Dt 7:6-11; Ps 103:1-8,10; 1Jn 4:7-16; Mt 11:25-30
Frequently Saint John Vianney used to preach to his congregation, “My people your hearts are too small! Ask the LORD to give you a new heart, a large heart so that you can receive Him in all his glory!” We don’t hear this kind of preaching too often these days. Few preachers want to risk alienating their congregation, after all the collection could diminish. Granting the benefit of the doubt, perhaps there is another reason we do not hear about such things. Perhaps such matters of the heart are too sentimental for our congregations. So, pray tell, why do we still have a Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and a Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary? Perhaps we have some kind of inner sense, not quite “Sensus Fidelium” but more a spiritual instinct that religion without heart is the last thing that the world needs. If we forget not all his benefits, how can our hearts not be moved? If he pardons all our iniquities and heals all our ills, how can we not have a heartfelt gratitude? In this feast we are crowned with kindness and compassion. His mercy makes him slow to anger and abounding in kindness. However, the most important insight of this solemnity is that the just as the human heart of the Lord Jesus was moved to say to his fellow convict upon the hill of Calvary, “Today, you will be with me in paradise!” Today, the Lord Jesus reveals the truth of his love, the truth of his identity as Saint John reminds us, “God is love!” Our union with such divine and human love is kind of transformation that changes our hearts and invites us to be a part of the revolution of the heart throughout this cold and heartless world of ours! Indeed, we need larger hearts to carry the love God has for us to all whose hearts are tiny, closed, and barren.
One cannot gaze upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus without the awareness that we hear from Moses’ preaching in Deuteronomy. We are sacred. We are sacred because we are chosen and peculiarly his own. Like Israel, we are not the largest group of people on the face of the earth. Indeed, in some ways, we are really the smallest of all nations. What causes the LORD to make such choices? Love and fidelity are the only explanation. Not only did he ransom our ancestors from the grip of Pharaoh, the LORD also brought them back from the Exile. Why then do we not understand that the LORD is God and there is no other? A young teenager once asked: “Why don’t you believe in Thor or Allah, or some other god?” The only answer possible, “Because no other god has died upon the cross and risen to share with me his eternal life.” Why do we dally in lives of sinful habits or vice? Why hasn’t the love of the LORD touched our hearts? Why have we little to no concern with the commands, statues and decrees of the LORD who first loved us, who cannot love us more, and will not love us less? Indeed, the LORD loves us without hesitation, without regret, and for all eternity! Such is the love that is so unheard of, so new, so revolutionary. It’s worth living for, and it’s worth dying for.
Worth more of our consideration and contemplation is this heart of the Lord Jesus. Saint John sat so close to the Lord Jesus that he, no doubt, heard the beating of his heart. This intimacy as Master/Disciple is radically changed during the Last Supper when the Lord announces, I no longer call you servants; I call you friends. The Lord Jesus is the friend of sinners; he is the one who reveals the true nature of God by coming as the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. It is the mystery of the incarnation that unfolds into the mystery of the redemption. Christ, as God could not die, became one of us in everything but sin. In his sacrifice of expiation the Lord Jesus takes away the sins of the whole world. This expiation gives us the kind of expanding heart that allows the LORD to reign in and through our hearts. If we remain, abide, live in the love that is in God and through our savior, Jesus Christ then we remain in the Lord Jesus just as the Lord Jesus remains in the Father even though he gave up his doxa, his visible glory, so that we could come to know him as a human being, as a friend, a brother, a lover and the LORD our God. Indeed, it is through the humanity of Christ that we encounter the heart of God, for us and among us.
In the Spirit the Lord Jesus prays after the disciples return from their practice missionary journey. In this spontaneous praise the Lord Jesus reveals his joy and gladness to all around him. His continuous prayer, his contemplation, the prayer of his heart is revealed to his disciples and all who are nearby. In these charismatic words the Lord Jesus gives us a glimpse of the eternal love between him and the Father in the Holy Spirit. This was hidden from the wise and the learned, but it is now reveal to the little ones. To those who have no theological clout or public power these Disciples of Christ, most fishermen, one tax collector, a zealot or two, the Lord has revealed his intimacy with the Father, Lord of heaven and earth. This eternal love, revealed in the Spirit, makes both the Father and the Son available and attractive to us; God tugs at our hearts with cords of human affection. It is nothing less, than something we have some vague knowledge of that invites us into the grandest mystery of the universe. We know, in some small way, the love that binds a son and father. With such a basic human experience, the Lord speaks to us about the mystery of the Word Made Flesh and the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. When we humbly approach this passionate love upon the cross we hear the Father’s voice, again, “Look at my Son, he’s just like me!” In the Holy Spirit we continue to listen to the voice of God through the Son who welcomes us to take our rest by taking his cross upon our shoulders. In his meek and humble heart we finally rest, and our suffering becomes our love for God and all his friends, our fellow sinners.