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Homily for June 11, 2021 – The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Year B)

Fr. Justin Sheehan, OCSO

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Year B)

The Heart of Jesus is perhaps the richest symbol we have of the interior life of Jesus, a life of love. We call it “Sacred” because it is of the nature of Jesus to be God, who is love, and to relate as equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit in the divine life of love. But we also speak of the Heart of Jesus as a symbol of the depth of his humanity. He knew from the wealth of his own experience as a man that love cannot be confined to intellectual communion alone. Human beings need to be reached with our feelings, heart speaking to heart as well as mind to mind.

The human feelings of Jesus began as they do with all of us, in the experience of oneness between the young infant and its parents. The first reading presents God speaking as a Father exchanging the feelings of recognition and acceptance for his Son: When [Jesus] was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. Yet it was I who taught [Jesus] to walk, who took [him] in my arms.

God was the ultimate source of the feelings of Mary and Joseph for Jesus. He was like Joseph who raised the infant Jesus to his cheeks, who stooped to feed the child. What Jesus learned from this experience can be put into the words of the responsorial psalm: I trust, I shall not fear. The human love of Mary and Joseph strengthened Jesus so that he could see that he mattered to them, independently of his works and achievements. That experience confirmed for him what it also confirms for us: that we matter to God, because he brought us into existence, independently of our worthiness. Mary and Joseph gave Jesus the human basis for loving himself, so that his inner self, his Most Sacred Heart, could grow strong in the love of others.

Rooted and grounded in love, Jesus learned to recognize the needs of others. Since he did not need to reject any part of himself, he could let the soldier thrust his lance into his side, and even though he was already dead, the love which had been his life’s blood came flowing out in the form of blood and water, because that was what the soldier needed to see. The relationship of Jesus with the soldier is a vivid symbol of the kind of intimate one-to-one relationships that Jesus had first with his earthly parents, and which he continued throughout his life. From these one-to-one relationships, Jesus learned to care for and to love others with all the strength of His Most Sacred Heart, and we can learn from him.

A monastery is like a spiritual family mentioned in the letter to the Ephesians. It is a place where our inner self can grow as strong as the Heart of Jesus, and where there have to be personal bonds in which some members are united more closely in love. These one-to-one relationships will grow and form the solid foundation for personal growth and self-knowledge, because they are rooted and grounded in love, like the Heart of Jesus.

If we are faithful in these relationships, we will, like all the holy ones, have strength to reach out and love others with whom there are fewer links of mutual attraction. It is in the presence of these close relationships within the spiritual family that our inner self can grow strong, the creative and fruitful self. We need the others in the community to discover these qualities and repeatedly confirm them in us.

It’s not enough to understand intellectually what the monastic life is all about; we have to learn step by step how to live out our continuous conversion, and for this we need the help and encouragement and support of others who love us as they need us to love them. The love of Christ surpasses knowledge, but faith sustains us to learn from his Sacred Heart how to love ourselves and others as he loves himself and us.

And as our knowledge of human beings deepens, we will have strength to comprehend in greater depth the meaning of being human. For the end of all our human striving is to be filled with all the fullness of God’s love.