Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8c-9
Ephesians 3:6-12, 14-19
John 19: 31-37
In 1856 the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus was extended to the universal church. In some ways this is an amazing story that finds its beginning in the years 1673-75 when a nun in an enclosed convent in France, Margaret Mary Alacoque, experienced four visions of Jesus, his exposed heart on fire symbolizing his love for men and women. St Paul expressed this in this way: “The Son of God …loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20). Because his love is often ignored or rejected, Jesus asked Margaret Mary to be his apostle of the devotion to his Sacred Heart.
Our scripture readings explore this mystery. Hosea, prophet to the northern kingdom of Samaria, speaks of God as a parent who loves his children, gathers them into his arms and teaches them to walk. He draws them to himself with bands of love. Then Hosea gives us the beautiful image of God raising them up to his cheeks and stooping low to feed them. The verses that are skipped describe the people’s abandonment of God and their punishment. Immediately following God expresses his hurt and pity and promises to curb his blazing anger. Of course we know that the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians and the people (the lost ten tribes) deported. What we always need to realize that God’s love will not save us from the consequences of rejecting his love. However, we can always count on God our Father to forgive us if we turn back to him…
Paul is overwhelmed with the mercy of God that he has experienced. He prays that Christ may dwell in the heart of every disciple through faith. Then we will know the love of Christ and be filled with all the fullness of God. This is the gift that the loving heart of Jesus desires for each of us.
Finally we come to the hill of Calvary. The struggle is over. The dead body of Jesus hangs from the cross. Significantly John, still standing beneath the cross at the side of Mary, notes that a soldier thrust his lance into Jesus side and blood and water flowed out. The heart of Jesus gives it’s all even in death. On a deeper level John says that the blood of Jesus that we drink in the Eucharist and the waters of Baptism unite us to the new life that Jesus now gives. The collect of today’s Mass, reflecting on the Heart of Jesus, prays that we “may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from that fount of heavenly gifts.”
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.