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The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Mass Readings + homily notes for special feasts and memorials

Material already online at the Association of Catholic Priests website
(edited by Fr. Pat Rogers)

For full range of memorials
click here


 

1st Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16

The Lord God will search for His sheep and pasture them

For thus says the Lord God: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.

I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will fed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.

I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

2nd Reading: Romans 5:5-11

God proves his love for us, through the sacrificial love of Christ

Hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel: Luke 15:3-7

The lost sheep, sought and found by the good shepherd

Jesus told them this parable: "Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbours, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.' Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Bible


God's love for us is made visible

Our readings overflow with the theme of God's constant love for his "sheep," just like the shepherd who tends his flocks. Jesus goes further, with his parable of the lost sheep, to show the Father's tireless search for our salvation. Based on the "Heart of Jesus" as a symbol of love, the Church strongly promotes devotion to Christ as the incarnate love of God. A key text in St. Luke is about God the Shepherd who, on losing one stray sheep, leaves the other ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until he finds it. Later, in St. John's Gospel, Jesus transfers this Shepherd imagery to his own life's work. He himself became the Good Shepherd, who laid down his life for the sheep. This developing awareness that Jesus is the visible manifestation of God's love in our world gradually led to an explicit homage to the Heart of Jesus as the symbol of God's love for us.

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, within the fervent atmosphere of the Cistercian monastic reform, we find the first clear signs of devotion to the Sacred Heart. But it was not until 1670 that the idea of a formal Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was promoted publicly by St Jean Eudes (1602-1680). Soon afterward, this gained great impetus through the visions granted to Margaret Mary Alacoque in the convent of Rue de Bac (Paris), whose intense devotion to the Heart of Jesus urged her to "diffuse the treasures of His goodness," convinced that He had chosen her especially for this work.

In the following century, many requests to Rome to officially recognize the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were turned down. But in 1765, at the request of the Queen of France, the papacy allowed the Feast to the Sacred Heart to be celebrated in France. A century later,, at the petition of the French bishops, Pope Pius IX extended the Feast to the universal Church, with an emphasis on the need for reparation for sins and abuses whether personal or social. Today, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is centered around the centrality of Divine love, encouraging all to trust in God's overflowing benevolence towards the world He has made.


All authentic love is life-giving

The image of the Sacred Heart was one of the most popular images of Christ for a certain generation of Catholics. It spoke to them of the love of Christ, a love which showed itself on the cross. The pierced heart of Christ in the image proclaimed that "greater love" Jesus speaks about in the gospel of John. "No one can have greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends." People who looked at that image in their homes experienced that love of Christ in a very personal way, just as Paul did when he said, "I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me." Today's second reading gives us one of the shortest and, yet, most profound statements about God in all of the Bible, "God is love." It goes on to state that "God's love was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son." Jesus is the supreme revelation of God who is love. All authentic love is life-giving and that is uniquely true of God who is love and of Jesus the revelation of that love. God sent his Son so that we could have life through him, according to our second reading. In the gospel, Jesus uses the image of "rest" to speak of that love. He invites all who are burdened to come to him and to find rest, to find life. Even a slight inkling of the tremendous love of God for us can have a transforming effect on us. In the words of the second reading, it can empower us to love one another as God has loved us.