Back to the Basics
(16th Ordinary Sunday: Wisdom 12:13-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43)
People learning about La Salette are puzzled when they read the words of the Beautiful Lady : “I gave you six days to work; I kept the seventh for myself, and they will not give it to me.” They rightly insist: it’s the Lord’s Day, not Mary’s.
This is true, but the problem is resolved by remembering the biblical nature and tone of her message. In the prophets and the psalms especially, we sometimes need to intuit who is speaking, to insert mentally, “Thus says the Lord.” This is also true, here, of Mary’s message.
Keeping holy the Lord’s Day is the Third Commandment. Our Lady alludes also to the Second, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” when she speaks of “the Name of my Son.”
Both find their foundation in the First Commandment: “I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me.”
This has always been a struggle. We are easily enslaved by other gods.
This is why the author of Wisdom and the psalmist both celebrate God’s mercy and forgiveness. God “permits repentance,” because he is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.”
The parables we read today all indicate that we are, individually and as Church, a work in progress. St. Paul urges us not to be discouraged. “The Spirit,” he writes, “comes to the aid of our weakness... And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will.” In other words, he knows what is best for us.
The event and message of La Salette dovetail perfectly with this. We are challenged, in our weakness, to let the Spirit shine on our inmost hearts and do what he must to make God’s good seed take root and grow, like the mustard seed, to be large and fruitful.
Conversion, worship of our One True God, abiding trust in him—these are the ways La Salette teaches us to get back to the basics.
Wayne Vanasse and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
(15th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23)
Fr. Paul Belhumeur, M.S. is passionate about nature and creation. He is also an avid gardener, and understands the importance of good soil, and even has his own all-natural recipe for it.
I asked him, therefore, to offer some thoughts on today’s readings.
In the first reading, he noted the image of God speaking through nature and comparing the word “that goes forth from my mouth” to the rain that makes the earth fertile and fruitful.
In the Psalm, God has greatly enriched the land, producing unimaginable abundance: “You have crowned the year with your bounty, and your paths overflow with a rich harvest; the untilled meadows overflow with it, and rejoicing clothes the hills.” In the Gospel, the seed is good, but needs the right soil.
Making the connection to La Salette, Fr. Paul sees God’s image in nature spoiled by sin; there is no abundance. But the image of Jesus shines on Mary’s breast, offering hope.
The long version of today’s Gospel includes a quotation from Isaiah: “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them.”
The message of La Salette is a response to that hardness of heart. To use the image of the garden, we may say that Our Lady is reminding her people of tools available for tending to the garden of the soul.
We have the sacraments. Baptism waters the soil, Eucharist provides nutrients to enrich it, Reconciliation removes stones, thorns and other obstacles.
Holy Mother Church provides additional tools: Adoration, the Rosary, a great variety of devotions. Among them, let us not forget our La Salette novenas and prayers (at least an Our Father and a Hail Mary).
None of which will guarantee a bountiful harvest, literally or spiritually. That is the Lord’s work. But by his grace we can prepare our soil, so that the seed (the Word) may take root in our souls, making them fertile and fruitful, as we make Mary’s message known.
Wayne Vanasse and Fr. René Butler, M.S.