Archive | June, 2009

Sacred Heart of Jesus- Reflection for Mass of June 19, 2009

19 Jun

Friday, June 19, 2009

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

World Day of Prayer for Priests

Readings: Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9; Responsorial Canticle from Isaiah 12:2-6; Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19; John 19:31-37

Each time we gather for Mass, we celebrate the love of God that is the particular focus of today’s Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our Father sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us for no other reason than that “God so loved the world.” (1) Then, out of the reciprocal love between Father and Son came the gift of the Holy Spirit as our everlasting consoler and guide. (2)

The mystery of God’s love would be overwhelming to us were it not a grace granted by the Lord. St. Paul acknowledges in his letter to the Ephesians that this divine favour had been given to him; he is not intrinsically worthy of it. (3) Frequently we can manage no more than awe for the loving presence of God by which we were created and by which we are redeemed. Made speechless, we can only revere and adore, but we are just as often expected to do no more.

Today’s first reading from Hosea begins with the phrase, “Hear the word of the Lord, O people.” (4) Much emphasis in the Hebrew Scriptures is placed on hearing the word of God. For example, the book of Deuteronomy reads: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (5) Hearing, as suggested in both Hosea and Deuteronomy, extends beyond mere sensory perception; to hear is to listen actively to God’s call to love Him and our neighbour as we have been loved by our Lord and as a father loves his child: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.” (6)

God yearns for such closeness with humankind, but the call of God recurrently has the opposite effect than that desired. In the context of the prophecy of Hosea, the more God beckons to us, the more we stubbornly turn from him. (7) However, God will not abandon us to the power of sin. God is prepared to suffer with us and for us. His “warm and tender”  compassion (8) led the Son of God to freely accept a humiliating death for us on the Cross, so that even while we are sinners and we “look upon the One whom [we] have pierced” (9) we are able to celebrate the gift of our salvation.

Both to hear the word of God and to look upon the pierced side of our crucified Saviour are movements of the heart more than of the ears or of the eyes. An attentive love that dwells in our hearts must be foremost in our relationship with God and with each other. The heart can and should be understood as a physical part of each of us- the hidden yet vital organ that circulates the full human blood supply three times per minute and whose hundred thousand beats a day are taken for granted (10)- as well as the centre of love. This dual significance of the heart is appropriate because Jesus Christ, the divine source of all love- the heart and foundation of the Church- became a physical human being like us.

In his encyclical Haurietis Aquas, on Devotion to the Sacred Heart,  Pope Pius XII asserted that, as the humanity of  Jesus is bonded  intimately with His divinity, so three forms of the same love abide in the heart of Christ.  (11) The first is divine spiritual love, between the persons of the Trinity. The second is divine-human love, God’s love for us by which  Jesus took and transforms our human nature, and the third is tangible human-to-human love, expressed in our relationship with one another. (12)

Haurietis Aquas bids us by its title to “draw waters” from the heart of Our Lord (13), the heart that for us was pierced by the soldier’s lance as Jesus hung on the Cross. From that Sacred Heart blood and water spilled forth. St. John Chrysostom wrote in his Catecheses that the blood symbolizes the Holy Eucharist, and the water our Baptism: “From these two Sacraments the Church is born.” (14)

Devotion to the Sacred Heart has acquired several historical dimensions from the contributions of the likes of Sts. Bonaventure, Gertrude, Margaret Mary Alacoque, and, more recently, from Pope Leo XIII, who consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart in 1899, Sts. Thérèse of Lisieux, Mary Faustina Kowalska, and Pio of Pietrelcina, and Popes Pius XII and John Paul II.  (15) Its exact origins are difficult to ascertain, though in the Early Church the Sacred Heart first became equated with the whole Christ, so it has been argued that in this sense the Sacred Heart may be worshipped as we are actually worshipping Christ Himself. (16)

The Sacred Heart is also linked to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the object of tomorrow’s memorial, by the Mother of God’s assent to the conception of Our Lord in her womb. This fact was  impressed upon  me a few weeks ago as I entered Rosary Chapel at Assumption Church and saw a prayer group called the “Alliance of the Two Hearts of Jesus and Mary” being promoted. While indeed the hearts of Jesus and Mary are allied, so I suggest that our hearts- our Church and our Basilian community-  are also to be united with the Sacred Heart of Christ. As the image of the Sacred Heart is affixed in many homes dedicated to it, so let us welcome Christ into our inmost being.

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman’s episcopal motto was Cor ad cor loquitur– Heart speaks to heart. (17) May we then enter into the contemplation of the love of Christ, whose “breadth and length and height and depth… [surpass] all knowledge” but with which we are called to “be filled.” (18) The soldier pierced the Lord’s side,” said St. John Chrysostom. “He breached the wall of the sacred  Temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own.” (19) Let us pray that we may also make this treasure of Christ’s love our own, that it may flow generously from the sacred temples that are our hearts, and that we may joyfully and lovingly radiate it to all those whom we encounter on our way. Amen.