BY BISHOP DONALD PELLETIER, M.S
The Holy Cross of La Salette.
Appropriately the Feast of the Holy Cross on Sept. 14th is closely linked to the Solemnity of the Apparition of Our Lady of La Salette on Sept. 19th each year. It is not just another happy coincidence because, as we shall see, the two feasts are not only closely interrelated but La Salette is truly a manifestation of the Glorious Cross.
The feast of the Holy Cross, seen in the light of the La Salette apparition, has not only a very strong and powerful message but some very practical and vital applications for our daily living and in a special way our devotion to Mary, Mother of Jesus, and the Mother of the Church.
A Globe of Light was Brighter than the Sun.
When Maximin and Melanie saw that light shining in the narrow hollow and shady ravine, they were blinded by a globe of light brighter than the sun. Their fear, having been dispelled by the welcoming words of Mary: "Come near, my children, be not afraid", they approached the Beautiful Lady.
She called to them and only then did they realize that all the light came from the crucifix that hung from a chain on Mary's breast. The source of that light was the crucifix; all that light “brighter than the sun” had its origin in the cross.
Mary at La Salette projected the Glorious Cross of Jesus. Below her cross were the two cruel instruments of the passion, the hammer and pincers, were encircled by that same light.
La Salette is a call to contemplate, to fix our gaze on the cross of Jesus. Mary's message – the various signs of the apparition – find their meaning and explanation in the light of the Cross. During the entire time of the apparition, the children gazed upon the light that came from the crucifix.
The Cross – A Sign of Contradiction.
That glorious crucifix that Mary projected on her breast brings to mind the biblical scene of Mary standing at the foot of the cross. It also teaches and instructs us as to the true meaning of the cross. We know that the cross – the death penalty of crucifixion – was not only a dishonor but the most shameful, painful and humiliating form of execution. It took some time before the early Christians dared use and honor that symbol. For the Jews it was a scandal, for the Greeks a folly and appropriately many Christians initially had problems understanding the true value and meaning of the cross.
Christ himself had referred to it as an “exaltation”, a “being lifted up” and, with the passage of time, Christians began to see it as a true glorification. There was no reason to be ashamed of the cross because, as a perfect and full revelation of God's love for us, it became the “sign of salvation”.
In light of Christ's words in John's gospel, the Christians really finally understood the cross as a glorification, a perfect revelation of God's love for us. When Jesus prayed, “Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory I had with you before the world began" (John 17:5). We all believe that the glorification was indeed accomplished on the cross.
John is the only evangelist who speaks of Mary's presence at the foot of the cross and the only one to have recorded Jesus's words to his Mother, “Woman, behold, your son" (John 19:26). Those words certainly pierced her heart as she remembered Simeon's prophecy to her on the day of the Presentation, “…and you yourself a sword will pierce so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35).
Mary Becomes the Mother of the Church
The Church was born on Calvary when water and blood flowed from the pierced side of Jesus. Mary standing at the foot of the cross – she who is a perfect model of disciple and member of the Church – would also become Mother of the Church. Thus at La Salette she speaks of "my people", an expression that Vatican II would confirm when it defined the church as People of God.
At La Salette Mary goes on to remind us how she is fulfilling her role as Mother, how in heaven she accomplishes the mission given to her on Calvary. With that heavenly light enveloping both her and the children, she tells them, “How long I have suffered for you... I am obliged to entreat him without ceasing... you will never be able to make up what I have endured on your behalf.”
In heaven Mary continues to intercede for us. This was clearly affirmed by the Fathers of Vatican ll, “Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation” (Lumen Gentium, #62). As Our Mother she will not rest until all her children have safely reached the comfort and happiness of our eternal home. The sufferings she endured at the foot of the cross, accepting to be the mother of her Son’s disciples, that new maternity continues in heaven until the end of the world.
She Constantly Prays for Us and Cares for Us
What consolation for us to know that Mary not only watches over us but is tirelessly interceding for the welfare of all her children. At La Salette through her tears she reveals her mother's heart and the love she has for us. Her maternal care and affection continue in heaven in all the events of our lives. When she speaks to the children of her presence at the “terre du Coin” – where Maximin’s father speaks of his fear of soon not having enough to feed his family – she reveals her loving attention and presence to the most menial, daily events of our lives.
Have We Taken Mary into our Home?
Jesus, having addressed his mother, now turns to us as we stand at the foot of the cross and with a fraternal and filial concern tells us, "Behold, your mother". And then John concludes, "And from that hour the disciple took her into his home" (John 19:27). These are words spoken to us for us from the Glorious cross and therefore can and should touch our hearts and invite us to action.
"Have each of us taken Mary into our home?"
What does it actually mean? This is not another pious devotion to bring warmth and good feelings to our lives. Instead this is the powerful Word of God that comes from Jesus at the most sacred moment of his life.
On the eve of his death he gave us his body and blood as nourishment for our lives and on the cross he gives us Mary as our Mother. Among her heart-breaking appeals at La Salette, Mary tells us, “No matter how well you pray in the future, no matter how well you act, you will never be able to make up to me what I have endured on your behalf."
As grateful children who acknowledge and recognize our Mother's love and care for us, we are invited to live and show compassion through our own prayers and good deeds. Just as Mary lived in perfect communion with her Son, Jesus, she had but one desire – the accomplishment of the Father's will so we, her children, would be like true sisters and brothers of Jesus. Just as Jesus came to us through Mary, we return to Jesus through Mary, who indicates to us the Way of the Glorious cross.
Many of us have serious challenges in dealing with sufferings, trials, sickness, death, poverty, conflicts, failures, injustice. How often we are shocked and scandalized at event in life. How often we revolt against God when things don't go our way. How many people have abandoned their faith in difficult times.
Peter and the other apostles were often surprised and even indignant whenever Jesus would announce his coming passion, suffering and death. During the terrible darkness that often invades our lives we must look at the light that comes from the cross. For us the Glorious Cross is the revelation of God's enduring love for us. John wrote such hope-filled words on which to reflect: “For God so loved the world the he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (John 3:16).
The Holy Cross of La Salette is an invitation to contemplate the cross of Jesus and truly appreciate God's great love for us. As Pope Benedict XVI said: " It is only by seeing himself through suffering that man finds himself, that he finds his truth, his joy, his happiness… The cross forces us to look upon the fact that we are loved by God." Not only to look but also contemplate and assume in our lives God's love for us – that same love that Mary proclaimed at La Salette when she carried that Glorious Cross on her breast.