June 11, 2021

Christ the Cornerstone

Devotion to Sacred Heart needed now more than ever

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“One soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out” (Jn 19:34).

The publication date for this column is Friday, June 11, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This celebration calls our attention to a favorite theme of Pope Francis: the tenderness of God.

The life and teaching of Jesus emphasize the importance of mercy, compassion and caring for the needs of others, especially the poor and vulnerable among us. These are all qualities that flow from a heart filled with love and goodness. Jesus was never mean, judgmental or harsh. When he had to criticize (even scold) those who were hypocritical or unjust, he spoke the truth with love and humility, and he always left room for sinners to repent and be saved by the amazing grace of God’s love.

The first reading for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus from the Prophet Hosea (Hos 11:1, 3-4, 8c-9) speaks of God’s overwhelming love for his people:

“My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not a man, the Holy One present among you; I will not come in wrath” (Hos 11:8-9).

Our sins may provoke God to the point of “blazing anger,” but he always relents. God’s tenderness prevails. His love is everlasting. His mercy extends from generation to generation.

By the grace of our baptism, we open our own hearts to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As St. Paul writes to the Ephesians, and us, we are invited to let the Holy Spirit strengthen us with the power of God’s love:

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:17-19).

To be “rooted and grounded in love,” we must have the heart of Jesus. This means we must turn to him when we are feeling sad or lonely, when we’re angry or out of sorts, and when we’re confused or filled with uncertainty about what God expects of us.

The Gospel reading for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (Jn 19:31-37) reminds us that real love requires sacrifice.

Too often today, we are led to believe that love is a form of self-gratification rather than a costly, sometimes painful, giving of self for the good of others. Jesus’ death on a cross speaks of a very different kind of love, one that surrenders completely to the will of God. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is filled to overflowing with mercy and compassion. By his holy heart—pierced for our sins—we have been liberated from sin and death, set free to love God and our neighbor.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is needed now more than ever as we emerge from more than a year of pandemic, social unrest and economic hardship. Especially in our rancorous political climate where civil discourse, open dialogue and the ability to listen to one another respectfully are in short supply, the tenderness of God is sorely needed. As we proclaim in today’s entrance antiphon, “The designs of God’s heart are from age to age, to rescue their souls from death, and to keep them alive in famine” (Ps 33:19).

Contrary to what some might think, the tenderness of God is not weakness or indifference in the face of sin or evil. When Jesus forgave sinners, he showed them the depth of his love for them. But he also admonished them to repent and sin no more. God’s mercy is given to us so that we can find redemption, and new life, in him. Rather than being harsh or judgmental, the Sacred Heart of Jesus radiates a form of spiritual healing and hope for all who come to him with open minds and hearts.

In today’s Responsorial from the prophet Isaiah 12, we sing,

God indeed is my savior; 
I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the Lord,
and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water
at the fountain of salvation (Is 12:2-3).
Joy is ours because of the

self-sacrificing love of Jesus. May his Sacred Heart fill us with love and goodness, healing and hope, so that we can love others—even those we passionately disagree with or dislike—with generous and respectful hearts. †

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