The One who Lives

(2nd Sunday of Easter: Acts 5:12-16; Revelation 1:9-19; John 20:19-31)

Scholars generally agree that John, the author of the fourth Gospel, also wrote Revelation. In both, Jesus often uses the phrase “I am” in a way that is reminiscent of God’s words to Moses, which we read not long ago: “I AM WHO AM.”

We have an example in today’s reading from Revelation: “I am the first and the last, the one who lives.” Jesus gives himself important names, describing who he is in his very being. He goes on to say that he is “alive forever and ever”—an even more emphatic version of his words at the Last Supper, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”

Then we read a mysterious saying, “I hold the keys to death and the netherworld.” It seems to combine the notions of power and judgment, such as we find at La Salette when Mary speaks of “the arm of my Son.”

The Beautiful Lady’s words are subject to various interpretations, but taken in the context of other parts of her discourse, such as: “If I want my Son not to abandon you,” and “I warned you last year with the potatoes,” it is hard not to accept the traditional reading.

But today is Divine Mercy Sunday. You have seen the image, with rays emanating from Jesus’ heart. In our La Salette context we have often noted that the light of the Apparition came from the crucifix which Mary bore on her breast. The great news she came to deliver comes from that cross. La Salette is a merciful apparition.

Jesus, the one who lives, breathes on us as he did on the Apostles in today’s Gospel. To them and their successors he gave special power and judgment to forgive or retain sins. To us he gives our charism of reconciliation, which shines forth with special brilliance on this day.

Forgiveness is the goal, freely offered to all who will choose to submit to the divine will and change their lives accordingly. It was among the “signs and wonders” mentioned in the first reading.

We haven’t forgotten the doubting Thomas. Let us stand with him and the other Apostles as we gratefully and lovingly accept Jesus’ greeting: “Peace be with you.”

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

He Had to Rise

(Easter: Acts 10:34-43; Colossians 3:1-4 ; John 20:1-9)

At the end of today’s Gospel, John states clearly, “They did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.” In fact, as the readings during the Easter season will often show, most of the disciples did not believe Jesus had risen until he revealed himself.

Let us put ourselves in Peter’s place in the empty tomb. What are we to make of what we see? Nothing here makes sense. For example, if Jesus’ body was stolen, why would a thief fold the burial cloths?

Then let us join Peter as he appears in the first reading. By this time in the Acts of the Apostles, Peter has been boldly proclaiming the risen Christ to the Jewish people, and many have believed. But here he is preaching to a devout God-fearing Roman centurion, along with his family and friends. Now Peter is a witness, not of an empty place of death, but of the fullness of life, for everyone.

St. Paul, writing to the Colossians, reminds them, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” As a witness, he certainly practiced what he preached.

At La Salette, the Beautiful Lady made witnesses of Maximin and Mélanie. We follow in their footsteps, reminding people of the transforming power of the crucified and risen Jesus. What Peter says of himself and his companions applies also to us: “He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.”

John writes that Jesus had to rise. This goes beyond announcing the historical event. For without his resurrection there is no victory over death. There is no victory over sin. There is no salvation. There is no restoring of the covenant relationship with God.

If modern social media had existed at the time of today’s Gospel, imagine what theories would have circulated concerning the empty tomb! If the burning faith of Peter and the others existed today, imagine what prophets we might become in this present age!

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

The Master’s Need

(Palm Sunday: Luke 19:28-40; Isaiah 50:4-7; Phil 2:6-11; Luke 22:14 to 23:56)

Following Jesus’ instruction, his disciples, when asked why they were taking the colt, answered, “The Master has need of it.”

What does the Master need from us? First and foremost, our very selves.

When Our Lady told Maximin and Mélanie to “make this known”, was she not saying, “The Master has need of you”? They, and no one else, were chosen to be the first to announce the La Salette message of conversion and reconciliation.

What resource, gift, or talent does the master need from us? For each it will be different, but there is much that we have in common. For example, we all receive the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. How then do we carry him into our personal world of family, friends, community and when possible, beyond?

