Reconciliation – John Robert Lewis
When I think of the word “reconciliation” which is the charism or the gift of the message of Our Lady of La Salette, I cannot help but think of a prophetic person that embodies that Gospel value. I am referring to John Lewis, the congressman from Atlanta, Georgia, who died of cancer so recently.
As a young man he was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He kept up that non-violent approach as a solution to the systemic racism and violence which sadly has been a part of our Country’s history for hundreds of years. When so many insisted that only violence could overcome embedded violence, John Lewis instead chose to practice the radical teaching of Jesus, to: “Love your enemies. Do good to those who persecute you.” He put those words into bold action by being beaten several times for his Gospel beliefs and often going to jail simply for defending the dignity of the people around him.
There are so many people who call themselves Christians and yet are not faithful to this core teaching of Jesus. John Lewis was an authentic disciple of Jesus’ unconditional love, as were Martin Luther King and Father Thomas Merton. That is why John Lewis was called the “Conscience of Congress” – all of Congress, both the Republicans and the Democrats. But that took such courage and perseverance in following his ideals. I love the quote that was often attributed to him: “Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”
I want to quote Dianna Ortiz OSU, Director of Pax Christi USA, on her reflections on the life of John Lewis in her statement of gratitude: “I will forever remember him as someone who took the time to listen to the sufferings of the tortured. ……With few words, he calmly urged those of us who knew suffering firsthand to replace our fears with courage, our hopelessness with hope and our bottled -up rage with non-violent action. John Lewis stood for truth, compassion and love – – – everything that we yearn not just for ourselves, our families, our communities and our world, but for yesterday’s and today’s oppressors. John Lewis was Jesus in our midst.”
“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
Lately it seems like a day cannot go by without a new crisis that strikes us on the local scene as well as the national scene. However, in the midst of these upsetting circumstances, I notice signs of great hope and renewal. It reminds me of the opening lines from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of two Cities
On the negative side it appears that we are up against the perfect storm. So many factors are coming together that, like a tornado, it can do a great deal of damage. I am speaking about the spread of the corona virus, the loss of employment for millions of Americans as an economic result, as well as the ugly surge of racism that has appeared in so many parts of our Country. The sad example of prejudice against African Americans has been part of our American history for hundreds of years: but it seems like it has never been so visible or out in the open as this year of 2020, especially in the example of the killing of George Floyd.
That is why I am so grateful to also point out the positive side of all these circumstances that are happening so quickly. As people of faith and commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, we certainly need a sense of hope and courage that we can get through this and be stronger and more united as a result.
We cannot say the pandemic is coming to an end because there are still thousands of people sick, many of them dying as a consequence. But progress is being made in the discovery of a remedy. The Government has provided financial support for millions of families and individuals that needed support. The “Black Lives Matter” movement has awakened us as never before in our history to the brutal mistreatment we have given to our African American sisters and brothers.
It seems we are changing from a very individualistic approach to one that is more community centered. Both outlooks have value, but we are growing in what some call a “culture of encounter.” As one person observed in a June magazine article of Living City: “What I have learned the most from this is that we are more like the aspen trees that are connected underground through their root systems than the palm trees that grow by themselves. Considering that 38 percent of Americans live alone, what this crisis has taught me more than anything is that it is up to me to start connecting with others who might be alone. Our communities need to evolve, more like aspen trees than palm trees.”
Father John Sullivan, M.S.
See What Love!
(All Saints: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1 3; Matthew 5:1-12)
There are two recurring themes in today’s readings: counting, and purity.
In Revelation we see two groups among the saved: one hundred forty-four thousand from the tribes of Israel, and then a multitude which no one could count. In 1 John, we are counted among (called) the children of God. And there is a list in the Gospel enumerating several beatitudes—a sort of manual of discipleship.
One of these reads, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” John writes, “Everyone who has this hope… makes himself pure.” And in the first reading, the uncounted multitudes “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
The Psalm unites the two themes in these words: “Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord? or who may stand in his holy place? One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean, who desires not what is vain.”
