|Our Lady of Lourdes
Psalm 8:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
“God looked at everything he had created, and he found it very
good.” (Genesis 1:20)
We have created God in OUR image. This image not only seems to make him/her look like an old man with a long flowing beard, but makes him/her vindictive, judgmental, revengeful, untrusting and in need of retribution and sacrifice and then MAYBE s/he will forgive us. This is not the image of God that Genesis, or the rest of the Bible, portrays to me.
What is the ‘image’ that we have of God from the creation stories in Genesis? S/He is creator. S/He evaluates everything and appreciates what is good. S/He blesses others and empowers them to do good. S/He has relationship with all s/he created.
Therefore, since we have been created “in his/her image,” it follows that we are to be creators/creative, to bless others. (Bless means to ‘make happy’ and ‘bestow favor on’. Jesus has told us ‘others’ includes everyone, even those we do not like or who we consider our enemy.) We should also appreciate what is good, empower others to do good, and be in relationship with all that God created.
In the Gospel today, Jesus accuses the Pharisees and scribes of hypocrisy, because they nullify the word of God in favor of their own (human) tradition. We too have nullified a benevolent, all-forgiving God who wishes to have a personal relationship with each of us in favor of a mean and contemptible God who demands perfection and inflicts harsh punishments.
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Bernadette saw the first apparition of “The Beautiful Lady” on February 11th 1858. She would see her a total of 18 times over the next six months and come to know her as The Immaculate Conception. Lourdes is the most famous of Marian shrines and is very popular for pilgrimages. The small spring that Bernadette found in response to The Lady’s directions still produces 27,000 gallons of water a week. It has remarkable healing power, though it contains no curative properties that science has been able to identify.
Bernadette suffered considerable ridicule from anti-religious officials and the media of her day. They would misrepresent and distort Bernadette’s reports of the visions trying to discredit her. The civil authorities tried to frighten Bernadette with imprisonment expecting her to recant her accounts, but she remained faithful to the vision. Even her parish priest and her parents were concerned and doubtful of her honesty and sincerity for a time.
Bernadette said the rosary with The Lady during each of her apparitions. Bernadette’s whole attitude throughout the time of the apparitions was one of humble obedience* and availability to The Lady and what she asked Bernadette to do.
Bernadette submitted to multiple psychiatric examinations and received all visitors who wished to hear her tell her story. She surrendered herself to all of this without hesitation, question or complaint. She saw it as an opportunity to fulfill the request of The Lady for “penance for sinners.” Bernadette remained innocent and pure and above reproach throughout her life.
We are called to be equally humble and obedient (receptive*); equally
as unconcerned about ourselves; and to be open and available to God’s creative
work within us. Lord, may we be more like Mary and Bernadette and
listen to the murmuring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and answer ‘yes’
to God’s will in our lives. In so doing, may we communicate God’s
loving image to others in our own unique, creative way. Amen.
NOTE: *Other reflections on this site recently have discussed the
origin of obedience (obey) as coming from the Latin ‘ob audire’ which means
to listen. I think it is important that we keep this in mind, especially
since our ‘human tradition’ is to think of obedience as compliance or conformity
to another’s will. This does not sit well with our independent nature.
For myself, it is a much more attractive idea to think of obedience as
being able to listen or of having a receptive heart than to following commands
or instructions of another. With this explanation obedience becomes
much more a model of love rather than compliance to someone else’s will.*
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