You are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession.
It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, and who repays in their own person those who reject him. He does not delay but repays in their own person those who reject him. Therefore, observe diligently the commandment, the statutes, and the ordinances, that I am commanding you today.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.
At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
"Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
The Feast of the Sacred Heart appeared relatively late in the Church's calendar. The proper object of this celebration is the love of Jesus for each of us as symbolized in his heart of flesh. The essence of the mystery which it celebrates is the merciful love of Christ, a love he offers to all who come to him with faith and the willingness to obey his teaching. That he loves us in this way was revealed already in the lifetime of Jesus. But it required many centuries before this revelation of divine love for sinners was associated with the heart of our Lord and made the object of a special veneration in the liturgy and in various devotions that have had a wide and continuing appeal to devoted faithful. Our Lord assures us that his yoke is sweet and his burden light . In our better moments, we may experience the joy that does indeed make the yoke sweet. But at times the burden can feel very heavy and we could draw up a list of situations in which we feel anything but the lightness and sweetness of love as we strive to implement the Lord's commandments.
He asks us not to give up on ourselves, just because of weakness and sin. On the contrary, when he spoke about his burden being light he prefaced it with the invitation, "Come to me all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest." He does not say he will remove the burden or free us from effortr; rather he promises a rest and a sweetness that can carry us through whatever sufferings and anxieties we meet with day by day. We must come to terms with them, and while absorbing their impact pass beyond a mind-set that ties us down to the limited horizons of our immediate surroundings. The love of Christ beckons us to take this step into a higher and nobler world where his love gives meaning to our struggles and sufferings.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, within the fervent atmosphere of the Cistercian monastic reform, we find the first clear signs of devotion to the Sacred Heart. But it was not until 1670 that the idea of a formal Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was promoted publicly by St Jean Eudes (1602-1680). Soon afterward, this gained great impetus through the visions granted to Margaret Mary Alacoque in the convent of Rue de Bac (Paris), whose intense devotion to the Heart of Jesus urged her to "diffuse the treasures of His goodness," convinced that He had chosen her especially for this work.
In the following century, many requests to Rome to officially recognize the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were turned down. But in 1765, at the request of the Queen of France, the papacy allowed the Feast to the Sacred Heart to be celebrated in France. A century later,, at the petition of the French bishops, Pope Pius IX extended the Feast to the universal Church, with an emphasis on the need for reparation for sins and abuses whether personal or social. Today, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is centered around the centrality of Divine love, encouraging all to trust in God's overflowing benevolence towards the world He has made.
The Sacred Heart is one of the most popular images of Christ for a certain generation of Catholics. It speaks of the love of Christ, a love which showed itself on the cross, above all. The pierced heart of Christ proclaims the "greater love" that Jesus speaks about in the gospel of John. "No one can have greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." People who have the Sacred Heart image in their homes often feel that love of Christ in a very personal way, just as Paul did when he said, "I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."
Today's second reading gives us one of the shortest, yet most profound statements about God in all of the Bible, "God is love." It goes on to state how we get some tangible proof of that love: "God's love was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son." Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God who is love. All authentic love is life-giving and that is supremely true of God who is love; and of Jesus as the human revelation of that love. God sent his Son so that we could have life through him. In the gospel, Jesus uses the image of "rest" as an expression of that love. He invites all who are burdened to come to him and to find rest, to find life. Even a slight inkling of the life-giving love of God for us can have a transform our outlook on life. As the second reading says, it can empower us to love one another as God has loved us. [MH]