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 (12:1-7)
Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to His disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
In God’s presence
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
It is a commonplace observation that religion is all too often a matter of mere religious observances. In making such a critique of the religion of very many people, it is not being suggested that religious observances are not necessary for religion. Rather, the criticism is that in such a case religion consists in little more than religious observances. A person goes to church or to synagogue or to mosque on the designated days, but his life for the rest of the time is lived as if God had altogether receded from the scene of life. It is akin to an official religion which keeps the gods happy by fulfilling their basic requirements of ritual. As all know, or as all ought know, religion is not this. True religion is a religion present in, and springing from, the heart of man. It flows out into the duties of his daily life and is manifested in a special way by the heartfelt observance of that worship which God wants. True religion is not merely - though it most certainly includes - the fulfilment of the duty to worship God publicly and privately. It is also the fulfilment of the duties of everyday life for love of Him. Religion should pervade all of life - indeed it ought pervade all of social and political and international life. The significant feature of the modern world when set against the background of previous eras is that life is separated from religion, whereas life has characteristically been pervaded by religion - even if the religion itself has been profoundly faulty. So the question before every person whose religious instincts are alive and seeking to be respected is, how am I to live a life that is genuinely religious? What is the key to a life pervaded by religion rather than a life that turns to religion only on occasion? The key to it is to discover the presence of God and then, by deliberate resolve and policy, to live in it. God is present to man because man constantly draws his life and being from Him. But man must turn his attention to the Divine Presence, discover it, and then abide daily in it with obedient awareness. We must learn to live in the Presence of God. The Christian knows that God has become man and has united us to Himself by the grace of faith and baptism. In our Gospel today our Lord warns His disciples against hypocrisy, which is to say, living with the appearance of religious practice while one’s heart is far from God. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” In essence this means living in the presence of men and seeking their favour while living out of the presence of God and being without regard for His favour. It means having little sense of the Presence of God who sees all. Our Lord continues by reminding His disciples that God sees all and that all will be disclosed before His unerring gaze and judgment. Nothing is, nor will be, hidden from Him. “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” We must abide constantly in the Presence of God, knowing that His favour alone matters, for in Him all will be brought to light and rewarded accordingly. “Abide in My Love,” Christ told His disciples on another occasion. It is the one who abides in His Love profoundly and consistently who has the wherewithal to withstand the pressures and the threats of all that is contrary to God and the moral law. “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him” (Luke 12:1-7). Do not be afraid, Christ commands us. It was a refrain repeated time and again during the pontificate of John Paul II, and its basis is the resolve to abide in the loving Presence of God and Christ. The only one ultimately to fear is God our Father whose love and favour must be the constant basis of our life. All other fears pale before the fear of offending Him. As St Thomas More, one-time chancellor of England said as he approached the scaffold, “Though I lose my head I’ll come to no harm.” Our fear of offending God is the fear of offending one who loves us with a fatherly and everlasting love. He knows every element of our being, for He sustains us moment by moment. “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” On the one hand we fear offending Him, but on the other, if we live in His Presence ultimately we may fear nothing and no one. Living in the Presence of God is the basis of religion.