Finding Peace in the Heart of Christ: Feast of the Sacred Heart
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB –
Theme: “Finding Peace in the Heart of Christ: The Heart is Love”
Point of reflection: Draw the image of the heart and then, draw the image of love! You will see that the way the heart looks is the same way love looks. This entails that the heart is love and love is the heart. Dear children of God, the celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the celebration of the love of God. Love is revealed to us in the incarnation, the redemptive journey which Jesus Christ made on our earth, culminating in the supreme sacrifice of the cross. And on the cross it showed itself through a new sign: “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water” (Cf. John 19:34). This water and blood of Jesus speak to us of self-sacrifice brought to the last extreme: “It is finished” (Cf. John 19:30) this means that everything is achieved, for the sake of love. We are breathing today because of the love of God.
First Reading: Hosea 11:1.3–4. 8c-9
Responsorial Psalm: Isaiah 12: 2–6
Second Reading: Ephesians 3:8–12.14-19
Gospel: John 19:31–37
Sermon (Reflection): The Scriptural readings of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus point to the very reality of the love of God on humanity and calling all Christians to find peace in the Heart of Jesus Christ. In the first Scriptural reading from Hosea (Cf. Hosea 11: 1-9), the Lord is telling the people of Israel about the love of the son and in the gospel we encounter the Son being pierced in the heart, thus, the love of God. The Lord is saying “when Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt, I called my son … my heart recoils within me”, this is the love that God has offered to humanity. The heart of the Lord recoils within, as Christians, how is our heart? God has loved us, are we loving others in true faith? This is a calling to us Christians to look at the heart of Jesus as love and share that love within our hearts and offer it to others.
The second Scriptural reading (Cf. Ephesians 3:8–12.14-19) is inviting the Disciples of Christ to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. There is a famous saying which says “you give what you have”, you cannot love others if you do not have love, hence, St Paul in his letter to Ephesians is calling us to first know the love of Christ, and it is by knowing the love of Christ that we ourselves can love. This love of Jesus Christ has been manifested on the Cross.
In the Gospel (Cf. John 19: 31-37), we encounter the narration of the events that happened at Calvary. Probably, the Jews were afraid that as it was Friday, just a day before the Sabbath, the three crucified men could walk away and disappear, then, they ordered that their legs be broken so that they cannot move. The soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves as they were still alive, but to their surprise, Jesus was dead and it was useless to break his legs that is why the soldier decided just to pierce Jesus’s side, just to confirm, is it true he is dead! This was meant to fulfil the Scriptures which states that “not a bone of him shall be broken” … “they shall look on him whom they have pierced”. The piercing of Jesus’ Heart was a fulfilment of the Scriptures. Indeed Jesus Christ is the son of God. God so loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation for our sins (Cf. 1 John 4: 10b).
As human beings, we often reject this love of God and have done so throughout our past human life. But the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus does not cease upon rejection; it loves all the more. When the soldier pierced Christ’s side, His heart did not close but instead opened, and out flowed the blood and water of our redemption. Are closing or opening our hearts as Christians? It is the great mystery of this total and reckless love of Christ for us, and the invitation to share in it and love in return, which marks devotion to the Sacred Heart. We are called to love as totally and recklessly as Him who gave His life for us.
“Once there came out blood and water”, it is the same Blood that Jesus Christ said, my blood is the blood of covenant forever (as well-reflected in the sermon of last Sunday on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi-the Body and Blood of Christ). We need to live in the Blood of Covenant for Ever. Two images to reflect: Blood and Water. Without blood a person definitely will die, this automatically means that every human being needs Blood to live at all cost. And we say, water is life, imagine without water on this planet, how will the world be like? Hence, blood and water is at the core of human life. This is the very reason that during the liturgy of Eucharist, before the consecration, the priest or the deacon or the acolyte mixes wine and water which becomes the Blood of Christ through the process of transubstantiation. We need the Heart of Jesus Christ because that is where the love of God is.
Christian Act in Word of God “The Heart of Christ is Love”
Today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus became officially part of the liturgical calendar in 1856, with much earlier roots as it had been one of the greatest devotions of Christianity. The Sacred Heart stands as a powerful symbol of the whole human body of Jesus Christ. The heart is at its core, representing the very real life of Jesus our Saviour; a heart which was formed in Mary’s womb; a heart which beat as he preached the Good News and healed the sick; a heart that stopped on the cross and was then pierced by the soldier’s lance. It is also the heart that beat once more at the Resurrection and continues to do so for us today. As Christians, we are called to deeply reflect on our hearts; are our hearts a place of peace? Are our hearts places of healing? Are our heart places of love for others?
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is therefore a powerful reminder of the love of Christ poured out for us all, Christ with His heart has offered peace to the world.
It is a heart that can teach us that, through grace, we too are capable of loving God, ourselves and others to a degree which we may have thought impossible. As we read in our second reading today; the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:5).
On the solemnity of Sacred Heart of Jesus a few years ago, Pope Francis synthetically described the call of the Heart of Jesus Christ: “Jesus wanted to show us his heart as the heart that loved so deeply. This is why we have this commemoration today, especially of God’s love. God loved us, he loved us with such great love. I am thinking of what St Ignatius told us…. He pointed out two criteria on love. The first: love is expressed more clearly in actions than in words. The second: there is greater love in giving than in receiving.”
As true Christians, as we are celebrating the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we need to reflect about our lives: am I showing and expressing my love in words or actions? In the expression of my love, am I giving or receiving? Most of us, we tend to receive not to give, love is more in giving than in receiving. This needs to be expressed in actions not just in mere words. It is an ultimate call for me and you today, to express our love in action and in giving not just in receiving. God the Father gave us His Son, and the Son has given us His Heart where the Blood and Body of Christ is shared to us Christians.
The Criteria of expressing love in action and in giving are like the pillars of true love: deeds, and the gift of self. The shepherd close to his flock, to his sheep that he knows one by one. The Lord loves us tenderly. The Lord knows the beautiful science of caresses — God’s tenderness. He does not love us with words. He approaches us, and in being close to us gives us His love with the deepest possible tenderness.
We need the faith and humility that prompted St Augustine to write: “You have made us for you, O Lord, and restless will our heart be until it rests in you” (Confessions, 1,1,1 – PL 32,661).
Action: I will open my heart to love others: I will express my love in action and in giving not receiving and not just mere words.
Prayer: O Lord Jesus Christ, my heart is restless until it rests in your Heart. May the blood which flows from Your Heart ever flow in the veins of my soul and heart. You give life to all things by the rays of Your goodness by love! Help me to love others with true love and strengthen me in my daily living. May the Heart of Jesus Christ be the king of my heart: Blessed be God, Amen