Some of the Pharisees thought the crowd acclaiming Jesus was going too far. He answered, “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” We find at La Salette a similar extravagant prediction: “Rocks and stones will be turned into heaps of wheat,” proclaiming, as it were, God’s mercy toward those who return to him.

This is no time for silence. The Master has need of our voice, and will give us each our own “well-trained tongue” (first reading), so as to profess the glory of God and make ours the words of today’s Psalm: “I will proclaim your name to my brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will praise you.”

For many of us, this will not be easy, especially if we live in a society that is indifferent or even hostile to our faith.

In this context let us consider what Jesus said to Peter. “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

We know that Peter’s courage failed at a critical moment, but not his faith. Never excusing his cowardice, he turned back and in the Acts of the Apostles he boldly proclaimed the Good News and guided the first steps of the Church. The Master still needed him, as he still needs us—what a glorious, humbling thought!—to strengthen our brothers and sisters.

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

Do you not Perceive it?

(5th Sunday of Lent: Isaiah 43:16-21; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)

The woman in today’s Gospel was guilty. The law doomed her to death. Whatever regrets she now had could do her no good.

The Jewish people, to whom Isaiah speaks in the first reading, were in exile because of their many sins. If only they had remembered how much they owed God for delivering their ancestors from slavery and bringing them through the Red Sea!

Paul recognized too late “the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” He could never undo the harm he had done in persecuting the Church.

Many Christians in 1846 had forgotten the story of their salvation. God’s Son, out of love for the world, had handed himself over to death. But now some invoked his name only when they swore at rotten potatoes and the coming scourge of hunger.

It took a Beautiful Lady to bring them back to a life of faith. Yes, her words were reproachful, but she did not come to condemn her people. An alternative to punishment was available.

Paul would have to suffer much for the sake of Christ. That was no punishment. He found fulfillment in “the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death.”

Isaiah reassured his people that a sign greater than the crossing of the Red Sea lay in store for them, and sooner than they think. “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Far more remarkable is the outcome of the case of the woman in the Gospel. It was not only unexpected, it was impossible! Jesus is saying, in effect, “I am doing something new, something not seen before, something revolutionary. Can you perceive this?”

La Salette helps us to see this great wonder, not only to apply it ourselves as we strive to lead reconciled lives, but also to adopt it as a methodology in engaging our modern world.

Isaiah, Paul, Mary, and especially Jesus invite us to take on a heart of conversion. Let us not put off the time when we might hear those gentle words, “Neither do I condemn you.”

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

Radiant with Joy

(4th Sunday of Lent: Joshua 5:9-12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

“Look to him that you may be radiant with joy.” These words in today’s Psalm refer to the Lord, but we can apply them to the prodigal son. Once he looked to his father, he found himself dressed in the finest robe, with a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

In the middle of this penitential season of Lent, the Church gives us Laetare (Rejoice) Sunday. Besides the specific references to joy in the Psalm and the Gospel, the readings are full of reasons to celebrate.

In the first reading, God says to his people, “Today I have removed the reproach of Egypt from you.” They have crossed the Jordan and will now celebrate their first Passover in the promised land. They are truly a free people at last.

St. Paul speaks glowingly of reconciliation, which is God’s doing, and which we are called to accept. In our relationships with others, we know what reconciliation is like, when offender and offended are able to look at each other happily and recognize the “new creation” of love restored.

More joyous still is the reconciliation to which the Beautiful Lady of La Salette calls us. In entrusting her message to Mélanie and Maximin and to us, she has made us ambassadors for Christ. We can proclaim to all that God, “not counting their trespasses against them,” offers them the opportunity to return humbly to him and be in a right relationship with him.

Isn’t that what the story of the prodigal son is about? “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.”

We could stop here, and this reflection would be complete. But let us use the remaining space for a couple additional thoughts.

Let us rejoice that, at the Easter Vigil, thousands will become a new creation through the waters of baptism and the anointing of the holy oil of confirmation and the bestowing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Let us, as the father says, “celebrate and rejoice” over every soul saved, for every sinner (ourselves included) who is reconciled with God, who “was dead and has come to life again; was lost and has been found.”

