ACTS 4: 13 – 21
In those days: When the rulers and elders and scribes saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they wondered; and they recognised that they had been with Jesus. But seeing the man that had been healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred with one another, saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is manifest to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to any one in this name.” So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people; for all men praised God for what had happened.
The Word of the Lord
Psalm 118: 1, 14 – 21 (R.) 21a
R/. I will thank you, Lord, for you have answered me.
Give praise to the Lord, for he is good;
his mercy endures forever.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he was my saviour.
There are shouts of joy and salvation
in the tents of the just. R/.
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty deeds;
his right hand is exalted.
The Lord’s right hand has done mighty deeds.”
I shall not die, I shall live
and recount the deeds of the Lord.
The Lord punished me, punished me severely,
but did not hand me over to death. R/.
Open to me the gates of justice:
I will enter and thank the Lord.
This is the Lord’s own gate,
where the just enter.
I will thank you, for you have answered,
and you are my saviour. R/.
Psalm 118: 24
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
MARK 16: 9 – 15
When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After this he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterwards he appeared to the eleven themselves as they sat at table; and he upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
REFLECTION: Softening Your Heart*
April 23, 2022
But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those who saw him after he had been raised. (Mark 16:14)
Why did the Apostles fail to believe Jesus had risen from the dead? They had seen so many amazing miracles first hand from Jesus. They lived with Him day in and day out for three years. They heard Him preach and teach with perfect authority and grace. And now, after He rose from the dead, their hearts were hardened and they did not immediately believe. Jesus had to appear to them and offer this proof to their own eyes.
This struggle that the Apostles went through is one that is all too common. It’s the struggle of a hardness of heart. They wanted to believe, but they couldn’t let themselves freely embrace the Resurrection with true faith until they had some proof. Little did they know that all the proof they needed was already within them.
So often we are invited by Jesus to have faith and believe in Him and to accept many things as a matter of faith. The gift of faith is like a small flame within our hearts that we carelessly expose to the winds. This carelessness allows the flame of faith to be extinguished before it can grow.
The goal of our Christian walk is to let that flame of faith become the blazing fire that God wants. And it’s possible! It’s entirely possible to let that flame become so all-consuming that nothing can put it out. Are you willing to do what you need to so as to let that flame glow brightly? And how do we do this?
The path to this blazing fire of faith within has to do with the way we handle that spark which is already there. We have to care for and nurture that small flame. We have to treat the beginnings of our faith with great care. We must guard it and feed it so that it grows. This is done, in part, by avoiding carelessness in our life of prayer.
Prayer is the key to letting God grow within. He is there, speaking to us and calling us to believe. Every time we doubt, or harden our heart, we expose that tiny flame to the elements. But every time we intensely focus upon that flame, we enable it to grow and take hold. Praying, listening, seeking, loving and believing are the ways to the faith God wants to bestow upon us. And if the Apostles would have just let that gift of faith, planted deep within, grow by a softening of their hearts, they would have quickly and easily believed that Jesus was alive without having a need to see Him with their own eyes.
Reflect, today, upon the fact that we do not see the Resurrected Christ in a physical way, but we do have the same ability as the Apostles to know and love Him. What are you doing every day to let this love and knowledge of Christ grow? What are you doing in your own faith life to let this flame become a blazing and all-consuming fire? Recommit yourself this day to prayer, and watch your faith in Christ grow brightly!
Lord, I love You and I believe in You. Help me to fan the flame of faith planted in my heart into a blazing and all-consuming fire. Help me to know and love You so that this knowledge and love transform me. Purify my soul by this fire and free me from any hardness of heart. Jesus, I trust in You.