June 18th, 2004
Andy Alexander, S.J.
University Ministry and the Collaborative Ministry Office
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Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
I myself will
look after and tend my sheep. ...
God proves his love for
I tell you, in just the
same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who
I remember, when I was a younger Jesuit, having an "allergic" reaction to the very Catholic and Jesuit devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. When I was a child, a very dear Jesuit friend of our family gave us the traditional picture to the left, and it hung in our house all of my parents' lives. I think my reaction had more to do with my "pastoral" fear that people would be turned off by the "traditional devotion" and so I just ignored the Sacred Heart and this feast day.
Over the years, I have more humbly come to see that the power
of any devotion has to do not so much with its "relevance" in terms of contemporary
culture, but in relation to how much I need an experience of God's love.
I suspect that historically most devotions (the rosary, the stations of
the cross, novenas) came into being at a time when the Eucharist was less
available and unable to serve the needs people had for an experience of God's
love. And, I find today, that all of my needs to experience God's love
are not met by celebrations of the Eucharist today. At times, it takes
personal rituals, or personal reflections leading to talking heart-to-heart
with my Lord, to really touch me deeply with the reality that love is not
about my love for God, but God's love for me.
Today, the image of Jesus showing me his Heart really touches me. In recent years, I have come to know what it means to love passionately. I simply loved giving myself away when I was serving in a parish. And I watched my mother's passionate, self-sacrificing love for my father as she cared for him 'til the day he died. She is my clearest example of a heart on fire with love. And I know more deeply what it means to have my heart broken, or to feel it penetrated by the cross, as I experience grief at my mother's death, or experience the pain of the struggle of our church with sexual abuse and years of bad decisions. Today, I understand "suffering love" more than ever before.
So today, when we might be tempted to get self-absorbed by our difficulties and sufferings, it is wonderful to pause for a moment and hear Jesus remind us of his shepherding love - faithful, seeking us out when we stray, forgiving, healing.
Thank you, dear Lord, for your love for me, for all of us pilgrim people. Thank you for laying down your life for me. Please today, let me know the fire of your heart's love for me. Please find me, when I wander, looking for greener fields. Please bring me home. Let me come to you today, come to be drawn into your meek and humble heart. Let me learn from you, and find the "rest" you promise. And, please, Lord, if it be your desire, set my heart on fire with love for those to whom you send me. Let my care for others be full of passionate zeal and humble compassion. Help me be the shepherding lover, who seeks out, finds and heals those around me who are most in need of my love - allowing me to lay down my life in love for them.
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