Sacred Heart

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2013/06/07 at 12:00 AM

One of the most beautiful devotional representations of our Lord is His Sacred Heart. We’re  blessed here at St. Ann’s to have a beautiful statue of the Sacred Heart as well as a stained glass window with this image.

In our window Jesus is revealing His Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. What I love most about images of the Sacred Heart is that they show our Lord’s heart with flames, a sign of His burning love for us.

St. Mary Margaret received several apparitions of our Lord, through which she was given a greater understanding of the infinite and burning love our Lord has for mankind. In one
apparition she even saw our Lord’s heart on fire with love for mankind.

Jesus asked St. Mary Margaret to make up for the coldness and ingratitude of mankind by receiving Holy Communion in reparation for sin, especially on the first Friday of every month  for nine consecutive months.

It was from these apparitions that we now have the First Friday devotion that is so popular and important in our Church.

For those who do receive Holy Communion in reparation for sins on 9 consecutive first Fridays, our Lord promises that they will receive the grace of final repentance, and that they will not die without receiving the Sacraments.

Even though God’s love for us should be perfectly clear from reading Scripture and from any study of salvation history, perhaps this is a truth that we too easily lose sight of.

But our Lord’s heart does indeed burn for us, so much does He love us. I sometimes wonder if we truly understood the depth of God’s love for us, if we would die of love – especially as we consider how sinful and undeserving we are of His love.

Sadly, human history shows that humanity is often unresponsive and even callous to God’s love, which was His complaint to St. Mary Margaret. Even though His love is completely sacrificial and open to all people regardless of race, nationality, or creed, so many turn away from Him.

It is particularly sad because God’s great desire is that all of us share eternally in His love in the glory of Heaven. It is for this reason that our Lord became one of us and died for us.

Indeed, the Father has created us for living with the Trinity eternally in a union of love.

While God’s love is for all people, our Lord had a chosen people: the Israelites, who were given a special role in salvation history. It was to this people that Jesus came and first revealed Himself as Lord.

This is why in the Gospel today our Lord tells the Canaanite woman, a Gentile foreigner, that He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It was later with St. Paul that the Gospel was spread to the Gentiles, something we hear about today in the second reading.

But since the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our Lord has a new people whom He calls

His very own: it is the people who love Him in return and who seek to be united to Him.

Our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah speaks about foreigners and their relationship to God. Of course God desires that none of us be foreigners, but that we all be His people as He has created us to be.

But even though all men are created in God’s image and likeness, we must recognize that we are born separated from God in the darkness of original sin. We are all spiritual gentiles and foreigners at birth because of original sin.

But baptism changes all that, for it is only through baptism that we are fully reconciled to God and made His children, His chosen people. • Once we become His children through baptism, we are strangers and sojourners no longer. As St. Paul writes to the people of Ephesus, we become “fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God.” (Eph 2:19)

And so all of us have the capacity to be God’s chosen people, to be members of His family through baptism. For being God’s chosen people is not a matter of belonging to a certain race or class of people. Being God’s chosen people is simply a matter of choosing Him.
Indeed, the only people who are truly foreign to God are those who alienate themselves from Him through sin. It is sin and sin alone that separates us from God.

And so we must be vigilant to root out sin from our lives, even those small venial sins that we think no one sees, for choosing to sin is always a choosing against God rather than for Him.

All sin makes us – at least to some degree – a foreigner in God’s eyes. And, of course, if our sin is mortal, it not only damages our relationship with God, but it completely severs it and puts us in danger of going to hell.

It is for this reason that Isaiah tells us to “observe what is right, do what is just.” To be God’s chosen people, to be His children, we must do our best to constantly choose Him and His will above all else. We must seek to keep His commandments by doing what is right and just.

Alas, our broken human nature is fickle, is it not? Despite our genuine love for God, all of us from time to time turn away from Him through sin. None of us – save our Lady – has lived or ever will live a perfectly sinless life.
Of course our Lord knows this, which is why He gives us the Sacrament of Reconciliation by which we can be made whole from the destruction wrought in our souls through our sinfulness. His burning and infinite love cannot help but forgive the sins of His repentant children.
But in addition to cultivating repentance and making use of the confessional as needed, the Gospel teaches us today that there is something else we must do if we wish to be a member of God’s chosen people rather than a foreigner: we must have faith.

In our Gospel today we have the rather strange story of Jesus calling a Canaanite woman a dog. It’s easy to wonder why our Lord would ever refer to anyone in such an insulting manner.

But Jesus did this in order to elicit faith from this woman. He wants to know if she really does believe in Him, if she really believes He is the Lord. And she passes the test. Not even an insult from Jesus can deter her from Him. And it is at that moment that Jesus commends her for her great faith and heals her daughter.
In healing the daughter of a Gentile, Jesus proves that He was ultimately here on earth to bring salvation to all people, not just the Jews.
But this Gospel also shows us the power of an undeterred faith! Having faith in our Lord, a faith that believes confidently in our Lord’s omnipotence, mercy, and compassion, is proof positive of our love for God – and is therefore one of the best ways we can respond to His love.

Ultimately, believing in God’s love for us is an act of faith (cf. 1 Jn 4), and loving God by having faith in Him is how we are most closely united to Him.

St. John of the Cross teaches us that: “even in this life faith gives us God, covered, it is true, with a veil but nonetheless God Himself” (Collected Works St. 12:4).

My brothers and sisters, our Lord’s most Sacred Heart is burning with love for all of us. It’s a burning that cannot be quenched even by our ingratitude and callousness.

Let us repay His love by practicing the virtue of faith, trusting confidently that He can and will do everything necessary to help us on our path to salvation.

Let us return His love, as well, by gratefully patterning our lives after Him: loving all people generously and without reserve, and by living our Catholic faith without compromise.

Copyright 2011 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC


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