St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
St Margaret Mary was chosen by Christ to arouse the Church to a realization of the love of God symbolized by the Heart of Jesus. Her early years were marked by sickness and a painful home situation. "The heaviest of my crosses was that I could do nothing to lighten the cross my mother was suffering." After considering marriage for some time, Margaret entered the Order of Visitation nuns at the age of 24. A Visitation nun was "not to be extraordinary except by being ordinary," but the young nun was not to enjoy this anonymity. A fellow novice (shrewdest of critics) termed Margaret humble, simple and frank, but above all kind and patient under sharp criticism and correction. She could not meditate in the formal way expected, though she tried her best to give up her "prayer of simplicity." Slow, quiet and clumsy, she was assigned to help an infirmarian who was a bundle of energy. On December 21, 1674, three years a nun, she received the first of her revelations. She felt "invested" with the Presence of God, though always afraid of deceiving herself in such matters. The request of Christ was that His Love for humankind be made evident through her. During the next 13 months He appeared to her at intervals. His human heart was to be the symbol of his divine-human love. By her own love she was to make up for the coldness and ingratitude of the world—by frequent and loving Holy Communion, especially on the first Friday of each month, and by an hour's vigil of prayer every Thursday night in memory of His agony and isolation in Gethsemane. He also asked that a feast of reparation be instituted. Like all saints, Margaret had to pay for her gift of holiness. Some of her own sisters were hostile. Theologians who were called in declared her visions delusions and suggested that she eat more heartily. Later, parents of children she taught called her an impostor, an unorthodox innovator. A new confessor, Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit, recognized her genuineness and supported her. Against her great resistance, Christ called her to be a sacrificial victim for the shortcomings of her own sisters, and to make this known. After serving as novice mistress and assistant superior, she died at the age of 43 while being anointed. "I need nothing but God, and to lose myself in the Heart of Jesus." Christ speaks to St. Margaret Mary: "Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love.... I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervour you may atone for the offences which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonour me in the Blessed Sacrament."
The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (11.37-41)
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited Him to eat with him; so He went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the One who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
(Homily by Fr. E.J.Tyler)
Our Lord’s indictment of the scribes, the Pharisees and the Sadducees is manifest in the Gospels. But we must not think that all the scribes and all the Pharisees were the object of our Lord’s denunciation. Nicodemus was one of the Pharisees, and though fearful of the censure of his colleagues, he visited Jesus by night to be taught by Him. He defended Jesus among his peers when their hostility was mounting, and he assisted Joseph of Arimathea when the moment came for Christ’s burial. Moreover, at the time of his visits to Jesus by night he said that “we know” that you are a teacher from God - implying that there were others apart from himself who recognized this. At the time of the trial of the Apostles before the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel, a doctor of the law and leading Pharisee solemnly urged restraint and a certain liberality in respect to the new persuasion. Moreover, Paul, though of the party of the Pharisees and intent on destroying the Christian sect, was upright and a true man of conscience. He was a good man though profoundly mistaken. All this is to say that not all the Pharisees were guilty of what our Lord says here. That having been said, our Lord’s words are clear that many were indeed guilty. Let us notice a detail in our Lord’s denunciation of them. We read that when He had finished speaking, He was invited by a Pharisee to dine at his house. We gain the impression, incidentally, that the Pharisees were well off. They were men of means. We notice that our Lord criticizes them for what they do not do with their means - they do not assist the poor. He says in our text that “you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness”. The externals of their religion - those religious observances that were to be seen by others - are clean and polished and present a bright spectacle. But “inside” they are “full” - “full”, let us notice - of both greed and evil. Greed was a principal feature of their moral decay. Our Lord repeats His point in the same passage when He tells his host what he and his colleagues must do. “Give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you” (Luke 11:37-41). They must give of their means to the poor and the effect will be great for their own spiritual condition. It is yet another example of the Christian insistence on the Christ-like service of the poor. Our Lord was filled with compassion for the poor, and he exercised his Divine Power time and again for their benefit. We read that when Judas left the Last Supper, some thought that, having the care of the common fund, he was being directed by our Lord to give to the poor. This implies that part and parcel of the use of monies that came for the sustenance of the Apostolic body was almsgiving to the poor. When Paul eventually came up to Jerusalem well after his conversion to meet with the Apostles, he was assigned by them to work among the Gentiles, with the request that he have a constant concern for the poor. It is an essential feature of the Christian religion that the poor be cared for and that, to the extent possible, we use our means in their service. In our Lord’s description of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25), the Judge will say, "I was naked and you clothed me" - going on to explain that whatever is done to the least he counts as having been done to Him. But of course this is not just a command of supernatural revelation - that revelation granted to man by Christ and by the prophetic tradition prior to Him. It is clearly a command of the natural law to which the conscience of the prudent and good man will bear witness. When disaster hits, aid agencies appeal for generous donations, and the conscience of man sanctions their request. Each person hears the voice of conscience dictating to him that he assist the poor. It is the voice of God being naturally revealed, which is clearer still when supernaturally revealed. The poor have a right to sufficient goods of the earth to meet their legitimate needs, and it is, in effect, stealing from them to leave them in their abject poverty. As the Second Vatican Council states in its decree on The Church in the Modern World, “in his use of things man should regard the external goods he legitimately owns not merely as exclusive to himself but common to others also, in the sense that they can benefit others as well as himself” (GS, 69, 1). Our ownership of goods makes us a steward of God’s fatherly Providence, with the task of making it fruitful and communicating its benefits to others - first of all, of course, to those for which one is directly responsible, but also for all those in need. Let us resolve to use the good things God has given us for the benefit not only of ourselves, but for all those in need.