods—it is no wonder that “Awe came upon everyone.”

In the Psalm we read: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” But in 1846 Mary wept because the Cornerstone was, tragically, being rejected again. And today?

St. Peter, in our second reading, lists the benefits of God’s “great mercy.” Our Lady of La Salette is our “Merciful Mother.” Let us consider the parallels.

First, God “gave us a new birth to a living hope.” At La Salette, this hope lies not only in future prosperity but, before that, in conversion to the things of God.

Next is “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” beyond our current needs and concerns. Peter says this is kept in heaven for us, but that does not mean we cannot draw on it even now. Prayer and especially the Eucharist give us access to it. These are essential to the message of La Salette.

Thirdly, salvation. This, above all, explains the enthusiasm of the earliest Christians, and the attractiveness of that community. “And every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” La Salette does not offer salvation independently, of course, but leads us to the Savior himself.

Then Peter writes, “In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials.” Anyone who has truly experienced God’s mercy—as have many through La Salette—knows exactly what he means. Troubles will come and go, the joy remains.

The Apostle Thomas went through a time of darkness, and then experienced the Lord’s mercy. His first response was to acknowledge Jesus’ divinity: “My Lord and my God!”

Earlier, fear had confined the Apostles behind locked doors. Divine mercy changed all that. What it did for them, it can do for us and, through us, devoted to our Merciful Mother, for others.

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

The Greatest Promise

(Easter: Readings from the Easter Vigil and the Sunday are too many to list)

In the fourth reading of the Easter Vigil, God says through Isaiah: “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will take you back. In an outburst of wrath, for a moment I hid my face from you; but with enduring love I take pity on you.”

Here is contained all the message of La Salette. Is any further commentary needed?

The phrase “outburst of wrath” may make us think of Mary’s words about “the arm of my Son.” But this reading also helps us to remember that in many other places in Scripture, God’s hand or arm is, in fact, extended in order to save.

After the reading about the crossing of the Red Sea, for example, we recite, in the song of Moses: “Your right hand, O Lord, magnificent in power, your right hand, O Lord, has shattered the enemy.”

And, at both the Vigil and the Sunday Mass, we pray the words of Psalm 118: “The right hand of the Lord has struck with power; the right hand of the Lord is exalted. I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.”

While God’s hand and arm demonstrate his power to save, his great tenderness and enduring love express his Will to do so. Even when God uses his power to punish his people, his love always prevails.

In the Gospels the question is raised, “Which Commandment is the greatest?” Today I would like to suggest, from a La Salette perspective, a different question.

First, let me give the answer: “Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, my love shall never leave you.” This quote from Isaiah is from the reading referenced at the beginning of this reflection.

Now, the question: Which Promise is the greatest?

Think about it. Is there any promise you would rather hear from God than this one? Is there anything about the Beautiful Lady and her message that is not founded on that promise? 

And what greater proof is there of God’s fidelity to his promise than the resurrection of Jesus? On this day that the Lord has made, may you rejoice and be glad! 

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

Two Gospels

(Palm Sunday: Matthew 21:1-11; Isaiah 50:4-7; Philippians 2:6-11; Matthew 26:14—27:66)

At the opening of today’s Liturgy, we hear the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Later, we hear the story of the Passion. 

There is one similarity. In both, Jesus sends disciples to perform a task (arrange transport, prepare the Passover), and they “did as Jesus had ordered.” (This may remind some readers of Maximin and Mélanie.)

The contrasts, however, are many. “Hosanna” yields to “Let him be crucified.” “This is Jesus the prophet,” announced by some in the festal crowd, becomes, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews,” the charge against him, placed over his head on the cross.

We might imagine certain differences that are not mentioned. For example, it seems likely that Jesus wept as he prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. By contrast, how do you visualize Jesus responding to the cheering crowd in his entry to Jerusalem? 

The Suffering Servant in our Isaiah text says, “The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them.” An encouraging, comforting word is seen even in the scene of the betrayal. In Matthew, Jesus calls Judas “friend,” offering him salvation even in his darkest moment of guilt.

