01Jul 01 July, Friday – Feast of the Sacred Heart

The text for this feast is also in our Sundays & Feasts section

Deuteronomy 7:6-11. God’s fidelity to his chosen people, who are dear to his heart.

1 John 4: 7-16. Our loving God has poured his love into us, through his Son and the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 11:25-30. To know Jesus is our sure way to know and love our gracious Father.

Bidding Prayers

We pray for all who share in unfolding this picture to us, for our ministers and preachers who enlarge and enrich our understanding of you, and help us to respond to your love. {Lord Hear us (Response: Lord graciously hear us.)}

We pray for peace in the world for countries where there is war, and for forgiveness in places where there is hatred between races and religions. {..}

We pray for all those who bear the responsibility of leadership amongst the nations of the world, give them wisdom to know and courage to do what is right and may they all come together to try to find the path of truth, freedom and peace which is your will. {..}

Help us by your presence to overcome any nasty or hasty speech that causes hurt to others, to be free from greed and selfishness, from pride and jealousy that spoil our life. {..}

Help us to be free from moodiness and wanting our own way. Let your presence help us to care about the feelings of others, to be gentle and ready to say we are sorry. {..}

Help us to live so that our lives may reflect your way for the world. You can heal all our ills and deliver us from every kind of trouble. Make us whole we pray, both in mind and spirit that we may be agents of your healing in the world. {..}

Lord, we bring to you the sufferings of all humankind. The despair of the homeless, the sighing of prisoners especially of those held unjustly, the pains of the sick and injured, the helplessness of the aged and frail. {..}

His Heart and Ours (Virginio Bressanelli, Superior General of the Sacred Heart Order)

Today’s Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates the visible mystery of the love of God for mankind. Our basic attitude, a theological perception of history, receives its light and power from today’s Sacred Heart liturgy in the biblical texts selected for us by the church.

Our central focus is the mystery of the God of Love, made visible in the person of Christ and revealed to children and those who, like him, are meek and humble of heart. I invite you to take a good look at today’s readings, not to explain them to you but to have you contemplate them and apply them to the reality that is our Region of Canada. A region understood as “one body, one spirit,” with an important vocation and mission in this part of the world and at this particular period of history.

We often speak of God. We call on him to share our various enterprises, sometimes realistically and sometimes in ways that are too remote and idealistic. Today’s liturgy speaks to us of God from three standpoints:

– From the perspective of God’s nature: for God is love;

– From the perspective of Israel’s religious experience of God;

– From the perspective of Jesus: the love of God incarnate.

1. “God is Love”: Love is not a quality or virtue of God; it God’s his nature, his essence, his being. This great affirmation is made by the Apostle John in today’s second reading. He develops this theme by saying:

– God loved us first;

– God revealed his love by sending us his son so that we could have life in him;

– God’s love is absolute to the degree that his son’s life was sacrificed;

– God’s love is diffused through the gift of the Holy Spirit who allows us to live in Christ.

These are consequences that flow from God’s gift: we ourselves are called to love, to be images and likenesses of God particularly through love toward him, a love manifested in mutual love for each other. The reading goes on to say:

– The one who loves is born of God, whereas whoever does not love does not know God;

– Those who love dwell in God, and God in them.

An understanding of this mystery of God, revealed and seen as “Love,” inspires the entire life of our order. This is the heart of our spirituality and apostolic work. Our order must deeply contemplate and witness to the fact that “God is love.” This means that one must make a quality choice: to prioritize being over doing; to discover what our primary mission is: to proclaim the gospel of love.

2. The Experience of the love of God: The reality of the “God of Love” is understood only when we experience it in history, in our personal and community lives.

The first reading helps us understand that the love of God is real and concrete. The people of Israel experienced it in being freed from slavery and in being chosen and covenanted by God. This liberation gave them their own land, a sense of nationhood, human dignity, and real happiness. As a result of the Covenant, the people chosen by God was consecrated to him and afterwards belonged to him.