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

One God, One People

(3rd Sunday of Lent: Exodus 3:1-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-12; Luke 13:1-9)

Today’s parable of the fig tree is found only in the Gospel of Luke. We cannot fail, however, to see the parallel at La Salette. Like the gardener trying to save the tree, the Beautiful Lady presents herself as praying without ceasing for her people.

In the first reading, God says: “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry of complaint against their slave drivers, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them.” Mary witnessed her people’s sin—in particular the cries of complaint mingled with the name of her Son—but also their suffering. She came down to provide a remedy to both.

St. Paul writes about “our ancestors.” on their way to the promised land. He concludes: “God was not pleased with most of them, for they were struck down in the desert. These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. Do not grumble as some of them did.”

Now few if any of the Corinthian believers were of Jewish descent, and the same is true for us. But our Christian heritage includes the Old Testament, and in other places Paul says explicitly that we are children of Abraham.

We are therefore the one chosen people of the one true God, whose boundlessly mysterious name is “I AM.” What cry does he hear from us today? Do we grumble, or do we turn to the Lord in prayer? Do we derive the full benefit of the spiritual food and spiritual drink that has been given to us?

Good news travels fast, they say. That may be true, but bad news gets more attention. Today’s Gospel mentions two tragic events. Jesus’ response is, “If you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

That saying may seem uncaring, but it reflects the urgency of Jesus’ mission. So, too, at La Salette, Mary opened her discourse with the words, “If my people refuse to submit.” She had to make an impact.

Both, however, leave ample room for hope. So, let us turn to the Lord with the opening prayer of today’s Mass: “that we, who are bowed down by our conscience, may always be lifted up by your mercy.”

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

Model Christians?

(2nd Sunday of Lent: Genesis 15:5-18; Philippians 3:17—4:1; Luke 9:28-36)

Who among us would be so bold as to hold herself or himself up as a model of Christian faith and life? Yet that is what Paul does in the second reading. “Join with others in being imitators of me, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us.”

This is not boasting, but an honest declaration of Paul’s dedication to Christ and the Church. He was keenly aware of having been chosen, privileged.

Abram, in the first reading, and Peter, James and John, in the Gospel, were singled out for special blessings. Abram received God’s promise and covenant; the disciples saw and heard wondrous things.

Others might have wondered, why them and not me? But Abram and the disciples could rightly ask, why me and not someone else? The Scriptures do not provide an answer.

At La Salette, why Maximin, why Mélanie, and not persons more suited to the task ahead? In our La Salette world, why you, why us?

Those who truly experience God’s presence are transfigured, sometimes suddenly, but more often gradually. We see this in the lives of many saints. Maybe you have seen it in people you know. Have you never thought in their presence, “It is good that we are here”?

How did they reach this state? Very likely, their transfiguration was intertwined with conversion, as they responded to the command from heaven, echoed at La Salette, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”

God took Abram outside to show him the stars. Jesus took Peter, James and John and went up the mountain to pray and reveal his glory before his final journey to Jerusalem.

The Beautiful Lady, revealed in light, attracts people first to herself, but ultimately to Jesus. She wants to transform pitiable sinners into saints washed clean in the blood of the lamb.

In the place of Abram or the three disciples, what promises would we hear, what wonders might we see? Not all of us will become models for others to imitate, but some may well do so. Why not you?

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

A Time of Testing

(1st Sunday of Lent: Deuteronomy 24:4-10; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13)

Lent is upon us. We have made resolutions, perhaps to attend daily Mass or say more prayers. We have imposed certain sacrifices on ourselves (fasting from electronic devices, for example), possibly in view of benefiting others. In a very real sense, we are testing ourselves.

By that very fact, we are exposing ourselves to temptation. We might start to wonder if we have taken on too much, or be inclined to make exceptions, to relax our discipline, or redefine prayer, fasting, almsgiving.

Lent and La Salette go well together. Both call us to conversion and place the crucified Christ before our eyes—not to mention the fact that the Beautiful Lady explicitly mentioned Lent in her discourse.

In the Scriptures, “tempt” and “test” are interchangeable. Thus, in tempting Jesus in the desert, the devil was putting him to the test.