At La Salette, the equivalent is “my people.” No matter how lost they are, Mary does not reject them. “Come closer, don’t be afraid,” is addressed first to the children, but by no means to them alone. 

The Beautiful Lady calls us to submission. Jesus is the very model of submission, silent before his accusers. In the Gospel, he is “forsaken” and, as St. Paul writes, “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The same text says that Jesus received “the name which is above every name,” dear to Our Lady but, alas! not so dear to her people.

Matthew makes no mention of Mary in the Passion, but the thought of her suffering leads me to conclude with the words of the Memorare to Our Lady of La Salette: “Remember, Our Lady of La Salette, true Mother of Sorrows, the tears you shed for me on Calvary.”

La Salette Laity and Ministry Committee

Death, Life, Love, Hope

(5th Sunday of Lent: Ezekiel  37:12-14; Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45)

Jesus was, in a way, testing Martha’s faith, when he said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die,” and then asked her, “Do you believe this?”

If he had asked, “Do you understand this?” the conversation might have taken a different turn. But Martha’s response expressed her faith in Jesus himself, and thus in everything he said or did. “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” 

Later we read, “And Jesus wept. So the Jews said: See how he loved him.” Love and tears are not strangers to each other.

The Beautiful Lady wept. We can see, therefore, how she loves us, and longs for us to believe that her Son is the resurrection and the life, to trust in his word.

Every time I encounter the phrase ’my people’ in the Bible, I think of La Salette. In today’s first reading, that connection is especially strong. This passage concludes the famous episode of the Valley of the Dry Bones. Until now, in Ezekiel, God has spoken about his people, rarely to them. But here he addresses them directly, and with what feeling: “O my people!” Can they ever doubt his love again?

The appropriate response to that question is found in today’s Psalm: “If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, Lord, who can stand? But with you is forgiveness that you may be revered... For with the Lord is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption.”

St. Paul uses an image very different from that of dry bones, but to the same effect. To live in the flesh is to be spiritually dead. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The Blessed Virgin wants her people to understand this.

The message of La Salette, like all of our readings today, highlights God's will to restore us to life. In the words of the first reading: “I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.”

Sometimes we find ourselves praying “out of the depths.” We need never despair. Lazarus was not a lost cause. Neither are we.

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

Anointing

(4th Sunday of Lent: 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41)

David was anointed with oil by Samuel, and “from that day on, the spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.” One of the many peaceful images in today’s Psalm is, “You anoint my head with oil.”

Jesus made mud and spread it on the eyes of the blind man. Because of the material used, it is hard to recognize this gesture as anointing. But is hard to see it otherwise when we consider its purpose. Jesus says the man was born blind “so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”

He adds, “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” St. Paul applies the same idea to us: “You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord... Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness.”

At La Salette, Mary, who was “all light,” empowered two children to accomplish a mission. That, too, was a kind of anointing. And her message reminds us of our Christian identity, sadly neglected by so many of those she calls “my people,” but who are still caught up in darkness.

All of us were anointed in the name of Christ, not once but twice, in the sacrament of Baptism, with the oil of salvation, so that we might “live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.”

Indeed, it is only through the Beautiful Lady’s Son that we can hope to produce, as St. Paul writes, “every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” We can look to Jesus to guide us in right paths for his name’s sake.

The story of the man born blind raises many questions—sixteen, to be exact—most notably: What do you have to say about Jesus? Do you want to be his disciple? Do you believe in the Son of Man? Who is he, that I may believe in him?

We would do well to reflect privately on these questions. It might, however, be more interesting, stimulating and profitable to ask them of each other, perhaps in a time of faith-sharing.

The “La Salette question” is: Do you say your prayers well? In prayer let us present ourselves to be anointed, so that, through us, “the works of God might be made visible.” A noble ambition, indeed!

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

I Thirst

(3rd Sunday of Lent: Exodus 17:3-7; Romans 5:1-8; John 4:5-42)

The French and Spanish Lectionaries include information that is not evident in the English translation of the first reading, i.e.: Meribah comes from the verb meaning “to quarrel,” and Massah “to test.” Both refer to the adversarial character of the episode when the Hebrews dared to bring a case against the Lord.

