Thursday, June 22, 2017

THE SACRED HEART


Homily for June 23rd, 2017: Deut. 7:6-11; 1 John 4:7-16. Matt. 11:25-30.

          There is single, golden theme running through all three readings for today’s feast of the Sacred Heart: love. “Not that we have loved God,” we heard in the second reading, from the apostle who in the gospel that bears his name is always called, “the one Jesus loved.” Rather “that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”

          God’s love for his people is the theme of the first reading, from Deuteronomy. “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you … that he brought you out with his strong hand from the place of slavery, and ransomed you from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.”

          In the gospel we hear the One whom God sent to us, out of love, “as expiation for our sins,” speaking words of thanksgiving to his heavenly Father for revealing his love to “little ones,” while hiding the message of love from “the wise and learned.” Who are these “wise and learned” today? They dominate the media and Hollywood. They run the great foundations, with names like Ford, Rockefeller, and Gates. They teach in our elite universities. They consider the killing of babies in the womb whose birth might be inconvenient or burdensome a sacred right. When we protest that abortion is a crime no less grave than slavery in a previous age, they treat us with disdain, or worse – accusing us of waging a “war on women.” And why not? In their eyes we are only “little ones,” as ignorant and irresponsible as small children. When we say that marriage is possible only between a man and a woman, they call us bigots, homophobes, and enemies of equality.

          Refusing to be silent about such things is part of the burden Jesus speaks about in the gospel. He calls that burden light. We often experience it as heavy. It becomes light, however, once we accept the yoke placed on our shoulders to help us bear the burden. Then we find we can carry it easily, realizing that however heavy our burden may be, Jesus’ burden was heavier. He walks beside us, sharing with us the fire of love which burns brightly in his Sacred Heart. Once set on fire with that love, we can break down any barrier, leap over any wall, coming finally into the presence of the One who is love himself.