The basis of all this was a totally gratuitous love and a free choice on God’s part. It was not Israel’s merits that won over God’s benevolence; instead, Israel is the smallest of peoples and without any gifts that deserve God’s attention. God chose Israel simply because he loved it and because he is faithful to the promise made to its forebears. God’s love is constant.

3. United in the mission of Christ, who was meek and humble of heart: The filial bearing of Jesus toward the Father as well as his solidarity with humanity are at the core of Our Lord’s life, his cause, and his paschal destiny. In the Gospel Jesus invites us to himself and proposes himself as the model to follow and to imitate; further, he offers his fraternal support to those who suffer and who are victimized by whatever sorrow or burden, whether physical or spiritual.

His meekness and humility of heart express, before all else, his totally trusting relationship with the Father. He identifies himself as the first among Jahweh’s poor. In fact, he expresses the mercy of God toward the smallest, the poorest, the suffering, the alienated and marginalized, the persecuted and misunderstood. His deepest desire is to lift them up out of their anguish and misery and bring them freedom, peace, and complete joy. That is the spirit which we too are called to incarnate, and to exercise in our ministry.

My yoke is sweet and my burden is light

The Feast of the Sacred Heart appeared relatively late in the Church’s calendar. The proper object of this celebration is the love of Jesus for each of us as symbolized in his heart of flesh. The essence of the mystery which it celebrates is the merciful love of Christ, a love he offers to all who come to him with faith and the willingness to obey his teaching. That he loves us in this way was revealed already in the lifetime of Jesus. But it required many centuries before this revelation of divine love for sinners was associated with the heart of our Lord and made the object of a special veneration in the liturgy and in various devotions that have had a wide and continuing appeal to devoted faithful.

We have his own word for the fact that our Lord’s love for us is a sweet yoke and a light burden. In our better moments, especially when we succeed in putting into practice some particular act requiring self-denial in the interest of service to another or in resisting temptation against God’s law, we experience the joy that does indeed make the yoke sweet. But we do not have to live too long before we find that fidelity to God can weigh heavily upon us. At times it seems impossible to practice forgiveness from the heart, especially when we feel betrayed by one we have trusted. The burden can feel very heavy when we are subjected day after day to petty annoyances, insensitivity, lack of appreciation. It requires no great exercise of imagination to draw up a lengthy list of situations in which we feel anything but the lightness and sweetness of love as we strive to implement the Lord’s commandments.

We must not give up on ourselves. On the contrary, when Jesus spoke these words he prefaced them with an invitation precisely to those who experience the weight of oppression and the burdensome trials of life, including the ingratitude of people for whom we have sacrificed our self. Come to me all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. He does not say he will remove the burden or free us from labor; rather he promises a rest and a sweetness that can be known only by transcending the sufferings and anxieties and trials that we meet with day by day. We must come to terms with them, and while absorbing their impact pass beyond a mind-set that ties us down to the limited horizons of our immediate surroundings. The love of Christ beckons us to take this step into a higher and nobler world where his love gives meaning to our struggles and sufferings. Fidelity to his promise and perseverance in our search is the way to discover the truth of his words. If we suffer with him then we shall also rise with him. Unless we remain faithful in times of stress and trial, we shall be unable to taste and see that the Lord is good to us.

Unconditional Love (Rodney Kissinger, S.J.)

Before the beginning of time, before creation, God existed all alone. The love of God was the only love there was then. The love of God is the only love there is now. And the love of God is the only love there will ever be. We are not creators we are only receivers and transmitters of the love of God. And we can transmit only as much as we receive. To tell us of His love, God sent his only Son. “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus is the greatest expression of the love of God for us and the greatest expression of the human response to that love.

Jesus was divine, the Son of God. He was also human, the son of Mary. He spoke with divine authority but he spoke in human language. He spoke in the simple language of ordinary people of his day about the things they were most familiar with: the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the sower and the seed, the vine and the branches. When he wanted to tell his apostles how important they were he said that they were the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” And when he wanted to tell us of God’s love for us he used the heart, the human symbol of love. He told us that we should learn of him that he was meek and humble of heart and we would find rest for our souls.

