Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Third Sunday after Pentecost—21 June AD 2009
Sunday Within the Octave of the Sacred Heart

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

    This past Friday we celebrated the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so this is the Sunday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart.  It is also identified as the third Sunday after Pentecost.  And on the secular calendar it is Fathers’ Day.

    Congratulations to all of you who are Fathers.  If your father is sill with us, be sure to go and see him today, or at least give him a call on the telephone.  In any even, keep him in your prayers.  You may have noted that the third collect in this Mass was a prayer for all of our deceased fathers and mothers—so please make that part of your intentions as we offer this Mass.

    Devotion to the sacred Heart of Jesus goes back at least until the middle ages.  Religious souls began to realize that in addition to the true divinity of our Lord, it was important to recognize His true humanity.  It was, after all, that by becoming one of us He chose to offer Himself on our behalf for the redemption of humankind.  We miss something important if we fail to consider the human nature of Jesus Christ that was hypostatically united with His divine nature.

    In the middle ages it became a common enough spiritual exercise to imagine the wound made in the side of our Lord by the centurion as Jesus hung on the Cross as a sort of entry way by way of which one might enter into the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  One of the great promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart was Saint Bonaventure, a thirteenth century contemporary of Saint Thomas Aquinas.

    Later on, in the seventeenth century we had Saint John Eudes preaching devotion to both the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Devotion to the Sacred Heart may be said to have culminated in the private revelations of our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque later in the same century, the establishment of the Feast by Pope Clement XIII in 1765, and the extension of the feast to the Universal Church by the saintly Pope Pius IX in the following century.

    God has always loved His people.  At times His love is necessarily stern.  But even in the Old Testament, we heard Him speak through the Prophet Jeremias:

“With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you ... I will make a new covenant ... and place my law within my people and write it upon their hearts ... I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”[1]

    Quite naturally, we associate the Sacred Heart with the love God has for His people.  We human beings like to have tangible things, and the Heart of Jesus is a lot easier for us to grasp than the infinite, though invisible, love that God has always offered us throughout the ages.

    It is no coincidence that on this Sunday within the Octave, we hear our Lord Himself proclaim His love, even for sinners.  Of course He loves the just, but they don’t seem to be in danger of being lost.  Those who intentionally betray God’s love and break His commandments are precious too Him precisely because it is possible that they will be lost to Him forever.  This is more than the Fatherly Heart of God can bear for the creatures whom He loves.  So there is “great rejoicing among the angels in heaven over one sinner who repents.”[2]  Our Lord chose to welcome sinners and to eat with them, because the love of the Father, and the love of His own Sacred Heart could not bear to lose them.

    Last Friday, in the epistle, Saint Paul spoke about the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom all fatherhood has its name.”[3]  And today, Saint Peter advises us to “cast our anxieties upon God because He cares for us.”  Yes, we may have to “suffer a little while,” but ultimately God the Father, of Whom we are the adopted sons and daughters, will “perfect, strengthen, and establish us.”[4]

    Isn’t this also the human ideal of fatherhood?  The ideal human father provides for and protects his family, striving to keep them free from the anxieties of life.  At times he will be stern, even putting his children through bearable difficulties so that they may properly mature.  But by a combination of the sternness and his continuous love, they will learn to take on the responsibilities of the next generation;  perhaps becoming fathers and mothers in their own right.

    God makes demands of us, but He gives us much—not the least of which is His love.  The human father must emulate God the Father in striking this balance.  The family that is ruled with an iron hand will be crushed; the children will have no conception of how to relate to their own offspring, other than with similar unkindness.  On the other hand, the father who lavishes the gifts of the world upon his children, but never corrects their errors and transgressions, will raise brats too self centered, perhaps even to bring forth children of their own.  He must try to strike the balance that we see in God Himself.  Remember that when God spoke to us through Jeremias, He spoke of “age-old love,” but He also spoke of “writing His law upon their hearts.”

    Now, we all know that there are great difficulties for those who would be good fathers and mothers in modern society.  We tend to live in cramped quarters, while our senses are continually assaulted by the noises and the hustle and bustle of life going on around us.  The government schools (and even the “Catholic” ones), together with the media, often present an anti-Christian view of life and what one should expect from it.  More and more, God is excluded from the public forum.  In all too many cases, both mother and father must work in order to make ends meet after taxes and inflation take so much of their income, and spend it on morally questionable ends.  More and more the struggle in our world becomes clearly the struggle between good and evil-between God and the powers of darkness.

    So all of us have a moral obligation to support those fathers and mothers who are trying to raise good Christian children with the proper balance of firmness and love.  We may support them by our good example, by our tangible help, by our advocacy in public life, and by our prayers.  We can trust that if we all work together in this, we can cast our cares upon God and He will do the rest.

    Finally, we must make amends for our own mis-deeds.  For all of the times that we have rejected God’s love and broken His commandments.  To this end, Pope Pius XI, asked that each year we renew an Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart, which we will do today at the end of Mass.

    Today is Fathers’ Day, so I will congratulate all of you who have been good fathers;  all of you who deserve that name which comes ultimately from the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  And, of course, congratulations to you good mothers as well—for without you there would be far fewer good fathers here on earth.  Mary and Joseph will be proud of all of you, and their Son Jesus will reward you.


[1]   Cf. Jeremias xxxi.vf

[2]   Gospel: Luke xv: 1-10

[3]   Gospel of the feast of the Sacred Heart:  Ephesians  iii: 8-12, 14-19.

[4]   Cf Epietle: 1 Peter v: 6-11.


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