Image: Stained Glass, St. Patrick’s, Yellowknife
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as the world day of prayer for priests.
The feast of the Sacred Heart centers around a long held Catholic devotion to the love and compassion of the heart of Christ towards humanity. The popularization of this devotion in its modern form is derived from a Roman Catholic nun from France, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, who said she came to understand the devotion from a series of apparitions she received between 1673 and 1675.
Our readings today focus on God’s love, beginning with his chosen people brought out of slavery and given the chance to begin a new life in the land that God had promised them. Moses addresses the people and reminds them that it was not because of anything special that they had done that God chose them; they were not great, they were not many, and they were not particularly obedient. Nonetheless, God loved them and keep his promise to them that he would make of them a great nation. In this we learn that God’s love is not something to be earned or coerced, it comes from God unreservedly and without measure.
In the letter to John we reflect on the proper response to the love that God freely offers us and that is to love God in return and to love one another. In John’s description of God’s love, we find him describing the Trinity. In the beginning God loved the world and all His creation. In time he sent his Son into the world to teach us what it means to know and to love God, the sacrifice which Jesus offered for us being the ultimate sign of that love. Then we were given the gift of the spirit so that we could continue to have God live in us so that we would continue to know and love God and so that we could love one another the way that God loves us.
That is all beautiful to think about and to reflect on. But what is this love that we are talking about, what does it mean to love one another the way that God has loved us?
In today’s Gospel we find one simple and concrete description of what it means to love. Jesus says, “come to me all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” When we love someone, we are willing to remove the weight from their shoulders and to bear it ourselves as we walk together. Love is the action we take to make the life of someone else a little bit easier to bear. When we love someone, we give a little of ourselves and, in doing so, we offer a glimpse of God whose spirit lives in us.
Today as we pray for our priests, we ask that God bless them in their ministry as they walk with and ease the burdens of the bereaved, the sick and those who are dying. We pray for them as they persevere in their vows, so that they may be an example of and witnesses to the love of God for the world.
By our baptism we are all called into the priestly ministry of Christ. May his Sacred Heart and compassionate love fill us with a desire to love God and to love our neighbor and to take up the cross and follow Him.