We desire to be counted among the “servants of God,” the term used in Revelation. If we are to be truly faithful in his service, we need to be clean of heart.
This notion is similar to that of pure gold; all impurities have been removed. In moral terms, it refers to the integrity of Christian life, the fullness of Christian love.
In our La Salette context, we can paraphrase St. John: “See what love the Beautiful Lady has bestowed on us
that she calls us her children, her people.” In wearing the glowing image of her Son on her breast, she shows us God’s boundless mercy. Like all of today’s readings, she offers us a bright hope, which, however, is based upon one primary expectation: submission, which she also calls conversion.
This need not discourage us or, worse, lead to scrupulosity. Still, it calls for serious commitment to the person of Jesus Christ and the practice of our faith, humble acceptance of Church teaching, and honest examination of conscience.
St. John tells us that we shall see God as he really is. Let it be our prayer that, with a meek and humble heart, we may have the sure hope of being counted among those who seek God’s loving face.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
(30th Ordinary Sunday: Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40)
No one could ever accuse St. Paul of flattery. So, when he writes to the Thessalonians, “You became a model for all the believers,” he must mean what he says.
How different from the words of the Beautiful Lady! Her people, far from being held up as a model, have earned a completely opposite reputation, which might be called spiritual laziness. After her Apparition, however, a certain number of people, Maximin’s father among them, resolved to restore her good opinion, so to speak.
Reputation is important. None of us likes to be ridiculed, insulted or made to look less than what we think we ought to be. We all would prefer to be known for the good we do than for our faults.
Paul tells the Thessalonians that other Christian communities have heard “how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Thus they observed the Greatest Commandment.
But they observed the Command to love their neighbor as well. They were known for their missionary zeal: “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth.”
La Salette Missionaries, Sisters and Laity have a reputation, among other things, for a welcoming spirit and a desire to promote reconciliation. As individuals we sometimes fall short, but we can hope that it might be said of us that our love for God spills out into love of our neighbor.
We must maintain a certain balance, especially when our faith might be unwelcome in the foreign land that is our modern secular society. It is then that the witness of our Christian way of life most matters.
This includes Paul’s famous list of fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” We might also add the witness of Mary at La Salette: her tears and unceasing prayer, in response to sin and suffering.
In this way we hope to live in peace with all. May our reputation at least arouse curiosity in others, and draw them to the One who draws us.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.
Tell his Glory
(29th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 45:1-6; 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21)
Our Lady told Maximin and Mélanie to make her message known to all her people. Initially, that simply meant to tell people what they had seen and heard. Today’s Psalm suggests, however, a deeper significance.
“Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.” The joyous context of these words shows that, here too, it is not just a matter of communicating information, but sharing the enthusiasm of our faith.
The Beautiful Lady expresses her sadness not only about poor Mass attendance in the summer, but also about the disrespectful attitude of those who go to church in the winter, only to make fun of religion.
We know for ourselves the difference in attending Mass and participating fully in it. Distractions are many and often unavoidable, but our intent at least ought to be, as the psalmist says, to “worship the Lord in holy attire,” responding to his holiness.
Giving glory to God is at the core of the La Salette event. We do so when we honor his name, respect his day of rest, observe Lenten penance, pray faithfully and well, and recognize his fatherly care in our lives.
But it is at the Mass, as the Church’s chief form of public worship, that we can cry out: “Give to the Lord, you families of nations, give to the Lord glory and praise; give to the Lord the glory due his name!”
The Eucharist is called “the source and summit of the Christian life.” Everything else in our life of faith flows from it, and everything leads back to it. In it “is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324).
This has practical consequences for us. Not only should we give God glory in the worthy celebration of the Sacrament, but we should so live in the public square as to “repay to God what belongs to God.”
Isn’t that what Mary was doing when she sang her Magnificat?
St. Paul writes, “For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.” This is a goal which we all should aspire to.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.