On Palm Sunday, as I was visiting our La Salettes in Washington, DC, our Presider at Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was the Apostolic Nuncio, Most Rev. Carlo Maria Viganò, DD. His homily touched on the power of Christ’s passion and death to bring about the hope and promise of newlife. I could not help but reflect on this theme in light of where we are journeying as a religious missionary community sent to make the message of the Gospel and the grace of the La Salette event known “to all [God’s] people.”
For the Will of the Father and for Love of Us
New life is for many of us uncharted territory. We experience the challenges of change every day. Sometimes new life is as puzzling to us as it was for Nicodemus in his nighttime appointment and dialogue with Jesus (cf. John 3:1-21). We are all too familiar with the paradox of Jesus’ words in John’s Gospel, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:24). Living out these words is at times a significant challenge.
Archbishop Viganò reminded his palm-waving listeners that the Son of God did not resist or refuse the pending passion and the dying but acknowledged it with absolute fidelity to the will of the Father. Christ moved freely from the crowds’ Hosannas to those in another crowd cursing him, with the soldiers’ mocking salutes.
This conviction on the part of Jesus could only be endured and embraced through love, a sacrificial love for the Father, and all those whom the Father loved immensely. These words, spoken softly with conviction, concluded the homily for Passion Sunday. I left the liturgy set aware and strengthened.
With Gratitude, Passion, and Hope
Now we enter the paschal season, a sacred time to witness the budding and blossoming of new life, the hope and promise of which Archbishop Viganò preached. Shall we accept or shall we embrace this gift of new life, even in our moments of unchartered doubt or in the risk of trusting faith? We know the answer, spoken by our Salettine forebears and confreres. It is found in our La Salette Rule of Life:
Responsive to the needs of the universal and local Church and in conformity with our charism, attentive to the signs of the times and after prayer and discernment, we generously undertake those apostolic tasks to which we believe Providence is calling us. We also willingly evaluate our ministries and regularly renew our apostolic methods, adapting them to present needs and the requirements of our working conditions” (Foundations, #26, pp. 47-48).
This year we journey together in another chronology to new life, the Year of Consecrated Life. Pope Francis, our brother in consecrated life, tells us that he proclaimed this special year with three aims in mind: to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion, to embrace the future with hope. What better blueprint can we propose and pursue? As quickly as this calendar year progresses, we still have much to renew and much to contribute to the task of witnessing our consecrated life.
Pope Francis again reminds us:
As I have recalled many times, we must not be afraid of setting aside the 'old wineskins'; of renewing those habits and those structures that, in the life of the Church and therefore also in consecrated life, we realise no longer respond to what God asks of us today to further his Kingdom in the world; the structures that give us false protection and that condition the dynamism of charity; the habits that distance us from the flock to which we are sent and prevent us from hearing the cry of those who await the Good News of Jesus Christ. (Thanksgiving Day Audience, 2014.)
Having recently celebrated the Feast of the Resurrection, may our joyful alleluias be proclaimed with the additional intention of sharing in the “new wine” of a religious witness brought about by the refounding of our communal life and the renewal of our apostolic methods through prayer, discernment and always with the presence of the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread.
May the love of Our Risen Lord and the message of Our Mother, Mary of La Salette, stir into flame our gift of fraternity, our Gospel service, and our witness as La Salette Missionaries. And may God abundantly bless our La Salette Sisters, La Salette Laity and our many friends who are all co-workers with us in the vineyard of the Lord.