For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.
I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will fed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit. (R./)
He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and staff;
with these you give me comfort. (R./)
You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing. (R./)
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord's own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever. R.
Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.
But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Jesus told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
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.