2016/06/03 Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Feast (technically a solemnity) of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has its roots in medieval devotion to the Five Wounds of Jesus Christ — the last of which is the piercing of his heart by the soldier’s lance. The greatest impetus for its becoming a liturgical celebration came from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, who in the 1670’s reported visions of Jesus in which he spoke to her of his Sacred Heart as the fount of his love. Especially since 1856, the devotion has been strongly supported by various Popes.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is based on the heart as the symbol of love. Thus it is a reminder of God’s love for us, manifest in the Son of God’s taking on of human flesh for the sake of our redemption.
This year’s first reading is Ezekiel 34:11-17. The Lord promises the people that he will bring them back from exile to the promised land. He uses the image of himself as a shepherd gathering his sheep who have been scattered.
The responsorial psalm — Psalm 23, with verse 1 as the refrain — expresses our confidence in God as our shepherd who provides for us.
The second reading — Romans 5:5b-11 — tells us of God’s love for us in action: the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for us sinners. God loves us despite our sinfulness and wills to redeem us. As Jesus says, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for another.
The gospel this year is Luke 15:3-7. Here we return to the shepherd imagery. The shepherd seeks out and brings home the lost sheep. As in the passage from Ezekiel, the action is that of the shepherd. The scattered sheep of Ezekiel and the lost sheep of Jesus do not find their way home on their own: the shepherd finds them and brings them back. These passages assure us of what St. Paul tells us directly: God’s love is directed to each of us; none of us is outside his love.

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