The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart (C)
Dear brothers and sisters,
May the Lord give you peace!
Today we rejoice in the patronal feast of our parish as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced for us, from which flowed blood and water, a symbol of the chief Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist (cf. John 19:34).
We know that the heart of Jesus remains opened for us, for he said to the Apostle Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). This same invitation the Lord gives to each of us: “Put out your hand, and place it in my side.” He invites us to explore the recesses of his heart, filled with a shepherd’s devoted love, and by knowing his heart to know him.
He says to us, “I myself will look after and tend my sheep” (Ezekiel 34:11). Because he speaks these words and what he says is true, because he carries with him his rod and his staff, we can look to him with confidence and can courageously put out our hands to his heart.
To put out our hand to him is a gesture of deep humility and trust. It is a gesture of humility because through it we recognize that we do not have all of the answers, that we cannot make it through life alone; it is also a gesture of trust because through it we not only touch the Lord’s heart, but we also allow him to grasp our hand and lead us through “the dark valley” (Psalm 23:4). With him by our side and under his watchful care we have no reason to fear.
The Lord promised ages ago through his prophet, “I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark” (Ezekiel 34:12). The Holy Father reminded us yesterday:
And if the Lord will not abandon us in the valley of death we can be certain that he will not abandon us in the other dark valleys of life, “the dark valleys of temptation, discouragement and trial through which everyone has to pass. Even in these dark valleys of life he is there” (Ibid.).
Our path as individuals will one day lead us into the valley of the shadow of
death, where no one can accompany us. Yet he will be there. Christ himself
descended into the dark night of death. Even there he will not abandon us. Even
there he will lead us (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily, 11 June 2010).
Having heard the voice of Christ our Shepherd we have come here to this parish church where he has come to meet us. It is here, within this parish dedicated to his Sacred Heart, that so many people have been brought to meet the Lord in the font of Baptism. It is here where so many repentant sinners, like sheep that have strayed, have been lifted up on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd amidst the joy of the angels (cf. Luke 15:7). It is here at this altar that the Lord prepares the table before us to nourish us with his Eucharistic Presence(cf. Psalm 23:5). It is here that “the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” when we were sealed in the Sacrament of Confirmation (Romans 5:5).
And it is here in this parish that the Lord will continue to meet us and where we will continue to come to him. It is hear that he will continue to show the depth of his love for his flock in the Eucharist and where he will continue to seek out the lost and “gather them from foreign lands” to “give them rest” when they meet him in the confessional (Ezekiel 34:13, 15).
Even as we rejoice this night in the many blessings the Lord has bestowed us in this parish through the Sacred Heart of Jesus these past ninety-six years, we also feel some trepidation. I know that many of your hearts are heavy as we look to the future and the formation of the Pastoral Unit of Holy Cross, Sacred Heart and St. Patrick Parishes. Because we do not know precisely what the future holds for us these circumstances seem to us as a particular form of darkness. Even so, we know that the Lord accompanies us on our journey that each of us would rather avoid, if we keep our eyes fixed on his Sacred Heart and if we place our hand in his.
Together, as one parish, let us look to his Sacred Heart and hold out our collective hand to his. We know that “adoring contemplation of the side pierced by the spear makes us sensitive to God’s salvific will. It enables us to entrust ourselves to his saving and merciful love, and at the same time strengthens us in the desire to take part in his work of salvation, becoming his instruments” (Ibid., Letter to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical ‘Haurietis Aquas,’ 15 May 2006).
As we, then, turn our loving gaze to his heart, let us beg the Lord to strengthen his love in each of our hearts that we may love as he loves, that we may have the courage to put our hand out to his, that we may become fountains of love from which others can drink.
Let us pray, too, that the Lord will look with love upon this local Church of Springfield in Illinois and raise up for us many ministers for his altars who will cooperate in his work of salvation.