In Micah 6:1-2, the prophet summons his people: “Arise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice! Hear, O mountains, the Lord’s case... For the Lord has a case against his people.” Here is that Meribah word again, now as “case.” 

The message of Our Lady of La Salette fits into this context. She calls her people to task for their sins, especially their indifference. Today’s Psalm, which also references Meribah and Massah, has the response, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” 

When Jesus asks the woman for a drink, she adopts a contentious attitude. “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jesus takes no offense, but opens a dialogue with her with the words, “If you knew the gift of God.”

Much later in John’s Gospel, Jesus will declare from Golgotha’s height, “I thirst.” Here, in chapter 4, his thirst is brought on by the fatigue of his journey. But we get an inkling of that thirst that marked the whole of his life and ministry, that burning desire he expresses in John 12:32: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” In satisfying our thirst, Jesus satisfies his own.

On the cross, blood and water flowed from Jesus’ pierced side. The famous biblical commentator Matthew Henry explained this in the following words: “They signified the two great benefits which all believers partake of through Christ—justification and sanctification; blood for remission, water for regeneration; blood for atonement, water for purification.”

Catholic theology applies this also to the Sacraments.

At La Salette, there is a miraculous spring. It had long existed, but always dried up in the summer. But ever since the Apparition it has flowed without ceasing, a reminder of the Beautiful Lady’s tears, and of her deepest thirst—ours, too, if we only knew.

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

Vocation

(2nd Sunday of Lent: Genesis 12:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:8-10; Matthew 17:1-9)

There is a slight contradiction between the Psalm and our second reading. In the first we read, “See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.” Hope and reverential fear seem to be a condition for deliverance.

But then St. Paul tells us, “He saved us and called us to a holy life, not according to our works but according to his own design.” Here, salvation is unconditional.

We see this also in the first reading. Abram was called, and received God’s excellent promises, without having fulfilled any requirement. And in the Gospel, no reason is given why Jesus chose Peter, James and John to witness his Transfiguration.

The Lord calls whom he will, when he will, as he will. This is true for us, too. As La Salette Laity, Sisters and Missionaries, we share the free gift of Mary’s love.

As in the case of Abram, responding to the call means change, not necessarily geographical, of course, but a change of heart, open to further gifts: fear of the Lord, generosity in God’s service, willingness to bear our “share of hardship for the gospel.”

The life of faith, professing and living out the Gospel message as Catholics, has never been easy, but it seems more difficult in the modern age. It demands prayer. Prayer, in turn, requires silence, at least enough for us to be able to hear the words, “This is my beloved Son... listen to him,” spoken from a shining cloud, and silently echoed by a Beautiful Lady bearing his image on her breast.

And how can we read today’s Psalm without thinking of her? Through her tears she saw the sufferings of so many; she came “to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine,” even though they were far from fearing the Lord or hoping for his kindness.

How do we share that deliverance? There is no one answer to such a question. But when we deeply desire to live out our vocation, an answer will present itself in due time, probably accompanied by the words, “Do not be afraid.”

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

Beware the Tempter

(1st Sunday of Lent: Genesis 2:7-9 & 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11)

When the celebrant washes his hands at the end of the offertory, he says, “Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” As he is about to enter into the most sacred part of the Mass, he is reminded of his unworthiness to do so, both personally and as a mere human being.

The same thought is expressed in today’s Psalm, but is balanced, if you will, by the last verse: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.” By God’s grace, our sinfulness is not an insurmountable obstacle to sincere worship.

St. Paul reminds us that “all sinned” when “through one man sin entered the world;” but that was not the end of the story. Acquittal has come through Christ. The Author of Life, who “formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,” sent his Son Jesus to restore life.

But before entering fully upon his mission, Jesus was tempted. We can easily identify with this experience. 

He triumphed over the Tempter, but let us not suppose that he was not really tempted. Jesus was truly human, and surely knew the appeal of easy gratification of his needs, of proof that God was watching over him, of royal power.

