Homily for Friday, 15 June, 2102
The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Hosea 11:1, 3–4, 8c–9 / Ephesians 3:8–12, 14–19 / John 19:31–37
I have come into the Catholic Church relatively late in life. I brought with me the strengths of a personal conversion, extensive biblical study, and years of living out a strong commitment to Jesus. I was drawn to Catholic Faith because of a breadth and depth I did not see anywhere else. That is not to say there are not non-Catholic Christians who have an incredibly deep relationship with God –– there are myriads of such people, but it is my conviction that depth with breadth needs the catholicity of Catholic Faith.
While that breadth drew me to the Church, it also intimidates me. There is so much to Catholic Faith that one person could never embrace every expression and practice. There are “spiritualities” for all cultures, personalities, and educational levels. Some are very intellectually oriented. Others are very subjective –– even mystical. Some are so rooted in what I call “Catholic culture” that it is hard for someone without life-long nurture in the Church to be able to identify and understand both the nuance and the depth a particular spirituality can offer. (I might add, this is one thing that makes it difficult for Catholic and non-Catholic Christians to communicate easily: while it is the same Jesus, both the context and the vocabulary can be so different.)
I have found it important to see that the unity of Catholic Faith is what makes the particular spiritualities so appropriate. Non-Catholic Christians have some good spiritualities, but they become the focus of each particular group so that there is imbalance and distortion of Christian truth (but the Lord, in his mercy, still gives his graces).
One way to express the foundational unity of Catholic Faith is the Incarnation. Of course, all orthodox Christians confess the Incarnation, but Catholic Faith takes it further. Catholic Faith is incarnational. We take matter––physicality––seriously. God works through material substance, even bodies. The Incarnation takes us to the Sacraments.
So, God the Son became Man; Jesus in the flesh is a real, true human being. A recent “favorite” song of mine (I have so many) begins this way:
Look and see; look on this mystery –– the Lord of the universe.... nailed to a tree.
Christ our God, spilling His holy blood, bowing in anguish, His sacred head.
God chose to become like us! He did it to save us! He did it at the price not only of great humility, but also great pain. Using metaphorical language we say, In Jesus we see the loving heart of God.
But it is more than a metaphor. Jesus was made like us. He had a heart that pumped blood throughout his body so he could physically stay alive. When John leaned on Jesus’ chest at the Last Supper he could hear and feel the heartbeat. When the soldier thrust that spear into Jesus as he hung on the cross, it pierced his very real heart and very real blood and water flowed out. That is how much he loves us. That is how much he wanted to save us. That is how much he wants us to know him.
Some Christians are captivated by grace just in hearing and knowing that much. There are others, though, who want to “feel” more deeply, and their own hearts cry out for that. St Margaret Mary wanted to sense the heart of Jesus just as the Apostle John did when he leaned against Jesus’ chest. In some way that most of us may never know, the Holy Spirit enabled her to so focus on Jesus’ heart so that she had a mystical experience of his closeness and love –– and she wanted everyone to draw close to Jesus in that way. The Church concurs and says that is a good thing.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a way for us to focus on one facet of the huge truths which encompass the Incarnation. We may never be able to get much past a mental comprehension of what it’s all about –– and even that, if we give ourselves to it, can transform our lives. But what if the Lord is wanting to draw you and me into the depths of his Sacred Heart? The only way we will know is if we are open, and asking, and seeking: Oh Loving Heart, give me a heart like yours.