The contemporaries of Jesus knew this meek and humble heart of Jesus and they knew that it beat with unconditional love for them. Rough, simple fishermen leave their boats and nets to follow him. Learned doctors sit at his feet to hear his wisdom. A tax collector leaves his money table to become his disciple. Multitudes follow him for days, so captivated that they forget to provide food to eat. The sick fight their way through the crowds just to touch the hem of his garment. And they all found peace and rest for their souls.

Never before has the unconditional love of the Sacred Heart been as relevant as it is today. We live in the information-centered society of the World Wide Web and the Internet. There is a lust for knowledge. This “info mania” has produced an unbelievable amount of information and data all of which can be stored on a small silicon chip and called forth at will. We can no longer see the forest for the trees. The sheer volume of all of this information has made this the age of the digest, the logo and the symbol.

Theologians are saying that amid the chaos it is necessary to capture the transcendent in a symbol that is relevant for you; in other words to capture the unconditional love of God in a symbol that is relevant for me. Jesus has already done this for us in his Sacred Heart. “Learn of me that I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your soul.”
The Sacred Heart is the symbol of the fidelity of the love of God. It reminds us that God loves us unconditionally with a love we cannot earn or ever be worthy of. And he loves us for ourselves, not as we should be, or possibly could be, but as we are with all of the physical warts, psychological quirks and spiritual infidelities.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is most relevant today because not only is this the information-centered society, but it is also an age of anxiety, fear, insecurity and despair. Every year more than a million and a half Americans suffer heart attacks. Heart failure is the leading cause of death in America today. Heart failure is also the most avoidable cause of death because long before the patient is rushed to the emergency room trouble has been going on in the heart: in the fearful heart, the anxious heart, the discouraged heart, the lonely heart, the rejected heart, the angry heart and the sinful heart. The root cause of all of this heart trouble is the failure to know and trust the meek and humble Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Heart as Centre (Pope Benedict XVI)

(from a Sunday Address at the Angelus in Saint Peter’s Square)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am pleased to recall that this month is traditionally dedicated to the Heart of Christ, symbol of the Christian faith, particularly dear to the people, to mystics and theologians because it expresses in a simple and authentic way the “good news” of love, compendium of the mystery of the Incarnation and Redemption. Last Friday, after the Most Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the third and last feast following Eastertide. This sequence calls to mind a movement toward the centre: a movement of the spirit which God himself guides. In fact, from the infinite horizon of his love, God wished to enter into the limits of human history and the human condition. He took on a body and a heart. Thus, we can contemplate and encounter the infinite in the finite, the invisible and ineffable Mystery in the human Heart of Jesus, the Nazarene. In my first Encyclical on the theme of love, the point of departure was exactly “contemplating the pierced side of Christ”, which John speaks of in his Gospel (cf. 19: 37; Deus Caritas Est, n. 12). And this centre of faith is also the font of hope in which we have been saved, the hope that I made the object of my second Encyclical.

Every person needs a “centre” for his own life, a source of truth and goodness to draw from in the daily events, in the different situations and in the toil of daily life. Every one of us, when he/she pauses in silence, needs to feel not only his/her own heartbeat, but deeper still, the beating of a trustworthy presence, perceptible with faith’s senses and yet much more real: the presence of Christ, the heart of the world. Therefore, I invite each one of you to renew in the month of June his/her own devotion to the Heart of Christ, also using the traditional prayer of the daily offering and keeping present the intentions I have proposed for the whole Church.

Next to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the liturgy invites us to venerate the Immaculate Heart of Mary. With great confidence let us entrust ourselves to her. Once again I would like to invoke the maternal intercession of the Virgin for the populations of China and Myanmar struck by natural calamities and for those who are going through the many situations of pain, sickness, material and spiritual poverty that mark humanity’s path.

First Reading: Deuteronomy 7:6-11

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set His love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the Lord loves you, and is keeping the oath which He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations, and requites to their face those who hate Him, by destroying them; He will not be slack with him who hates Him, He will requite him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command you this day.

Second Reading: 1 John 4: 7-16

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

Gospel: Matthew 11:25-30

At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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