On Pilgrimage with the Merciful Love of Jesus, Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, June 3, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Church of Sant’Onofrio, Rome
Pilgrimage of American Journalists
Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Year C
June 3, 2016
Ez 34:11-16, Ps 23, Rom 5:5-11, Lk 15:3-7


To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • It’s always struck me as noteworthy that we don’t have a feast of Jesus’ sacred brain, even though Jesus is the eternal logos. We don’t honor his hallowed hands, which, in spite of calluses from hard work in a hidden Nazarene carpentry shop, brought a tender healing touch to so many. There’s no commemoration of the Lord’s consecrated feet, which traversed the ancient holy land as he announced the Good News from town to town. There’s no liturgical observation of Jesus’ blessed eyes, which looked on the rich young man with love and were so powerful that, with one glance, they could make Peter weep in the high priest’s courtyard. There’s no festival of his venerable voice, which amplified the word of God made man.
  • While there would be a certain fittingness to honoring all of these parts of Jesus’ sacred anatomy — especially since his head was crowned with thorns, his hands and feet pierced by nails, his eyes bruised and beaten and his voice thoroughly parched on Good Friday out of love for us — Jesus has never asked that we do so. Rather, when he began to appear to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673, he did so to request that a feast be instituted to honor him under the image and reality of his Sacred Heart.
  • The Lord’s reason for choosing his heart will always remain, in some ways, a great and beautiful mystery, but even with our limited human intellects we can come up with at least two partial explanations why.
    • First, according to the language and imagery of the Bible, the heart has always been considered the center of the person, the point where reason, will and emotions converge, the place where one finds his inner unity and direction. To honor Jesus’ heart means that we give homage to his entire sacred humanity, conscious that Jesus took our own nature in order to offer it for us, redeem it, and make it the sacred dwelling place of God once again. To honor his heart means that we want our humanity to be transformed by his, so that we may come fully alive and, as St. Ireneus taught not far from here, we might thereby give God glory.
    • Second, the heart is the organ that most effectively symbolizes love. To adore Jesus’ heart is to venerate his great love for us. When Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary, he exposed his heart and she saw it engulfed in flames, a sign that he burns with love of us. Twice during the Last Supper, Jesus said that he loves us as much as the Father loves him (Jn 13:34; Jn 15:13) and, just like the Father’s love for him, Jesus’ love for us has no limits. Jesus himself revealed this to St. Margaret Mary when she saw his exposed, ardent heart also surrounded by a crown of thorns. No one has greater love, Jesus said, than to lay down his life for his friends, and the crown of thorns united in the midst of the flames is a sign of just how much suffering Jesus’ love for us was willing to bear.
  • This year’s celebration of the Sacred Heart, this organ of love that marks how Jesus’ whole life was one of love, is unique for a couple of reasons. First, because it’s occurring within the Jubilee of Mercy, which puts the truths we mark on this feast into greater relief. Second, because it’s occurring within a pilgrimage to Rome that is meant to influence our pilgrimage through life to the celestial Jerusalem. It’s worthwhile to pray about both of these connections.
  • The Sacred Heart within the Jubilee of Mercy.
    • The Sacred Heart is a mystery of God’s desire for us to receive his merciful love.
      • When Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque to reveal the mystery of the meaning of his Sacred Heart that he wished for her to bring to the world, he revealed that his heart burns with a desire to share the full depth of his love of his love with us and is wounded when we fail to allow him to do so.
      • On Dec 27, 1673, Jesus said to Margaret Mary: “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. They must burst out through you and reveal my heart to the world, so as to enrich mankind with my precious treasures.”
      • This is the first point. Jesus loves us. He said in the Last Supper, “Just as the Father loves me, I love you.”
      • But at the same time, most of us don’t allow him to love us. Behold the heart which has so much loved men that it has spared nothing, even exhausting and consuming itself in testimony of its love. Instead of gratitude I receive from most only indifference, by irreverence and sacrilege and the coldness and scorn that men have for me in the sacrament of love
  • Instead of those attributes, the way to celebrate this Feast, is as the biggest difference in our life, with reverence, with sanctity, with ardor and praise.
    • Second, Christ wants to transform our heart to be like his so that we might love as mercifully as he does. This involves conversion.
      • Through the prophet Ezekiel, God had prophesied, “I will give you a new heart.”
      • Pope John Paul II, when he celebrated Mass in Paray-le-Monial on Oct 5, 1986, focused on how we need to have our heart purified. He focused on the phrase:
        • “The heart, created to be the place of the love of God, became the center of the refusal of God, of man’s sin who turns himself from God to attach himself to all types of idols. That’s what it means to have an impure heart. But when the same interior space of man opens itself to God, it finds once again the purity of the image and likeness of God imprinted in him by the Creator since the beginning of time.”
      • He continued by saying that what we need is conversion of heart
        • “The heart is also the center of the conversion that God desires on the part of man and for man, in order to enter in its intimacy with his love.
      • St. Margaret Mary had this type of heart. Great scene of the heart transplant when Jesus mystically took her heart out of her body, placed it in the furnace of his own, and returned it to her. She always bore the wound. He wants to work a similar heart transplant in us.         He pours his love into our hearts, as St. Paul says, in a similar way, yoking ourselves to him so that we can learn his humility and meekness.
  • Pilgrimage
  • Good Shepherd, with his Sacred Heart, goes on pilgrimage for us.
  • He comes out in search of us when we’re lost, as Jesus says in the Gospel. He rescues us, as Ezekiel says, from “every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark,” bringing us back to where we belong. He seeks out the lost, brings back the strayed, binds up the injured, heals the sick. He leads us to to verdant pastures, brings us to restful waters, guides us in right paths, and is at our side even in dark valleys.
  • Our life is to follow him along that pilgrimage, in which we allow him to transform us this way.
  • Eucharistic character
    • Jesus asked for specific acts of reparation on Corpus Christi 1675.
    • He wanted the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart to be celebrated relative to Corpus Christi, on Friday of the Octave.
    • He calls the Eucharist the “Sacrament of Love,” almost the continual instantiation of his sacred heart,
  • He wanted communions of reparation and consolation on First Fridays and a Holy Hour of Reparation on Thursday evening, in memory of the events of Holy Thursday.
  • And so this is the place to which he leads us to encounter us. This is the means by which we learn how to love him with precedence, piety, passion, praise and purity. This is where he makes our hearts like unto his. On this Feast of his Sacred Heart, as our pilgrimage to Rome comes to its end, let’s commit ourselves to following the lead of the Good Shepherd’s Sacred Heart and praying for others to continue their journey with us on that pilgrimage to the eternal verdant pastures.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 EZ 34:11-16

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I will lead them out from among the peoples
and gather them from the foreign lands;
I will bring them back to their own country
and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel
in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places.
In good pastures will I pasture them,
and on the mountain heights of Israel
shall be their grazing ground.
There they shall lie down on good grazing ground,
and in rich pastures shall they be pastured
on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2 ROM 5:5B-11

Brothers and sisters:
The love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person
one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood,
will we be saved through him from the wrath.
Indeed, if, while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son,
how much more, once reconciled,
will we be saved by his life.
Not only that,
but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Alleluia MT 11:29AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Take my yoke upon you, says the Lord,
and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Or: JN 10:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord,
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 15:3-7

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes:
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.”