Reflections from the Shrine ...
LET US NOT JUST WAIT FOR THE LORD TO COME BUT THIRST FOR HIM ON A DAILY BASIS
This past spring I finally climbed Mount Cardigan with a friend. When you hike up a mountain you need comfortable boots , warm clothes as you come closer to the summit, and especially water. The climb takes effort and perspiration. When you reach the top you are really thirsty. That first mouthful of water tastes so good and is so refreshing.
The psalm response for today says: "My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God." It is combined with the parable of the ten virgins waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom to begin the wedding celebration. It is an obvious reference to one day, Christ the Bridegroom will come to share with us the Church, the People of God, His glorious wedding banquet. Are we prepared?
I suggest that we not be like the five foolish virgins passively waiting with their lamps. Let us rather be like the five wise virgins so thirsting to celebrate with the Lord that they bring an extra flask of oil to be sure they have enough for the festivities.
The extra container of oil symbolizes the gift of wisdom that is so beautifully described in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom: "Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her." Wisdom is personified as a woman who wishes to color our relationships with God and others with vitality and variety. It is not just a gift to the intellect but more to the will, to a person's heart. As a result the person seeks to do God's will and not simply their own. That is why wisdom is eternal as love and God are eternal.
The five wise virgins had developed a virtuous life which made them thirsting for Christ, the Bridegroom, while also eager to celebrate with others who also loved the Lord. That is why they could not share their oil with the foolish virgins. Each of us is called to personally develop virtues in our own lives which we cannot give to someone else. Each person must work on the discipline that is required in their own personal life.
To simply wait for the Lord's coming can be such a passive attitude. But to thirst for the Lord is an activity, an act of the will, that calls us to pray well and reach out frequently to those around us with the spiritual and corporeal works of mercy.
With that attitude, together let us pray and thirst for a true spirit of welcome and hospitality for the hundreds of people to visit our Shrine during the Festival of Lights that begins in less than two weeks.
Father John Sullivan M.S.
ONE OF THE BEST WAYS
TO LOVE OUR GOD WHO WE CANNOT SEE IS TO LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR WHO WE CAN SEE
Many of us Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette have just returned from our recent assembly in Orlando, Florida. It was a wonderful time as we came together; laity, brothers and priests, and also one of our La Salette Sisters, from many different parts of our Country. We gathered to share the ministry we do together to preach the Gospel and make known the message of Our Lady of La Salette.
One experience I will long remember is one of our priests from Texas telling us how he was able to help hundreds of his people who had suffered from the terrible floods that occurred recently in the southern part of Texas. From the money he received from some of our other parishes in Georgia and Florida, he was able to provide money for food, shelter, and repairs for those people who had suffered the greatest loses in his own parish. Many of them were undocumented Mexicans who had already been living in this Country for many years. He was putting into practice the first lines from the Scripture readings of today: Thus says the Lord: "You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan." Those are powerful words to consider, especially as we think of our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico, many of whom still do not have drinking water and electricity even several weeks after the hurricane that so badly devastated their Island.
Jesus gives us a very strong teaching in the Gospel today. We cannot separate our respect and love for our God from the love and respect that we owe to our neighbors who may be suffering and living very close to us. "You shall love your Lord, your God, with your whole heart…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
That is a real challenge. We cannot say we love God who we cannot see if we ignore the needs of our neighbors who we can see. We are all connected. We are the one family of God. It cannot be "us against them." It is only "we" who are the children of God as we strive to respect the dignity, the needs, the hopes and dreams of our sisters and brothers. The refrain before the reading of the Gospel expresses it so well: "Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord, and my Father will love him and we will come to him."
Because of the suffering in Puerto Rico we cannot only pray for them but we can also reach out to them in a plan of action to send them financial support. That is why I ask that we have a second collection next weekend to show our assistance and compassion. "Every little bit helps."
Father John Sullivan M.S.
TO BE SINCERELY TRUE TO OUR GOD IS TO BE TRUE TO OUR NATION AS WELL
A big question that is being raised in our society today is: "What is it to be patriotic?" Some criticize our athletes that "take a knee" during the playing of the national anthem to protest the way African Americans are being treated in our society. Is that right or wrong? Is that honoring our flag or our Country? How does it fit into our belief as Americans to "Honor God and Country?"
I believe that is the answer. If we honor God in truth and simplicity first of all, we also honor our Country. We cannot say: "My Country, right or wrong, " because if our Country goes against the teaching of the Gospel, we have no obligation to obey. In fact we have the duty to protest, to say with our words, as well as our actions - God comes first in our lives. Of course the hope is that we can honor and respect both God and Country, whether we be Republicans or Democrats. Our faith goes to the core of our lives.
That is why Jesus is saying in the Gospel today: "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Yes we have the image of George Washington or Thomas Jefferson on our coins, but we ourselves are created in the image of God. That is the great challenge, to live up to that image, to put on the mind of God or the heart of Jesus.
That is so difficult today in a culture that puts so much importance on material things, of how much money we have, or how much power we have over other people, even members of our own family. Jesus preached something so different - that people are always more important than material possessions or that He came into the world not to be served but to serve others in love and compassion.
Even the Pharisees had to admit: "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth." But Jesus saw through their remarks and with courage He called them "hypocrites." If only we could put the true God first, and live by that, it would do so much to improve our Nation. We would be doing a far better job at helping the poor in our own Nation as well as being an example of peace and justice to other nations around the world.
Yes to truly work to honor and respect our God is also the best way to respect and honor our Nation.
As the Festival of Lights quickly approaches, again we put out the request for volunteers. For example we could use some help giving out the posters that describe the Festival to stores and restaurants in the area so that we could get out the Word to a wider circle. We are grateful for any help that can be given because we know this is a very busy time for most people.
Father John Sullivan M.S.