The Sacred Heart and the Homily for Corpus Christi
June is the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I read an interesting article on this devotion. In it, author Gretchen Crowe writes that, “The Lord God has made us for himself, St. Augustine tells us in his “Confessions,” and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him.
What is our nation facing today but an eruption of restless hearts?”
She goes further:
For months, millions of Americans have remained close to home as we face unprecedented pandemic and its ramifications. We have socially distanced ourselves from loved ones, co-workers and a normal way of living. As the weeks passed, businesses shuttered and people — including many with Church-related jobs — were left unemployed and without a paycheck or a safety net.
- Hearts were anxious.
- Hearts were fearful.
Then came the senseless, tragic killing of George Floyd, a black citizen, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis — and the video of the altercation that led to his death traveled with the speed of light around the world.
- Hearts were broken.
- Hearts were enraged.
As we enter into June, we are fearful for our communities, struggling with mental health, trying to work our way through a new way of life, thirsting for healing, and racked with uncertainty about what to do next.
- Hearts are bewildered
- Hearts are exhausted.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart is an ancient tradition. The beginnings of a devotion toward the love of God for us were originally symbolized by the heart of Jesus. References are found in the fathers of the Church, including Origen, Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Hippolytus of Rome, Saint Irenaeus, Saint Justin Martyr and Saint Cyprian, who used in this regard John 7:37-39 and John 19:33-37.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be traced back at least to the eleventh century. It marked the spirituality of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in the twelfth century and of Saint Bonaventure and St. Gertrude the Great in the thirteenth.
The first liturgical feast of the Sacred Heart was celebrated, with episcopal approval, on 31 August 1670, in the major seminary of Rennes, France, through the efforts of Saint John Eudes. The Mass and Office composed by this saint were adopted elsewhere. It gained special strength and popularity in connection with the spread of devotion to the Sacred Heart following on the revelations to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart Droste zu Vischering.
The Devotion to the Sacred Heart came about when Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the latter part of the 17th century and implored her to spread the message of his passionate love for all to the world.
“My divine heart is so passionately fond of the human race and of you, in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. These flames of love must burst out through you and reveal my heart to the world, so as to enrich mankind with my treasures.”
For many of us at this time, we really don’t feel like God is enriching our lives with His treasures. Rather, it feels more like the lines we hear in the First Reading in Deuteronomy:
God has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments.
There is a poignancy of these readings – and the celebration of this feast – 3 months after not having had the opportunity to do so. I recently listened to several parishioners who attended Mass last weekend. It was moving to not only listen to what they said about attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist, but also to hear the emotion in their voices as they said it.
“Not ecstasy but a profound experience of mystery.”
Out of respect for the divine, the Israelites never pronounced the word “God.” they had several words that were used to point to the deity. One word for God in Hebrew that was understood, but never spoken had a number of translations:
- God who listens
- God is in me and with me
He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, in order to show you that not by bread alone does one live.
How do we allow God to reveal His heart to us, so as to enrich us His treasures?” How do we make room for God in the Temple of our heart? The formula that God has set up almost seems to easy:
The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.
But Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.
As an aside, how does the Church calculate on which date the Feast of the Sacred Heart falls?
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, always falls on the Friday 19 days after Pentecost. The calculation starts with Easter.
- One week later, we celebrate Pentecost,
- One week after that, we celebrate Trinity Sunday
- Traditionally, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday is the Feast of Corpus Christi.
- The Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (in other words, 19 days after Pentecost).
This year it is celebrated on June 19.