Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle A

As today’s First Reading reminds us, the Lord didn’t choose us to be his People because we were numerous or talented; he chose us because he loved us. Salvation history is a history of God loving his Beloved and wooing her back when she strayed, not with flower and candies, but with loyalty, dedication, and sacrifice. We have all strayed, but that has not diminished the love Our Lord has for us one bit.

All he expects in return, as John reminds us in today’s Second Reading, is that we love one another. Love, like a flame, is meant to ignite hearts and spread, and that is what Our Lord ardently desires: not only that our hearts are aflame out of love for him, but that we spread his love as well after making it our own. The Holy Spirit ignites our hearts with the love of God, beyond any selfish or limited love.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord invites us once again to take up the burdens of love and remind ourselves that the secret to shouldering those burdens is to be, like him, meek and humble of heart. Meekness and humility of heart are what show the dividing line between a selfless love and a selfish one. When we contemplate the Lord’s Passion, and the meekness and humility of heart with which he faced it, we should have no fear about shouldering our own crosses out of love.

Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, inflame our hearts with love for you.

Readings: Deuteronomy 7:6–11; Psalm 103:1–4, 8, 10; 1 John 4:7–16; Matthew 11:25–30. See also Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle C and Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cycle C

In today’s Gospel today Our Lord reminds us that he doesn’t want to leave even one soul unturned. He encourages us to go out from the ninety-nine sheep even to find one lost sheep. When someone is conducting a search, as the expression goes, they leave no stone unturned. Our Lord is telling us that we must leave no soul unturned. The word “conversion” literally means, in the original Latin, “turning around.” Every soul that turns back to him causes a celebration in Heaven, because, as Our Lord describes it in the words of the Prodigal Son’s father: “your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

The First Reading reminds us that this is so important to God that he personally takes charge of leaving no soul unturned. The first part of the prophecy of Ezekiel laments that the shepherds of Israel (the kings), had watched over their stomachs more than their flocks, so the Lord takes charge. A little later in this prophecy the Lord says, “I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.” When we put this into New Testament language, we are talking about a Father and Son operation. The Holy Spirit is involved too, inspiring Ezekiel, and pouring God’s love into our hearts, as the Second Reading reminds us today.

The Second Reading also reminds us that there is only one motivation for being our shepherd and laying down his life for us: love. The hired hands run for it when the wolves start showing up. Vigilantes leave no stone unturned and take personal charge of justice when they search for a criminal, but Our Lord does something incredible with the “criminal” instead: he dies for that criminal to be reconciled to God. He takes the penalty, the scourges, the death sentence. If the sheep is far away from the flock, Jesus throws himself right into the jaws of the wolf so that someday that sheep may live. If a soul doesn’t turn after that, nothing will turn it.

The Song of Songs reminds us, “love is strong as death, … Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned” (Songs 8:6-7). You cannot put a price on love—no paycheck, no bounty. Knowing this makes the words of the Psalm our own: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Even if we have a part in helping lead sheep back to the head Shepherd, we remain sheep and he remains our Shepherd. That should fill us with gratitude and trust in him. Even when we walk in the dark valley filled with fear of evil. We must lead others to him, and let ourselves be led by him in everything we do. Conversion is a life-long process for us all. Jesus doesn’t just come running by to give us directions when we’re lost and then speed off to the next lost sheep. He gathers us together and leads us to rest and greener pastures and through those dark valleys, so we have to let him continue to turn our souls toward him. Let’s help him leave no soul unturned.

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11–16; Psalm 23:1–6; Second Reading Romans 5:5b–11; Luke 15:3–7. See also 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday and Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

In today’s Gospel the tip of the soldier’s lance and the words of St. John the Evangelist converge in pointing out something to us that the Church has contemplated throughout her history: the Heart of Christ, wounded out of love for us, but loving us unconditionally and without every diminishing. The point of that lance is the concluding punctuation mark to the Passion of Our Lord, but the story of love behind it continues, in each and every heart, throughout salvation history and into eternity. The more the Sacred Heart of Jesus is wounded by humanity, the more is shown how deep that Heart’s love is toward each and every one of us.

In the First Reading the Lord describes his love for Israel, a love spurned, like the wounded heart of a father who only wants to care for his child and in exchange receives indifference and rejection. In the Lord’s words we see how justice in his heart says a price should be exacted for such treatment, but also that love is the true driving force behind everything he does, and he cannot love his children any less, no matter what they do. In the Second Reading St. Paul prays that we have the strength to comprehend and know the love of God. It we truly realized how much God loves us, from the hardened sinner to the saint one step from Heaven, we’d die at the thought, not only from whatever we’ve done to wound his heart, but what others have done as well.

In contemplating the Sacred Heart, wounded out of love for us, we also know what is the most pleasing to his Heart: to show him that we appreciate his love by loving him and loving others, and by showing Our Lord that we “get it” by making reparation for all those people who spurn and reject him, knowingly or unknowingly. Let’s live this day contemplating the Heart of Jesus and trying to console him through our own love and understanding toward him and toward others.

Readings: Hosea 11:1, 3–4, 8c–9; Isaiah 12:2–6; Ephesians 3:8–12, 14–19; John 19:31–37.