Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Bibelstellen: Ezekiel 34:11-16; Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Romans 5:5b-11; Luke 15:3-7
Ort: Garnet-House-Community, London Datum: 07.06.2013
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For many years, I have had mixed feelings about the devotion to the Sacred Heart. On the one hand, there is deep respect of the great tradition, especially because it was made popular by our Jesuit brothers who used it as an effective tool for evangelisation. On the other hand, I felt uneasy about the typical Sacred Heart devotional pictures, often showing the image of Jesus holding a heart on fire and surrounded by a crown of thorns. I did not know how these images could nourish my spirituality.
Yet today, I find myself drawn to the image of the Sacred Heart. I think that the Sacred Heart is a powerful symbol that is still relevant for us today. There has been a persistent theological debate on the Sacred Heart. What do we mean when we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Jesus as a human being? His divinity? The physical heart as an organ? The holistic view of a person? The Sacred Heart of Jesus means the centre of the person of Jesus Christ. With reverence to Church teaching on Christology, its theological content can be expressed like this: in the person of Jesus, the rabbi from Nazareth, God has once and for all revealed himself to us. He makes a commitment to us. He renews his covenant with us.
That is the correct answer you should give to your professors at Heythrop should the need arise. However, what does the metaphor, the symbol of the Sacred Heart mean for us personally today? How can we translate it into a language that is accessible? Let me offer some ideas for your reflection.
- The heart symbolises the all-embracing love of Jesus. He died for us on the cross and the love that flows from his heart is stronger than death.
- The heart is the Expression of God’s love for all humanity, including those who live in darkness, who have lost their faith or who have not had the chance to discover their faith in God.
- The heart stands for the entire cosmos. The whole world is full of God’s love.
Today’s readings give solid scriptural depth for the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Both in the Old and the New Testament readings, the liturgy uses the image of the good shepherd to explain the meaning of the Sacred Heart.
In Ezekiel, the Good Shepherd brings back the scattered sheep: „I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. In good pastures I will pasture them. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up.“
In Luke, the Good Shepherd risks everything to rescue just one sheep: „What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it?“
In Romans, Paul points out that God has always loved us, even when we were sinners. When he has done so much for us while we were sinners, how much more can we count on his love now, since we have been reconciled with God in Jesus Christ? God’s love for us has no limits. We can always rely on him and rejoice in his love.
The solemnity of the Sacred heart reassures us of God’s unconditional love.
As Pope Francis has pointed out this morning, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is a “feast of love”. We celebrate, I quote, the love of “God who draws near out of love, walks with His people, and this walk comes to an unimaginable point. We could never have imagined that the same Lord would become one of us and walk with us, be present with us, present in His Church, present in the Eucharist, present in His Word, present in the poor; He is present, walking with us. And this is closeness: the shepherd close to his flock, close to his sheep, whom he knows, one by one”. End of quote.
Let me finish my reflection on a personal note, since it is the last JiF gathering of the year and the last JiF gathering of my time in London. All of you know the Christogram, the three letters “IHS” that has become a symbol of our corporate identity. My favourite explanation of the three letters is the Latin phrase: “Iesum Habemus Socium”. We have Jesus as our companion. When we now disperse after the end of this academic year, we can think of this phrase. Jesus is our companion. Even if we are separated from each other, we are united in the company of Jesus Christ, who is always walking with us and who has granted us his love in the symbol of the Sacred Heart. AMEN.