Homily for June 3rd, 2016: Feast of the Sacred Heart:
Let me start with something that Pope St. John Paul II, wrote about our common human experience in the first encyclical of his pontificate, way back in 1979: “We cannot live without love. We remain beings incomprehensible to ourselves, our lives are senseless, if love is not revealed to us, if we do not encounter love, if we do not experience it and make it our own, if we do not participate intimately in it.” (Redemptor hominis, 10)
This insight, that life is unsupportable without love, is as old as the creation stories in Genesis. In the second one God says, after creating man: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will provide a partner for him” (Gen. 2:18). The creation of woman follows. God fashions her from the man’s rib – a way of showing that the two sexes were made not for rivalry, but to complement and complete each other. The first creation story in Genesis says that this complementarity of male and female reflects the nature of God himself. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness ...’ So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:26f).
In today’s second reading Paul tell us: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” The ability to love God and others which Paul refers to there is not bestowed on us simply to give us a warm feeling inside. God’s love is poured out into our hearts so that the image of God may be perfected in us; so that by becoming more divine, we may also become more human. How sad when people refuse this divine gift of love, or fail to develop it. The Spanish philosopher-poet Miguel de Unamumo writes: “It is sad not to be loved. But it is much sadder not to be able to love.”
The French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin took this thought a step farther when he wrote: “Some day, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love; and then, for the second time, man will have discovered fire.” On this feast of the Sacred Heart, the feast of God’s love – exchanged between Father and Son through the Holy Spirit, and poured out through this same Spirit into our hearts – let us pray for this divine fire, in the words of an ancient Catholic hymn.
O Holy Spirit, Lord of grace / Eternal source of love,
Inflame, we pray, our inmost hearts / With fire from heaven above.
As thou dost join with holiest bonds / the Father and the Son,
So fill thy saints with mutual love / and link their hearts in one
(O fons amoris, Spiritus, C. Coffin, 1676-1749;
translated by J. Chandler)