When we acknowledge our sins, we recognize the temptations to which we have succumbed. Or, as at La Salette, someone else may point out the ways in which we have yielded to the Tempter.

The Beautiful Lady spoke of the following offenses: abuse of her Son’s Name; working on the Lord’s Day; neglecting the Eucharist; going to the butcher shops, “like the dogs,” in Lent. What is the underlying temptation common to all of these?

The answer can be found in Jeremiah 2:20: “Long ago you broke your yoke, you tore off your bonds. You said, ‘I will not serve.’” Jesus’ responses to the Tempter are a declaration of his desire to obey the Father alone. “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”

That is the model of how to resist temptation. But don’t wait till the temptation comes. Resist it in advance. Always beware the Tempter.

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

Holiness

(7th Ordinary Sunday: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48)

“Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.” This sentence occurs four times in the Book of Leviticus.

Observe the reason given for the command. It is not the promise of prosperity, which we might expect. No, the reason is even more important. Everything connected to God is holy. His will is sacred. We obey out of reverence.

There is a similar passage in Leviticus 22:32: “Do not profane my holy name, that in the midst of the Israelites I may be hallowed. I, the Lord, make you holy.” Our holiness is God’s doing. St. Paul echoes this thought when he writes, “The temple of God, which you are, is holy.”

The psalmist exclaims: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all my being, bless his holy name.” Mary at La Salette wept at the profanity directed at her Son’s name. This was but one of the signs that her people had abandoned their identity as God’s temple. Instead of praying, they blasphemed; they made a mockery of religion.

The call to holiness is a tall order. It needs to permeate every aspect of our life. St. Paul expresses this as follows: “If any one among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God.”

Mary chose Mélanie and Maximin as her witnesses. The message of divine wisdom was entrusted to uneducated children, so that no one could miss the meaning of her words.

The wisdom of this world is contrary to the message of today's gospel in particular. Turning the other cheek is (and probably always has been) counter-cultural. It is hard even for committed Christians.

Fortunately, our holiness is not a matter of who is right or wrong, of winning or losing. It is first and foremost a question of sharing in the Lord’s holiness or, as Jesus puts it, being “perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

In our efforts to make the Beautiful Lady’s message known, we can advance toward that goal, and maybe transform some little part of our world along the way.

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

Hammer and Pincers

(6th Ordinary Sunday: Sirach 15:15-20; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10; Matthew 5:17-37)

Among the most distinctive features of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette, as you well know, are the hammer and pincers on either side of the crucifix. We are used to seeing them attached to the cross, but in fact they were not.

People seeing these for the first time always ask what they mean. You are familiar with the traditional interpretation, but I think it might be more helpful to respond with another question. Supposing Mary simply showed herself to the children without saying a word, how would we understand her purpose?

Carpenters’ tools in and of themselves would have no special meaning. But, as they are associated with the Crucified One, they must have a connection with the Passion of Jesus. And they served opposite purposes.

It is no wonder that they have always been explained as calling us to choose between “life and death, good and evil,” as we read today in Sirach, who is paraphrasing Moses’ speech in Deuteronomy 30:15.

All of today’s readings are about choice. The psalmist chooses fidelity to God’s statutes; Paul has opted for “God’s wisdom, mysterious, hidden;” and Jesus says four times, “You have heard... but I say to you,” demanding our allegiance to his teaching. 

We tend to see choice as a moral question, and that is often the case. That is certainly the perspective of Sirach. It is easy to forget that the Sermon on the Mount is more demanding than the Commandments. That is what Jesus meant by saying, “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Still, what Sirach says is true: “No one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.” In other words, when we sin, it is because of our choice. There may be mitigating circumstances, of course, especially if we are not truly free.

That said, before any concrete decision there must be an underlying fundamental resolve: as disciples of Christ, to strive with all our heart to live by his word.

That is what the Beautiful Lady came to tell us. She put before us a choice: failure to submit, with its consequences, or conversion, with its benefits. Exact opposites, just like the hammer and pincers.

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

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