Prayers today: The Lord led his people to freedom and they shouted with joy and gladness, alleluia.
Father of love, by the outpouring of your grace you increase the number of those who believe in you. Watch over your chosen family. Give undying life to all who have been born again in baptism. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, whom liveth and reigneth world without end, Amen. Alleulia,
St. Magdalen of Canossa (1774-1835)
Wealth and privilege did nothing to prevent today’s saint from following her calling to serve Christ in the poor. Nor did the protests of her relatives, concerned that such work was beneath her. Born in northern Italy in 1774, Magdalen knew her mind—and spoke it. At age 15 she announced she wished to become a nun. After trying out her vocation with the cloistered Carmelites, she realized her desire was to serve the needy without restriction. For years she worked among the poor and sick in hospitals and in their homes and among delinquent and abandoned girls. In her mid-twenties Magdalen began offering lodging to poor girls in her own home. In time she opened a school, which offered practical training and religious instruction. As other women joined her in the work, the new Congregation of the Daughters of Charity emerged. Over time, houses were opened throughout Italy. Members of the new religious congregation focused on the educational and spiritual needs of women. Magdalen also founded a smaller congregation for priests and brothers. Both groups continue to this day. She died in 1835. Pope John Paul II canonized her in 1988.
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Mark (16.9~15)
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen Him, they did not believe it. Afterwards Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either. Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; He rebuked them for their lack of faith and their hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen. He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation."
The Heart of Man
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)
At the time of writing this, there had recently been an interview with Richard Dawkins the self-professed atheist from Oxford, conducted by a journalist of the Australian Dateline television programme. The journalist repeatedly told Dawkins that he was entirely unusual in his positive atheism (which was correct), but it soon became evident that the journalist himself agreed with much of what Dawkins stood for. They were agreed that religion is the source of great harm and violence in the world, and that this is how it has always been. Now, any sensible religious person would agree that great numbers of religious people have been the source of violence and harm. But this is not to say that “religion” has necessarily been the source of their violence. A person who is an adherent of a religion that inculcates love and justice will, for other reasons, be violent and unjust. He may spectacularly sin against the tenets of his religion. Of course, there may be religions that do indeed incline their adherents to violence. On the other hand, many who profess not to be religious have also been violent and harmful. Did Hitler profess or have any religion, or did Lenin and Stalin? Were the leaders of the French Revolution, and in particular its Terror, religious? The idea is absurd. Napoleon Bonaparte, who brought fire and sword to Europe, at best was a deist, but he was scarcely religious in an active sense. He became a little more so as his days drew to their close on the far-flung island of St Helena. There is no doubt, though, that for modern secular man the profession of religion has been discredited by the crimes of many of its professors. However, all ought understand, including the atheist typified by Richard Dawkins, that the mere fact that a person professes religion and engages in religious practices does not mean that his heart is properly moral and religious. His bad actions exclude him as a representative of true religion. As our Lord said, by their fruits you will know them. Religion is a matter of the heart. That said, the question arises, what are some of the features of the heart that are necessary for true religion?
In our Gospel today, our Lord’s disciples failed in a fundamental requisite for revealed religion. They failed in faith. Specifically, they did not believe the reports by direct eye-witnesses that he had risen from the dead. Inasmuch as the Christian religion depends on the acceptance of certain propositions as being historical facts, this failure in belief was a fundamental failure. For instance, if a person does not believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross and on the third day rose from the dead — and Islam does not accept either — then it is impossible for him to be counted as a Christian. We read that Mary Magdalene “went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterwards Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either." A dispassionate observer might claim that there was nothing wrong with the state of heart of Christ’s disciples in their unbelief. It was just that they lacked, in their view, sufficient evidence. They were not intellectually satisfied by the claims that he had been seen in the flesh. But as a matter of fact, we have it on the word of Christ that what was wrong and what accounted for their lack of belief was the state of their hearts. We read that “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him after he had risen.” This alone shows how religion is very much a matter of the heart. This applies most especially to revealed religion which involves a revelation that is beyond the mere natural. In the nature of the case the heart of man must be properly disposed. If the heart of man is not right, not only will he not practise his religion as he should — and perhaps bring disgrace on revealed religion as a result — but his heart will not even be able to believe. His heart will be too “hard.”
As it turns out, we need the grace of God to properly dispose our hearts to accept the religion he has revealed in his Son Jesus Christ. We need a heart that is not “hard,” a heart that is inclined to believe the testimony of the Gospel. Our Lord said to his Apostles that on his rising from the dead, while they loved him, their hearts were too hard. They failed to believe not because of lack of evidence, but because of a deeper failure. His risen presence before them changed that, and with that they received the mission to make disciples of all the nations. Let us pray that the grace of God will create in us all a new heart, a heart disposed to accept wholeheartedly the Gospel.