What she told Bernadette and what it means for us today
The third statement of the Virgin was: “I do not promise to make you happy in this world but in the other.” We know a world of violence, lies, sensuality, profit, and war. But we know also a world of charity, solidarity, and justice. These two worlds exist on our earth. When Jesus, in the Gospel, invites us to discover the Kingdom of Heaven, he invites us to discover in our world, as it is, “another world.” Wherever love exists, God is present.
GOD IS LOVE
To experience God is nothing other than to experience love in this world. To whoever knows how to discover this, Jesus makes the following promise: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God. That is: “you have known how to discover here below this Kingdom and you have lived out your life in this Love.” This is the promise of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette. “I promise that you will discover here below another world.” And, in spite of her poverty, her illness and her lack of education, Bernadette is always deeply happy. That is the Kingdom of God, the world of real Love.
During the seven first Apparitions of the Virgin Mary, Bernadette’s face was radiant with joy, happiness and light. Between the eighth and twelfth Apparitions all changed: her face became hard, sad and sorrowful, and moreover, Bernadette did incomprehensible things. She moved on her knees to the back of the Grotto. She kissed the dirty, disgusting ground of the Grotto. She ate some bitter grass. She scraped the ground three times trying to drink the muddy water, at the back of the Grotto, she tried sucking in a little and then throwing it away, she took mud in her hands and she smeared her face. Then the young girl turned to the crowd with her hands apart. They all said: “She’s mad!” During four Apparitions, she carried out the same actions. What is happening? Nobody understands! We are at the heart of the “Message of Lourdes”.
THE BIBLICAL MEANING OF THE APPARITIONS
These actions are biblical actions. Because “the Lady” asked her, Bernadette acted out the Incarnation, the Passion and the death of Christ. Moving on her knees at the back of the Grotto: this action recalls the Incarnation, God lowers himself to become human. Bernadette kissed the ground showing us that this act of humility is an action of the love God has for his people. Eating bitter grass at the back of the Grotto: when the Jews in the Old Testament wanted to show that God had taken on himself all the bitterness and all the sins of the world, they killed a lamb, cleaned it out and filled it with bitter herbs and then made the following prayer over the lamb “This is the Lamb of God who takes away, who takes on himself, all the bitterness and all the sins of the world.” Smearing her face with mud: when the prophet Isaiah wanted to speak to us about the Messiah he called him “the suffering servant.” “Because he carried on himself all our sins his face no longer appeared human.” He was, Isaiah specifies, “like a lamb led to the slaughter, and on his way the crowd mocked him.” At the Grotto, mud disfigures Bernadette and the crowd cries out “she has gone mad.”
THE GROTTO’S TREASURE
The actions that Bernadette carried out were the actions of freeing something. The Grotto was choked with grass and mud. But why does she free this Grotto? Because it hides an immense treasure, which must be brought out into the open. Thus, at the ninth Apparition, “the Lady” asked Bernadette to scrape the ground, at the back of this “pigs’ shelter,” saying to her: “Go to the spring, drink of it and wash yourself there.” There is only a little muddy water to begin with, enough for Bernadette to drink. At first this water is muddy and dirty then, little by little, it becomes clear.