Homily of Most Reverend Gabriel Malzaire-Bishop of Roseau Sunday, Sep 19, 2021 Feast of Our Lady of La Salette, National Shrine, Pointe Michel
Gen 9:8-17; 2Cor 5:17-20; John 19:25-27
Mary, God’s Universal Ambassador in Times of Crisis
Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Feast of Our Lady of La Salette, I begin my reflection by describing our Blessed Lady as God’s Universal Ambassador in Times of Crisis. I do so based on her role in God’s plan for salvation.
Biblical evidence indicates that Mary existed for the sake of the Saviour of the world. His coming was not accidental; it was part of a predetermined divine plan. In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul tells us: “When the appointed time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). So, the Saviour had to be born of human stock, otherwise, He could not identify with the human cause in the manner that He did.
The Saviour, however, came into a world in crisis. Human beings had lost their way through repeated disobedience. In fact, the entire prophetic writings of the Hebrew Scriptures give testimony to this. So, the world and its people were in a posture of disobedience. Yet, God’s unconditional love never failed. God’s plan was to save His people through His Son, born of a woman named Mary.
At the Annunciation, the angel said to Mary: “Do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord will give Him the throne of His ancestor David; He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and His reign will have no end” (Lk 1:31-33).
At the Presentation in the Temple, Simon took the child Jesus in his arms and said: “Now, Master, you can let your servant go in peace, just as you promised; because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see, the light to enlighten the gentiles and the glory your people Israel” (Lk 2:29-32). And turning to Mary, he said: “You see this child: He is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected—and a sword will pierce your own soul too—so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare” (Lk 2:34-35).
Through Mary, the world once again had a chance to turn to the way of obedience. Her apparitions throughout Christian history, including that of La Salette, Fatima in Portugal, Lourdes in France, and Guadeloupe in Mexico, have always addressed the continued disobedience of humanity. God’s interest in our salvation is always consistent, and God has no plans to change this, simply because it is His very nature to save. But our God is a just God, and He will never impose Himself on us. He only requires our obedient cooperation in the process of our own salvation.
The story of La Salette tells us of the two children, Maximin Giraud and Melanie Calvat who, on the evening of Saturday 19 September 1846 (exactly 175 years today), returned from the mountain where they had been minding cows. They reported seeing “a beautiful lady” on Mount Sous-Les-Baisses, weeping bitterly. They described her as sitting with her elbows resting on her knees and her face buried in her hands. She was clothed in a white robe dotted with pearls; and a gold-colored apron; white shoes and roses about her feet and high headdress. Around her neck, she wore a crucifix suspended from a small chain. According to the account, she continued to weep even as she spoke to them. The message of the Virgin was a call for the people of the whole world to return to God. She equated the people’s sinfulness to a harvest being spoilt. These are the words she is reported to have said to the children:
“Come near, my children, be not afraid; I am here to tell you great news. If my people will not submit, I shall be forced to let fall the arm of my Son. It is so strong, so heavy, that I can no longer withhold it. For how long a time do I suffer for you! If I would not have my Son abandon you, I am compelled to pray to him without ceasing; and as to you, you take no heed of it. However much you pray, however much you do, you will never repay the pains I have taken for you.
Six days I have given you to labour, the seventh I had kept for myself, and they will not give it to me. It is this which makes the arm of my Son so heavy. Those who drive the carts cannot swear without introducing the name of my Son. These are the two things which make the arm of my Son so heavy.
If the harvest is spoilt, it is all on your account. I gave you a warning last year with the potatoes, but you did not heed it. On the contrary, when you found the potatoes spoilt, you swore, you took the name of my Son in vain. They will continue to decay so that by Christmas there will be none left.”
These were the words of a mother in pain over the infidelities and disobedience of her beloved children. She pained because she saw them bringing a crisis upon themselves.
Brothers and sisters, no one can doubt that our world is in crisis. Many are still very distant from God; they have no relationship with God, their Creator. Countless people work throughout the week, without setting time aside for worship with the Christian community. Many who believe in God, fail to practice their faith and be witnesses to the Lord at home, in their neighbourhood, workplaces, and community. Numerous families are engaged in all sorts of activities, except prayer and reflection on the Word of God together. Many of our young people are astray, involved in destructive activities that cause pain to their families and community. There is a lack of interest in things divine. Some say that there is no God. Others choose to befriend the devil and the list goes on. You are aware of the state of our world. Apart from these, the world is facing a major crisis. We are in crisis against an invisible enemy, which we can only fight as a collective, as a people. But are we involved in fighting that fight; and are we doing so together?
In the advent of the Covid pandemic, the world has responded with much anxiety, fear, doubt, and even anger. No single situation in the world today has brought more division than the Covid pandemic, from its origin to its present reality. Absolutely everyone has become an expert on Covid today. Public protests are rampant against vaccination. However, in the meantime, people continue to die by the thousands all over the world each day. In a situation such as this, one is bound to ask: where does God fit in all this? What ought we to do as believing people to combat such a situation? To what extent do we take a theological (divine) approach to the present situation? What must we do as believing people to weather the storms that come our way?
In today’s first reading, God establishes a covenant with his people after the destruction of the flood, which was the consequence of disobedience. God promises never again to destroy the world by a flood. God has no intention of destroying us; God wants us to live in a covenant relationship with Him. He is our God, and we are His people. Ours is the challenge to live as people of God. This requires change from within.
In the second reading, Paul reminds us that “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old order has passed away; now all is new!” (2Cor 5:17). Are you a new creation? Am I a new creation? If Christ means anything to us, we will all be working towards that new world where everyone can experience his or her own fullness. So, we ask ourselves: are we working towards that new world in our present circumstances? Do we even consider ourselves our brother’s keeper or sister’s keeper? Do we care about others? God cares, therefore, we, His people, ought to care.
Then the Gospel presents our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross, being mandated as the mother of all believers in her divine Son. Yes, Mary is your mother, she is my mother, Mary is our mother. As a mother, she cares for us, she is with us in this crisis. Mother Mary intercedes for us and advises us to listen to her Son and do whatever Jesus tells you.
In my opening, I described our Blessed Lady as God’s Universal Ambassador in Times of Crisis. In the story of La Salette, like God, our Lady solicited the cooperation of the people of the village to bring about the required conversion that the world needed at the time. Today, the cooperation of each town and each village is solicited to fight together against and conquer this pandemic. Every young person and every adult of every community is called to action. Ours is a great need. I say to you, therefore, my friends, without limiting the power of God to change the course of events, we are not likely to achieve our end in any miraculous way, even if I wish He would. But certainly, God is counting on all of us to be responsible, and in so doing, He will keep His end of the covenant—His end of the fight.
A covenant is always an agreement between two parties, with equal responsibility. Therefore, overcoming today’s crisis requires our human responsibility. God has always used human beings to cooperate with Him in the process of salvation: Abraham, Moses, the prophets, the kings, and many others. Today He wishes to use our scientists, doctors, governments, and every ordinary citizen, to bring about the required change to this pandemic. The new creation which St. Paul speaks of will not be realized if we remain a polarised people around the issue of vaccination and the adherence to the protocols, without taking positive steps towards the desired results.
Brothers and sisters, the statistics are telling us that 95% of those who are dying and those who are more readily contracting the virus are the unvaccinated people. I do not, for one moment, underestimate the complexity of this present pandemic. But let us not be obstinate about a mere alternative opinion. Let us fight together for the alleviation and elimination of this terrible scourge that is among us. I say to you, those who have not been, please get vaccinated.
May our Lady of La Salette, The Universal Ambassador in Times of Crisis, come to our assistance. Amen!