Thus says the Lord:
When Israel was a child I loved him,
and called my son out of Egypt.
I myself taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in my arms;
yet they have not understood
that I was the one looking after them.
I led them with reins of kindness,
with leading-strings of love.
I was like someone who lifts an infant close against his cheek;
stooping down to him I gave him his food.
My heart recoils from it,
my whole being trembles at the thought.
I will not give rein to my fierce anger,
I will not destroy Ephraim again,
for I am God, not man:
I am the Holy One in your midst
and have no wish to destroy.
Truly, God is my salvation,
I trust, I shall not fear.
For the Lord is my strength, my song,
he became my saviour.
With joy you will draw water
from the wells of salvation. (R./)
Give thanks to the Lord, give praise to his name!
make his mighty deeds known to the peoples!
Declare the greatness of his name. (R./)
Sing a psalm to the Lord
for he has done glorious deeds,
make them known to all the earth!
People of Zion, sing and shout for joy
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (R./)
I, Paul, who am less than the least of all the saints have been entrusted with this special grace, not only of proclaiming to the pagans the infinite treasure of Christ but also of explaining how the mystery is to be dispensed. Through all the ages, this has been kept hidden in God, the creator of everything. Why? So that the Sovereignties and Powers should learn only now, through the Church, how comprehensive God’s wisdom really is, exactly according to the plan which he had had from all eternity in Christ Jesus our Lord. This is why we are bold enough to approach God in complete confidence, through our faith in him.
This, then, is what I pray, kneeling before the Father, from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name: Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.
It was Preparation Day, and to prevent the bodies remaining on the cross during the sabbath -- since the sabbath was a day of special solemnity -- the Jews asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken away. Consequently the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with him and then the other. When they came to Jesus, they found that he was already dead, and so instead of breaking his legs one of the soldiers pierced his side with a lance; and immediately there came out blood and water. This is the evidence of one who saw it -- trustworthy evidence, and he knows he speaks the truth -- and he gives it so that you may believe as well. Because all this happened to fulfil the words of scripture:
Not one bone of his will be broken:
and again, in another place scripture says:
They will look on the one whom they have pierced.
This feast rejoices in God's constant love for his "sheep," just like the shepherd who tends his flocks. Jesus goes further, with his parable of the lost sheep, to show the Father's tireless search for our salvation. Based on the "Heart of Jesus" as a symbol of love, the Church strongly promotes devotion to Christ as the incarnate love of God. A key text in St. Luke is about God the Shepherd who, on losing one stray sheep, leaves the other ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until he finds it. Later, in St. John's Gospel, Jesus transfers this Shepherd imagery to his own life's work. He himself became the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep. This developing awareness that Jesus is the visible manifestation of God's love in our world gradually led to an explicit homage to the Heart of Jesus as the symbol of God's love for us.
We find the first clear signs of a focus upon the Sacred Heart in the early middle ages, in the fervour of Cistercian monasticism. But it became a widespread popular devotion in the 17th century, largely owing to the preaching of St Jean Eudes (1602-1680). It gained greater impetus through the visionary Margaret Mary Alacoque in the convent of Rue de Bac (Paris), whose intense devotion to the Heart of Jesus urged her to "spread the treasures of His goodness," convinced that He had chosen her especially for this work.
Still, requests to Rome to officially recognize the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were turned down, until in 1765, the papacy allowed the Feast to the Sacred Heart to be celebrated in France. A century later, Pope Pius IX extended the Feast to the universal Church, with emphasis on the need for reparation for sins and abuses whether personal or social. Today, the devotion to the Sacred Heart underlines the centrality of Divine love, encouraging all to trust in God's overflowing benevolence towards the world He has made.
A picture of the Sacred Heart hung in the living-room of Catholic homes for many generations. It speaks of the self-giving love of Christ, an unlimited love most totally shown upon the cross. The pierced heart of Christ proclaims that greater love predicted by Jesus when he said: "No one can have greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." The image of the Sacred Heart offered the message of love in a very personal way, echoes in St Paul's words, "I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." St John gives us one of the shortest yet most profound statements about God in all of the Bible: "God is love." He adds that "God's love was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son."
Jesus is the supreme revelation of our Father-God whose very nature is love. All authentic love is life-giving and that is uniquely true of Jesus himself. He invites all who are burdened by life's cares and crosses to come to him and to find rest, peace and hope. If we glimpse the tremendous love of God for us it can transform our hearts. It can empower us to love one another as God has loved us.