Friday, June 3, 2016
Archbishop Thomas Wenski - The Archdiocese of Miami
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during the Mass celebrating the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary on June 3 at St. John Vianney College Seminary.
Today is the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is associated with St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647-1690 – just as devotion to the Divine Mercy is associated with St. Faustina Kowalska.
St. Margaret Mary was privileged to receive visions of Jesus through which he gave her instructions on how the faithful can offer sacrifices in reparation for the offenses inflicted on His Sacred Heart such as receiving Holy Communion every first Friday of the month, observing an hour vigil every Thursday night in memory of His agony in Gethsemane, and celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart every year.
The message of the Sacred Heart communicated to the world through Margaret Mary came at a critical important time in the Church’s history. At that time, a heresy called Jansenism was infecting the Church. This false teaching held many dangerous beliefs, among them a radical pessimism about human nature, a belief that most people would be damned and only a few saved. Jansenism promoted a rigorous observance of rules that robbed the souls of the faithful of joy. If you contemplate a crucifix you see Jesus’ stretched out on the cross – his arms open wide as if to embrace all of humanity. But the Jansenists believed that Jesus died only to save a few – and not the many. And, thus, the effect of their heresy was to stifle hope in the hearts of believers.
Thanks to St. Margaret Mary and the spread of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Jansenist heresy of despair and hopelessness was refuted and rooted out of the Church. Yet, in the 20thcentury, a new hopelessness spread by the false ideologies of Marxism and Fascism had begun to infect humanity. The dark convictions of these godless philosophies made hope, openness, mercy and tenderness appear abstract and impossible as solutions to “real problems”. And once again, Jesus chose a poor, humble religious woman to confound the proud of heart. Sister Faustina’s revelations on the Divine Mercy contained the antidote to this spiritual sickness infecting our modern age. The rays of God’s mercy and grace will outshine humanity’s rays of anger and hatred.
Devotion to the Divine Mercy and devotion to the Sacred Heart both echo the invitation that Jesus makes in the gospels to those who are “weary and heavily burdened” because of sin and hurt to turn to him for mercy, healing and restoration.
Indeed, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and devotion to the Divine Mercy have one and the same message: namely, that humanity is good and is greatly loved by God, and God generously offers mercy to all. And this also the message of this Jubilee Year of Mercy which Pope Francis has asked the universal Church to observe – for it is in knowing the Mercy of God shown to us concretely in the Sacred Heart of Jesus pierced for us that we discover the Joy of the Gospel.
These devotions add nothing to the revelation of faith but they do foster a richer appreciation of the revelation which is about the God who is love, the God because he loves us remains close to us. As St. John Paul II said, “It is this love which must inspire humanity today, if it is to face the crisis of the meaning of life, the challenges of the most diverse needs and, especially, the duty to defend the dignity of every human person.”
Jesus loves us with a human heart. The Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us of the humanity of Jesus – but also of the concreteness of his love. Love is not an abstraction, it is not a philosophical axiom; love is always an action, a deed. It is a “giving away” of one self – even as Jesus gave away himself on the cross for our salvation. The Heart of Jesus was pierced on cavalry symbolizing the totality of Jesus’ gift of himself on the cross. But the blood and water that flowed from his side also symbolizes the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. For this reason, the ancient Fathers of the Church would say that the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ, that is, the Church is born from the Heart of Jesus.
In this Year of Mercy, we also do well to recall how Jesus’ love – in all its tenderness – is also mediated to us through the ministry of our priests, especially their ministry in the Sacrament of Penance through which our sins are forgiven.
The Cure d’Ars, St. John Vianney, the patron of this College Seminary, was known for this ministry of reconciliation. During this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has challenged all of us to rediscover the Sacrament of Penance. The confessional remains for us Catholics a privileged place for us to experience God’s mercy.
St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis have asked that this feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus be also dedicated as a day of prayer for the sanctification of priests. St. John Vianney once said: “The priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.” John Vianney served the Lord with a single-heartedness that all priests should strive to emulate. His rule of life was “Do only what can be offered to the Lord.” During this Year of Mercy, let also us resolve to support our priests by our prayers. May all that they say, do or think be a worthy offering to the Lord.
Today as we gaze in silent wonder at the image of Jesus’ pierced heart – his Most Sacred Heart – we can sense how God is offering us a “better way”. Alongside our own sinfulness is the reality of his brotherly compassion and mercy. God created us for bigger things than the sum total of our sins and failures. He created us in his image and likeness and he created us to know his love and his mercy. Only to the degree that we are willing to embrace the message of mercy revealed through the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to live it by being merciful ourselves will we experience peace in our hearts and peace in the world.