Fr. John Eudes, OCSO
Feast of the Sacred Heart
Ezechiel 34:11-16; St. Paul to Romans 5:5-11 ; Luke 15:3-7
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we celebrate at this Eucharist focuses our attention on the inmost attitudes of our Savior. The Heart of Christ is a symbol as well as a physical organ. It represents the thoughts, feelings, and dispositions of his most personal life as man. There are very sound physical reasons why this organ rather than the brain serves to refer to what is most personal in our Lord’s nature that he shares with each one of us. Without going into the complex details of neuro-anatomy, we all know by experience that strong emotion, especially of affection are felt most prominently in the area of the heart. A detailed study of the history of this devotion adds much to our appreciation of the significance of this Feast and repays the effort involved. One of the curious facts of history regarding today’s Feast is that it was shortly after William Harvey discovered the heart’s crucial role in the circulation of the blood in 1629 that Saint John Eudes wrote the theology of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Rome itself was slow to approve a mass in honor of this Feast, doing so only in the eighteenth century. Once approved the devotion rapidly spread in the Church.
The passage from the prophet Ezechiel we heard a few minutes ago does not mention the heart, and yet in speaking of God as a devoted shepherd we sense that the God he is in contact with is a tender, thoughtful, conscientious person concerned for the welfare of those on his care. He puts these words in the Lord’s mouth: “I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered . . . I myself will give them rest, says the Lord God. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back.” This is one of many passages where in early times God is revealed as loving and forgiving.
Although he does not refer to the heart of Christ, yet Paul stresses that it was The Father’s love that motivates his giving his beloved son up to death for our sake. He states boldly that “God proves His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” He adds the further consideration that “while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, how much more once reconciled will we be saved by his life.” These are powerful consideration meant to strengthen our faith in the mercy and forgiveness that the Father offers each of us who turn to Him with trusting faith.
The passage from Saint Luke’s Gospel we have just heard develops this same theme of God as a devoted shepherd who has care for each individual member of his flock. His care is so deeply rooted that he searches out the single, lost sheep, while leaving the others to care for themselves.
The message can hardly be more clearly expressed, and is the great theme of this Feast of the Sacred Heart. God loves us with a concerned personal care that exceeds our human experience. We know that the love and trust he requires in return involves self-sacrifice and suffering, and have his assurance that He will sustain us in our weakness. The challenge for us is to prove faithful and trusting to the end. For this grace we pray to the Sacred Heart of Jesus at this Eucharistic sacrifice.