Daily Reflection April 16 2008: St. Bernadette Soubirous

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About the Saint:

St. Bernadette was born 1844 a peasant girl in the picturesque town of Lourdes in France. She was the daughter of a Miller and his wife, and was the oldest of six children. The name she was given at her baptism was Marie Bernarde, although she was affectionately known to her family and neighbours as ‘Bernadette’. After a childhood of extreme poverty, at the age of fourteen she received eighteen Apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Massabieille Rock near Lourdes. The first was on February 11 1858 and the last on July 16 the same year. Bernadette explains these visions in her own words:

” I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river, but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads.

At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my rosary was. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it, and my hand just fell down. Then the lady made the sign of the cross herself, and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the rosary while the lady let her beads clip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I stopped saying the Hail Mary, she immediately vanished.

I asked my two companions if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course, they wanted to know what I was doing, and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn’t know who she was. I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong, and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place….

The third time I went, the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realize she was not speaking of the Gave, and she indicated a little trickle of water close by. When I got to it I could only find a few drops, mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success, and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water, but only at the fourth attempt was there sufficient for any kind of a drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home.

I went back each day for fifteen days, and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there. I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally, with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven, she told me she was the Immaculate Conception.

During the fifteen days she told me three secrets, but I was not to speak about them to anyone, and so far I have not.”

– from a letter by Saint

After a period in which Bernadette suffered much from the constant questionings and publicity (she once said in despair her image could now be purchased on any street corner for 10 cents), she joined the Sisters of Notre Dame at Nevers where she spent the rest of her life. She died April 16 1879. She was Beatified by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and Canonized in 1933 on December 8 the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

Collect of the Day:

God our Saviour, as we celebrate with joy the memory of the virgin St. Bernadette may we learn from her example of faithfulness and love.

We make our prayer through Jesus Christ your Son Our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, ever One God world without end. Amen.

Today’s Readings:

The First Reading: Acts of the Apostles:12:24-13:5: I want Saul and Barnabas set aside.

The Gospel: John 12:44-50: I, the light, have come into the world.

In today’s Gospel Jesus tells us a piece of wonderful yet sobering news he tells us:

“I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge.”

This is very hopeful for us for Jesus tells us that He came to us on a mission of Divine Mercy, a mission of Salvation rather than one of vengeful judgement. But having said that it is also sobering because He also tells us that the reaction that we have to His teachings and the example that He gives us to follow by His life and actions will serve as our Judge on the Last Day.

So ultimately our fate is in our own hands. Jesus offers us the gift of Salvation but it is up to us how we react to that offer. Does it have a life altering effect on the way we view the world and those around us or is it just business as usual? I have heard some Christians put forth a view which can be called “The once Saved always Saved” theory. What this means is once you accept Jesus as your Personal Lord and Saviour that is that no more work has to be done.

But how does this correspond to the Biblical view of Salvation? St. Paul tells us that:

• Ephesians 2:8-10 – “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.”

But St. James tells us:

• James 2:17-19 – “So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith without works and I will show faith by my works. You believe that God is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that—and tremble with fear.”

These views when we take a cursory look at the situation seem to conflict with each other. Although when you look beneath the surface of the two statements you find that this is not so. Firstly we must understand that the Epistles are what we call ‘Occasional Documents’, what this means is that they were first written as letters to a certain group of people at a certain time in history to address a particular situation.

What Paul is actually saying is that you cannot earn your way into Heaven by good deeds alone. That our Salvation comes as a gift through Christ’s self offering on the Cross for our redemption. While James is combating those who wanted to take this teaching of Paul’s too far, like the ‘Once Saved, always Saved’ people. He tells us that good deeds must come forth as fruits of the faith that we profess as Christians. So we can see that our Faith must be evidenced by our Actions. Each day must consist of our continual turning back to God and following the example of living that Jesus has left us.

Jesus’s teaching in today’s Gospel reminds me of an old saying that I have often heard, That the Gates of Hell are locked from the inside. That those who reside there do so by their own choices. Jesus also said of His followers:

“By their fruits you shall know them.”

Also I believe it is by our fruits we shall be judged.

Msgr. Ian+

Closing Prayer:

Teach us, good Lord,
to serve You as You deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do Your will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. (St. Ignatius Loyola)

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