June 15. Friday: The Sacred Heart of Jesus (Feast)
Hos. 11:1-4, 8-9. God’s love for His people is portrayed in warm, emotional terms
Eph 3:8-12, 14-19. The abundance of God’s gracious mercy.
John 19:31-37. The rich grace flowing from the pierced heart of Jesus.
The Heart pierced for love of us
Today’s Scripture readings are especially rich and evocative, on the theme of God’s deep and lasting love for all of the men and women whom He has called into existence. Hosea notably uses feminine imagery for God, who cuddles his children to his cheek, as a mother would with her infant. Paul focusses this love as “the boundless riches of Christ” and urges all the baptised to to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” Our Gospel recalls that moment in the Passion story when the soldiers found that Jesus had already died, and in graphic proof of this, pierced his side with a spear. The evangelist underscores the blood and water which flowed from that pierced heart, by alluding to the testimony of an eye-witness. Then comes the evocative invitation to contemplate that scene of total self-emptying: “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”
Based on the “Heart of Jesus” as a symbol of love, the Church has always had a devotion to Christ as the incarnate love of God. A key text in St. John is: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believe in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” [Jn. 3:16] This – when linked with today’s Gospel text about the piercing of Jesus’ side as he ung upon the cross, – gradually led to an explicit homage to the Heart of Jesus as the symbol of God’s love for us.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, within the fervent atmosphere of the Cistercian monastic reform, we find the first clear signs of devotion to the Sacred Heart. But it was not until 1670 that the idea of a formal Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was promoted publicly by St Jean Eudes (1602-1680). Soon afterward, this gained great impetus through the visions granted to Margaret Mary Alacoque in the convent of Rue de Bac (Paris), whose intense devotion to the Heart of Jesus urged her to “diffuse the treasures of His goodness,” convinced that He had chosen her especially for this work.
In the following century, many requests to Rome to officially recognize the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were turned down. But in 1765, at the request of the Queen of France, the papacy allowed the Feast to the Sacred Heart to be celebrated in France. A century later, , at the petition of the French bishops, Pope Pius IX extended the Feast to the universal Church, with an emphasis on the need for reparation for sins and abuses whether personal or social. Today, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is centered around the heart of Jesus as the emblem of Divine love. By this characteristic, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is naturally defined.
First Reading: Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9.
“Hear the word of the Lord, O people. ‘When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the more they went from me. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk. I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to the cheek. I went down to them and fed them.
How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and no human being, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.'”
Second Reading: Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19.
Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things; so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name. I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Gospel: John 19:31-37.
Since it was the day of Preparation, the Jews did not want the bodies left on the cross during the sabbath, especially because that sabbath was a day of great solemnity. So they asked Pilate to have the legs of the crucified men broken and the bodies removed. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once blood and water came out. (He who saw this has testified so that you also may believe. His testimony is true, and he knows that he tells the truth.) These things occurred so that the scripture might be fulfilled, “None of his bones shall be broken.” And again another passage of scripture says, “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”