Remember that the forty days of Jesus in the desert came when he was “newly baptized.” He had just heard the voice from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” This is why the devil introduces two of the temptations by saying, “If you are the Son of God.” We must not think that Jesus was not really tempted to prove that.

Similarly, a conversion experience typically is followed by a time of testing. Many pilgrims to La Salette respond to Mary’s call. The challenge for them will be when they go back down from the mountain and return to their everyday life, especially if people around them are not supportive.

In the first reading, a ritual is described which hints at the forty years during which the Hebrews wandered in the desert after God delivered them from slavery “with his strong hand and outstretched arm.” They tested the Lord many times. Today, God is still there, waiting for us to believe with all our heart, and to place our faith and trust in him.

Each of us finds our own way to observe Lent, but it is not purely personal. We will need each other’s prayers, sacrifices, and support if we want to truly journey with Christ in heart and spirit. Let us encourage each other to pray more, fast more, give more, as we dare to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”

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

What’s in Your Heart?

(8th Ordinary Sunday: Sirach 27:4-7; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45)

There is an ad for a credit card that ends with the question, “What’s in your wallet?” Sirach, in today’s first reading, and Jesus in the Gospel, both ask, in effect, “What’s in your heart?” and they look for the answer in how we speak.

Sirach compares speech to the sifting of grain, revealing how much, or how little, substance there is in our mind and heart. At La Salette, Mary uses an even stronger image. “If you have wheat, you must not sow it. Anything you sow the vermin will eat, and whatever does grow will fall into dust when you thresh it.”

This is, first, a warning of the famine that lies ahead; but it is also an apt symbol of the state of her people’s faith, which has fallen into dust, blighted by indifference. This is a great tragedy.

The Gospel, too, reminds us of our faults. Jesus says, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” It can be easy to criticize others, as if our personal behavior and opinions were normative for everyone else. This attitude, and perhaps many others, are not easy to overcome.

But all is not lost. Otherwise, the Beautiful Lady would never have come.

St. Paul, at the end of the long chapter on the resurrection, cries out: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? ... Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Yes, we need to labor, to strive to live our faith with integrity. The victory is not ours to win, however. It is beyond our strength—but not beyond our reach. At La Salette Mary reminds us of the means placed at our disposal in the Church and in our personal lives, making it possible for us to share Christ’s triumph over sin and death.

Hope of victory is more than wishing for it. It is based on promises like that of today’s psalm: “They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.” Is that in your heart?

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

What a Challenge!

(7th Ordinary Sunday: 1 Samuel 26:2-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38)

At La Salette, Mary reminded us of our obligation to honor the Lord’s Name and the Lord’s Day (Mass and rest), to respect the discipline of Lent, and to pray. These are all included in her call to submit.

There is ample material here for an examination of conscience. But today’s Gospel helps us to understand that doing what the Beautiful Lady asks is just the beginning.

Jesus makes it clear that he expects much more of his disciples than the observance of the Law. The commandments are the foundation, not the whole structure. Some of his listeners must have thought he was going too far in requiring a peaceful, even submissive attitude, towards their enemies. In our time, too, it is not easy to accept such demands.

Does our faith make us better persons? In the first reading we find an excellent model in David. His faith in the God of Israel never wavered. So, when he had the opportunity to destroy his mortal enemy, King Saul, he showed him mercy instead, rather than strike the Lord’s anointed.

This is what the world needs today. It’s what the world has always needed, and will always need. There never was and can never be an excess of charity, that love which is poured into our hearts by God. It will never be perfect or complete, because, as St. Paul says in the second reading, we bear the earthly image of the earthly man, Adam.

We need not be discouraged, however. We are never beyond God’s power to forgive. We can, by God’s grace, bear the image of the heavenly man, Jesus Christ.

At the same time, we must not be complacent, as though our thoughts and words and actions really do not matter to God. The Lord knows what we think and say and do, but he also knows our hearts. For example, when we carry out Jesus’ command, “Give to everyone who asks of you,” is our motive pure?

Oh, the challenge of being faithful and faith-filled! With all our heart, let us pray the words of today’s opening prayer: “Grant that we may carry out in both word and deed that which is pleasing to you.”

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

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