The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart
[Scripture Readings: Deut 7:6-11; 1 Jn 4:7-16; Mt 11:25-30]
Two major themes of Jesus’ ministry that clearly emerge from the gospels are that Jesus came to announce and inaugurate the kingdom of God and that in his ministry he showed a preference for the weak and the marginal members of society. In doing this he was demonstrating a third characteristic of his ministry: He came not only to tell us about God, but to reveal God to us in his own person. God did not choose the Israelites because they were a great and powerful people. On the contrary, they were slaves. He chose them and redeemed them because he loved them.
Love whether human or divine cannot be earned. It can only be accepted and returned or refused. When Jesus’ disciples asked him who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he told them that unless they accepted the kingdom of heaven like a child they would not enter the kingdom of heaven. Children may elicit our love; they cannot earn it. They own nothing. They can offer no great accomplishments. They can only return our love. This is our stance before God. We have nothing of our own to give him. We can only give him what he has given us: his love. And God’s love is not something extrinsic to himself. It is his very being. God is love.
When St. Bernard wanted to define what it means to be a human being, he said that we are a capax Dei, a capacity for God. How can we, limited as we are receive the infinite God? According to the reading from the first letter of St. John that we just heard we are to love one another, because love is from God and everyone who loves has been begotten by God. Since God is love when we love we do not receive God’s love as something coming from outside of ourselves. We share in God’s being.
This is the yoke and the burden that Jesus calls us to take up. It is easy because it is the yoke that he has carried and that he will support us in carrying. It is the yoke of his self-sacrificing love in which he gave his life so that we might live. It is the love that overflows his heart and that he offers to our hearts. We cannot earn it. There is nothing that we can do to deserve it. We can accept it or we can refuse it. May God grant us the humility to open our hearts to receive his love and return it by loving each other as he has loved us.
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart
[Special Scripture Readings: Deut 7:6-11; 1Jn 4:7-16; Mt 11:25-30]
A fairly common experience is to look back on some task or project that we had undertaken and say, “If I had that to do over again, I would do it differently.” One of the harder lessons that we learn from experience is how not to do something. The positive side of learning by our mistakes is that when the same or a similar situation comes along again we can do a better job. With time we may become proficient. However, the more crucial situations in life are often unique. They are unrepeatable. We are left with our desire for another opportunity, but that isn’t in the nature of things. Or, is it? Perhaps our desire for a new beginning doesn’t go deep enough. I suggest that our disappointments with our projects in life are pointing to a deeper desire, a desire for a new birth. And this is a possibility for us.
The feast of the Sacred Heart does not tell us about some extrinsic attitude God has toward us. It reveals to us the very nature of God: God is love; and it announces that we are called to share in God’s nature, his life, his very being. God sent his Son into the world so that we might live through him, and to live through Christ is not simply a superficial rearrangement of our lives. It is a new birth.
Just as the Son is begotten in the Father’s love and each one of us was called into being in God’s love, so now we are called to experience the perfection of God’s love by entering into the love of the Holy Trinity. God is love and we enter into the life of God by imitating God. God poured out his love in creation. He poured out his love in bringing each one of us into existence. When we refused God’s love, he poured out his love in Jesus Christ to bring us back into his love. He asks us to love one another. We enter into God’s nature by doing what God does.
Jesus has shown us what it means to love as God loves. He calls us to come to him and to learn from him. Will this be easy? Well, yes and no. Jesus came not be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. He calls us to follow him in the way of service, which is the way of the cross. None of us can do this on our own, but God has poured out himself into our hearts. Because the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we can love with God’s love. We can be set free from fear and selfishness that are barriers to love. This will be painful at times, but ultimately it is easier than living in slavery to fear and selfishness.
St. Benedict tells his monks not to run away from the road that leads to salvation because it is difficult at the beginning. As we make progress in life according to the gospel and in faith we will run with our hearts overflowing with love. Encouraged by God’s word and strengthened with his body and blood let us widen our hearts to receive God’s love. Let us love one another as God has loved us so that we can not simply know about God, but actually experience the life of God by entering into the life of the Holy Trinity.