Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the symbol of God’s love for us. Which leads to the question: what is love? Merriam-Webster defines love as “a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person.” Not a bad definition. But St. Thomas Aquinas might disagree. Love is more than a “feeling.” Aquinas’ definition of love, found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is this: “To love is to will the good of the other” (CCC #1766). In other words, love is more than having powerful feelings for another person. Love is an act of the will, regardless of one’s “feelings.” This is a simple definition of love. It isn’t complicated. This is how God loves us and how we are to love one another.
Even if we are unfamiliar with Aquinas’ definition, we still can know what love by what it looks like. We recognize it when we see it. We see it when a parent cares for a child with patience, tenderness, and unconditional acceptance. We see it in relationships involving compassion, and self-sacrifice.
Today’s reading also shows us what love – God’s love – looks like. In the Book of the Prophet Hosea, God called the Israelites out of Egypt. The Lord compares the Israelites to a child whom he took in hiss arms, taught to walk, fed, and protected on their journey. The Lord says, my heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. Despite their failings, God loved them.
In the Letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul prays for the love of the Father, strength of the Holy Spirit, and the indwelling of Jesus, so that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what I the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. God’s love is fundamental to all other gifts.
And in the gospel passage reminds us of God’s ultimate act of love. During his passion, Christ held each of us in his heart of love. The Lamb of God was led to the slaughter and sacrificed for our sins. True love has little to do with one’s feelings. It has to do with the commitment of the will to seek the good of the other person, even when those feelings are not there. The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart is all about love. Christ suffered and died for us. This is how God loves us. This is how we are to love one another – with all our imperfections, with all our failings, and brokenness.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.