Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Sunday Within the Octave of the Sacred Heart—Third Sunday after Pentecost—1 June AD 2008
Seeing the Sacred Heart in Everything Holy

[ Ordinary of the Mass ]
[ English Text ]
[ Latin Text ]
[Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus]

    Last Sunday I explained to you that the feast of Corpus Christi was celebrated with an “octave”-which meant that it, like a few other important feasts, is at least commemorated at each of the Masses of the following seven days. Today we have the same situation, for this third Sunday after Pentecost falls within the octave of the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which we celebrated just two days ago.

    In our culture we associate the heart with love. Just as we send cards with heart shapes to those whom we love on Saint Valentine’s day, many Catholic churches and Catholic homes have a picture of Jesus in which His heart is visible. This image has been popular for many centuries. Saint John the Apostle-one of the great advocates that Christians must love one another because God loves us-is often pictured at the Last Supper with his head positioned so as to be able to hear the beating heart of our Lord. Around the eleventh century, private devotion to the heart of Jesus was made popular by Saint Bernard and Saint Anselm. Later Saints Gertrude and Mechtilde and Bonaventure wrote about it. Later, many of the newly formed orders of friars adopted this private devotion. In the sixteenth century, Saint John Eudes composed a public Mass and Office for both the Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the following century our Lord is said to have appeared to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1675, requesting that the devotion be made universal, and that Catholics should receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month, and spend an hour with Him in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

    The heart is associated with love. As we see in this morning’s Gospel, the love of God is very great for those who are in danger of being lost. The lost coin, the drachma, was a full day’s wages for a skilled worker in our Lord’s time. The sheep was similarly valuable, particularly in a land that would support few if any cows, and among a people who would eat no pork. Our Lord spoke this parable to make the Pharisees and Scribes understand the love of God for His people, and particularly for those who might be in danger of being lost.

    Love is one of those things that is difficult to describe, even though we have all felt is. Even more difficult is the attempt to present love in painting or a carving. This device of portraying the heart of Jesus or Mary is simply the artist’s way of reminding us of God’s great love for us, and His concern for our salvation-particularly if we tend to stray a bit. It is the artist’s way of reminding us that God wants to be loved by us in return.

    The Church has had a few souls who seemed to be able to feel this love of God and for God intuitively. Saint John Eudes and Saint Margaret Mary, and the others I mentioned seem to be people who were emotionally touched by God’s love. But for many of us, the feeling comes only after a good bit of thought and reasoning-for many of us, God’s love is too intangible for us to simply feel with our unaided hearts, we must rely additionally on our heads.

    With that in mind, I am going to ask you to do something. I am going to ask you to make a resolution-or perhaps I should say that I would like you to develop a habit of imagining the Sacred Heart being displayed on every picture of our Lord and of our Lady, and on every crucifix, on every tabernacle, and above all, on the Blessed Sacrament Itself whenever you attend Mass or exposition. Jesus always loves us and desires our Love, no matter how He is portrayed or is really present.

    What I am asking you to do is not simply to recite a few words by rote, and not simply to make a symbolic gesture. Those things are good and certainly have a place in our Catholic lives, but they tend to become mechanical and have little effect on us. What I am asking you to do is to think, to realize what you are thinking about, and, hopefully, to be moved to the love of God by that realization.

    This applies to everyone here: man or woman, boy or girl, young or old. As the Gospel points out, it applies particularly to those of us who are sinners-but you who are saints would also do well to develop this habit of thinking, and realizing, being moved to love God.

    How might this work in practice? Let us say that you wake up in the morning and you look around the room and you see a picture of our Lord or of our Lady. You ask yourself, “why is that picture there?” And you answer yourself that the lives of Jesus and Mary took place because God loved His adopted sons and daughters enough to become one of us through the cooperation of the Virgin Mary.

    Perhaps you also have a crucifix in you room. “Why is it there?” It is there to remind us that God loved us so much that He was willing to take all of our sins upon Himself and to die for us, so that those sins can be forgiven. “No greater love has a man than he lay down his life for his friends.”[1]

    You go to your table to eat breakfast, and hopefully, you already know the words: “Bless us O Lord and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty...” Ask yourself, “Why did God make the sun to shine, and the rain to come, and give you the ability to labor, ultimately to put food on your table?”

    On those days when you are able to come for Mass, I ask you to do a similar thing. When you enter the church, take a little holy water on your fingers, but even before you make the Sign of the Cross, search with your eyes to see the tabernacle on the altar. Ask yourself, “Who is in the tabernacle, and why is He there?” Everyone here, young or old, must realize that Jesus Christ, God Himself, dwells in the tabernacle, patiently waiting for us to visit Him. “Why?” Because He loves us, and that one of the sure signs of love is wanting to be with the one we love. And, perhaps, you will realize that you have come before the tabernacle for the same reason-perhaps you will realize that you are drawn by the love of God.

    Don’t forget to look up at the crucifix and ask yourself why it is here. The answer is the same as it was at home-except, you are here in church to re-live our Lord’s Last Supper, and thereby to renew His offering of Himself in the Sacrifice of the Cross.

    Open your missal, or one of the booklets we provide, and prepare to attend Mass. Ask yourself the usual questions: “Why is God doing this?” and “why am I doing this?”

    If the Rosary is recited, meditate on the mysteries. Perhaps nothing is more conducive to doing what I am asking of you than to meditate on the joyful, sorrowful, and glorious events in the life of our Lord and Lady. “Why did they do these things for us?”

    When Mass begins, take up your book and join the priest in offering Mass with him. You are holding a treasure in your hands, a printed book that will allow you to participate in offering this Holy Sacrifice. In the Spanish language, one speaks of “assisting at Mass,” not merely attending. I would urge all of you to adopt that same idiom. When you hold that book, and read it carefully together with the priest and those in the congregation, you are standing at the foot of the Cross, assisting Jesus Christ in His painful Sacrifice. So read carefully, paying attention to nothing else.

    After the readings and the sermon, concentrate on the ideas expressed in the book. We are offering bread and wine. Doing as Jesus did at the Last Supper, the priest speaks His words over the bread and wine, and they become really and truly, the sacred body and blood which our Lord promised: “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, has everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.”[2]

    Look carefully at the Host, and, a moment later, at the Chalice. Ask yourself, “Why did Jesus give us His body and blood?” Clearly the answer is “because He loves us,” and, “because one who loves wants to be with the one He loves.” And again, perhaps we can come to realize that that is also why we have come to be here.

    Receive our lord in Holy Communion if you are properly prepared (which you should be, habitually), or ask Him to come to you spiritually if you are not. Again, give some consideration to why God would give Himself completely to us. Body, soul, humanity, and divinity. “Why?”

    After Communion, pick up the missal again. Make yourself part of the prayers of the Mass. When Mass is over, don’t be in a hurry. There is no greater or more fulfilling moment of relaxation than a minute or two in silence with our Lord in the tabernacle after assisting in His Holy Sacrifice. This is particularly true on those times when you must go out into a busy day in the world. Most missals have printed prayers to read before and after Mass, but, once again, what I am asking you to do is to think, to realize what you are thinking about, and, hopefully, to be moved to the love of God by that realization.

    Realize that our Lord’s Sacred Heart is in everything holy that you encounter, and in everything holy that you do. Please take none of these holy things for granted. Pay attention to them, meditate on them, recognize God’s love in them, and give God your love in return.


[1]  John xv: 13.

[2]  John vi: 54.


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