Friday we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We celebrate the supremacy of God's mercy within that Sacred Heart. It was this love and mercy that led Christ to take on human form in the Incarnation. This mercy caused him to live a life of perfect obedience and humility, giving us the truth and fulfillment of the law. This mercy and love for us led Him to die on a cross for our sins. Most importantly, this mercy is why he still to this day intercedes for us before the Father, and prepares a room for us in our true home, Heaven. We see this in the Introit when the Psalmist proclaims:
The thoughts of His heart stand through all generations, to deliver their souls from death, and keep them alive in spite of famine.
Ps. 32:1. Rejoice in the Lord, you just; praise befits the upright.
I am reminded in this passage of two things. First, the utter timelessness of God. His message was not for a specific people in a specific time, as the gods of the pagans. His message truly exists for all ages. The truth of God stands forever. His Church, the guardian and protector of His truth, stands forever as well.
If we are reminded of the timelessness of God, we must also be mindful of the fact that in a way to us, God operates continually within our concept of time. A great mystery. God, being God, is outside of time. Time is a created concept. Yet our God is not the god of the deists, who created the world, then took a break from humanity. He delivers us constantly from tribulation. Why? Does God have anything to prove? He does it solely because He chooses to. He does it because of his great love for us. As Leo XIII, that Pope of such special devotion to the Sacred Heart said:
Christ reigns not only by natural right as the Son of God, but also by a right that He has acquired. For He it was who snatched us "from the power of darkness" (Colossians i., 13), and "gave Himself for the redemption of all" (I Timothy ii., 6). Therefore not only Catholics, and those who have duly received Christian baptism, but also all men, individually and collectively, have become to Him "a purchased people" (I Peter ii., 9). St. Augustine's words are therefore to the point when he says: "You ask what price He paid? See what He gave and you will understand how much He paid. The price was the blood of Christ. What could cost so much but the whole world, and all its people? The great price He paid was paid for all"
We receive here a second reason. Jesus Christ pours forth mercy from His sacred Heart....... because He knows no other way. We are His people. His very mission on earth was the salvation of the world. His very purpose in Heaven is to see to it that salvation is made present to everyone. He knows no other way.
Whenever this feast is celebrated, we cannot only think of God's mercy. We must think of why that mercy is required. We read in the Collect:
O God, through Your mercy we possess the treasures of Your love in the Sacred Heart of Your Son, the same Sacred Heart which we wounded by our sins. May our honor, devotion, and love make reparation to Him for our faults.
When we think of the mercy of God, we are inevitably drawn to our sins. Our sins are the reason for this mercy. For our sins, Christ's Sacred Heart was pierced by a spear. By our sins, we nailed Christ to the cross. Though we have been forgiven through baptism and the sacraments, should we leave it at that? Should we not wish to do everything we can to show our sorrow and repentance? It is here we come to the concept of reparation, something that has certainly fallen into disuse during these troubling times.
We think of the love of Jesus, and we leave it at that. We are taught not to be aware of our sins, of our need of grace and redemption. We are taught to ignore the offenses, blasphemies and sacrileges of the world, to "let them do their thing." When we did the Eucharistic procession for the feast of Corpus Christi last Sunday (if you were blessed enough to have one), this was equally an act of reparation as it was devotion. If it were devotion, we would've done so privately within our churches or our homes. It was reparation in that we publicly professed our faith in Christ, boldly proceeding through the streets of a sinful world, imploring His mercy. When we were looked at as fools, we embraced being a fool for Christ, that through our "foolishness", God would be implored towards mercy. That is the essence of reparation. We submit to something that might not be comfortable. We may even be mocked for it. Yet we do it, begging the same mercy God has shown us be shown to all. We also do such, in appreciation for that mercy. The athlete suffers injury for the love of his sport. We have something far greater than a mere sport. The soldier risks his life for love of country. We have something far greater than a country. Should we not be willing to give more in appreciation and awe of the Sacred Heart?
EPISTLE Eph. 3:8-12, 14-19
Brethren: To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith--that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Note well what is said. St. Paul, the least of men, and the greatest of sinners, was given something by God. Though he was utterly undeserving, God gave him the grace to be a light to the entire world. This was accomplished by the mercy of the Sacred Heart. Paul was one of Christ's largest enemies. Yet Christ still approached him, giving him the truth. Could a mere human love do this? Could a mere human heart endure such? I doubt it. That same love he offers to all of us. Even if we have fallen away. Even if we have committed the worst of sins, Christ still offers his mercy in the Sacred Heart. Leo XIII tells us:
This world-wide and solemn testimony of allegiance and piety is especially appropriate to Jesus Christ, who is the Head and Supreme Lord of the race. His empire extends not only over Catholic nations and those who, having been duly washed in the waters of holy baptism, belong of right to the Church, although erroneous opinions keep them astray, or dissent from her teaching cuts them off from her care; it comprises also all those who are deprived of the Christian faith, so that the whole human race is most truly under the power of Jesus Christ.
With good reason does the Gradual state that God "shows even the erring the way."
The Gospel gives us the account of the Roman soldier placing a spear into the side of Christ. At that very moment, blood and water flowed forth from His side. Tradition tells us at that very moment, this man became a believer in Christ. He was cleansed from His sins. St. John quotes the prophet that at this point "they shall look upon him whom they have pierced." While the prophet speaks this matter of fact, think of how difficult this is. When we wrong someone and we apologize, it is not a moment we love doing. Sometimes we wrong someone so profusely, we are afraid to face them for that very reason. To face them and admit failure is almost unbearable.
Yet we are called to do the same with Christ. He knows we will sin. He knows how hard it is for us to be firmly convicted of our sins, and to look upon Him. When we look upon the mangled body upon the cross, we are reminded that we did this to Him. "Against you and you alone I have sinned" King David sings. We realize that through our sins, an innocent man lies dead. We recognize at that point, we are guilty of murder, the murder of God! At that point, we can do one of two things. We can act in defiance and attempt to obscure the fact we are responsible. Or we can beg mercy of the one we murdered.
There is good news! If we seek that mercy, it will never be refused us. The very blood we have spilled becomes our salvation! The very water we forced to gush from His side washes us. When we receive the baptism of the Lord, we receive those very waters which flowed from the Heart of Christ. Rather than being dirty through our sins, the water which flowed from the Heart of Jesus cleanses us completely from that sin. What was once our greatest moment of sorrow is transformed through God's mercy into our greatest joy.