The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus invites us to focus on only one thing – the heart of Jesus.Firstly, the heart is the LIFE GIVING principle. As we know the heart is probably the most important organ in the body. If the heart stops, life ends. In other words, the heart is the one that keeps life going. Jesus is presented to us as the one who is the life giver. Not just in the sense of being alive, but as the one who gives meaning to life. During his life, Jesus gave life not only in the sense of raising the dead to life but to the outcast, to the Samaritan woman at the well, the Centurion who wanted Jesus to heal his servant, the Tax Collector whose house Jesus spent the night, the Adulterous woman who was at the verge of being stoned to death, the Lepers whom people had sent out from the city…and many others, Jesus gave them life, gave them meaning to live when society had rejected them and considered them as non-existent.
Secondly, the heart symbolises LOVE. This is a universal symbol…any country you visit, you can buy back a t-shirt with the “I love …” words printed on it, e.g. “I love KL”, “I love Bangkok”, I love Paris” etc. In the month of February, walk into any card shop, you can see numerous cards with the symbol of the heart that expresses love on Valentine’s Day. As we focus on the Heart of Jesus today, it reminds us of the great love that Jesus has for each one of us. At the beginning of the mass we had a short moment to examine our failures and we realise that we are far from being good disciples of Jesus…even to the point that some of us may think that we are not worthy to be here before God. But the heart of Jesus just shows us one thing, no matter how wounded, no matter how sinful, no matter how broken we may all be, the heart of Jesus just says one thing… Jesus loves you!
Thirdly, the heart symbolises PURITY. In Psalm 51, the psalmist prays “Create in me a pure heart, O God & renew a steadfast spirit in me”. The Psalmist recognises that good intentions can only come from a heart that is pure before God. During his ministry, Jesus knew what his mission was. In other words, his intention was to communicate the love of God. However, his actions were not always understood. The Pharisees, scribes, teachers of the law thought on many occasions that he was a threat to them as people began to flock and follow him. Jesus had only one intention and that is to lead everyone to the Father and that is why when his disciples asked him to teach them to pray, he began by saying “Our Father”.
What do these key characteristics of the heart of Jesus, that is, LIFE GIVING, LOVE, and PURITY, speak out to us? As baptised members of the Body of Christ, we are called to be living to one another. We surely cannot raise the dead to life like Jesus, but we can be a source of encouragement to one another. Today, I am reminded of my first couple of years in ministry after being ordained a priest 16 years ago. In the parish that I ministered, since I was much younger then, whenever I had an idea to do something for the parish, the leaders of the different parish organizations, who were much older than me and had been in that parish for so many years, would often say, “O we have tried before…it is not going to work. No point trying the same!” I found this to be a great stumbling block at many of the suggestions I made. I am sure you too have come across people like that either at work, at home, at school…who can see no good in others but only the failures and they do not hesitate to share the “good news” with others. Or whatever you do, it is never good enough and saying, “You did well BUT……” The heart of Jesus is telling us today to be a source of encouragement and motivation to one another for this is what builds up the Body of Christ.
The heart being the symbol of love, reminds us that love is an action word. In the gospel reading of yesterday, Jesus speaks of the 2 great commandments, that is, to love God and love our neighbour. We can talk much about the need to be a loving community but if we do not show it in action, we are just empty vessels that make plenty of noise. Love does not mean that I have to go round hugging everybody and say that I love you. On the contrary, love is a word that has many characteristics. It includes kindness, compassion, forgiveness, charity. When someone is in need, am I the first to respond? When someone hurts us, am I ready to forgive and the first one to reach out? When someone comes and shares some unkind remark (gossip) about another, do I say “let us be kind”? This is love in action this is what marks us out to be Christian because the worldly way would be to be selfish, unforgiving, and uncharitable in words.
The pure heart is what we should seek when we come before God in prayer. It is here that our intentions are purified and knowing that what we do is ultimately for the glory of God and not for self-glory. Sometimes when we do good things, we either expect people to do good in return or for the sake of being noticed by others so that they will talk good of us. When our hearts are pure, God sees us in our totality and He knows our motives. We do good because we want to respond to a God who is good and not because for others to see. The road to goodness is one that is taken by a few because it involves many sacrifices. The world teaches us many shortcuts in life and sometimes these shortcuts lead us to corruption (bribery), cheating, injustice, lies. It is so easy to fall into these shortcuts because the majority of people choose this way and some would even laugh at us if we chose the road of goodness. The heart of Jesus tells us that these shortcuts lead us to lose our life and as Christ says, “What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matt 16:26)
As we gather here this evening to celebrate the heart of Jesus, let us pray that we may be a person who is life giving, loving, and pure. In one of the prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus it says, “Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you”. May we today learn to live in Jesus and for Jesus. Amen.