Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary
June 28, 2014
Jud 13:17-20.15:9, Lk 1:46-55, Lk 2:46-51
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- In 1969 Pope Paul VI moved the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from August 22 to the day immediately after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in order to highlight the connection between the two feasts. Mary whose Immaculate Heart we celebrate today shows us how to respond to the love flowing from Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
- Yesterday we blessed the newly painted statue of the Sacred Heart. When Diane Cloutier Collura asked for permission to paint it, I said “of course” based on how beautiful her other work that adorns our Church, but I also gave her two instructions. The first was to make Jesus look like a man, not a woman, because unfortunately so many images of the Sacred Heart make Jesus look soft and uninspiring rather than as a carpenter with the heart that would make the heart of navy seals seem frail in comparison. The second condition was to focus on making the flames flowing from Jesus’ heart look truly spectacular, because often the flames are less noticeable than the crown of thorns. She’s done a very good job on both scores.
- When we contemplate Jesus’ hurt truly burning with love for us, it helps us to understand him better and who we are better. Jesus is inflamed with love for us. When he first appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673, he said, “My Divine Heart is so inflamed with love or men and for you in particular that I am no longer able to contain within itself the flames of its burning charity.” He wanted us to be aware of that love. But he wanted more. He wanted to fill us with that love. He did something mystically with St. Margaret Mary that he wishes to do with each of us. He mystically took her heart out of breast, submerged it into his own flaming heart for a while, burning away all of the dross and impurities, and then placed her renewed heart back in her. He wanted to fill her with his passionate love and fulfill the prayer that Catholics for generations have asked, “O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine!” Jesus similarly wishes to give us a new and improved heart, taking from us our hearts of stone and melting them into hearts of flesh, as the prophet Ezechiel foretold, so that we can learn how to love God and others with the fiery love of God.
- That’s the first aspect of the Solemnity we celebrated yesterday, God’s burning love for us shown in his taking on our humanity to make it sacred anew, in his mercy, and in the continual gift of himself in the Holy Eucharist. The second aspect is our response to that divine gift, to receive it within and let it change us so that we can live that love. For centuries the way the faithful have done this is through consecrating ourselves, our families, our parishes, our Dioceses and the Church universal to this Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is an act of entrustment to that passionate love that helps to transform us into Jesus’ loving heart in the midst of the world. I ponder often St. Therese’s words about the discovery of her vocation to be “love in the heart of the Church my mother.” All of us, in a sense, have that vocation to be the burning love flowing from the heart of the Mystical Body of Christ. The question for us is whether we have responded to Jesus’ burning love by allowing ourselves to be consumed in those flames so that our hearts similarly burn. If Jesus were to come today, would he say that our hearts are on fire or would he say that we’re in spiritual cardiac arrest?
- To respond wholeheartedly to the love of the Sacred Heart, to learn how to consecrate ourselves truly to Jesus’ heart, is why we celebrate today the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because the Blessed Mother shows us how to say yes to the love of God, to unite one’s heart to him, to begin to love with the same passion. Today we contemplate her heart, a heart that was full of grace because it was full of God. It was a pure heart that saw God in the events of her life and in others. It was a contemplative heart that, as we heard at the end of today’s Gospel, “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.” She held on to them as a treasure that kept paying out dividends within her, pondering God’s word so much that that word could take on her flesh. Mary’s heart was an obedient one, saying yes to God. One of the alternative Gospels today is when the anonymous woman from the crowd screamed to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the breasts that nursed thee.” Even though no woman’s womb or breasts were ever as blessed as Mary’s because of their association with the Son of God, Jesus upped the ante in his praise saying, “Blessed, rather, are they who hear the word of God and observe it.” Mary’s real beatitude came from her holy obedience that said, “let it be done to me according to your word.” Mary’s heart was also a steadfast and courageous heart that loved on despite being pierced so many times. At the Presentation, Simeon foretold that her own heart would be pierced on account of her Son’s being a sign that would be contradicted. That heart was pierced when Herod sought to assassinate him, when they needed to flee to Egypt, when her fellow Nazarenes tried to hurl him to his death, when so many rejected him during his public ministry, when the crowds chose Barabbas over him, when she saw him mocked, scourged, condemned, crucified and killed. But her heart didn’t give up. She kept loving to and through the Cross. She kept standing, loving right alongside her Son. Hers is the heart that most received and best reflects her Son’s love and today is a day in which we, in pondering her heart and her consecration to her Son’s Sacred Humanity and Mercy, seek not only to admire her, not only to imitate her, but to enter into her loving relationship with her Son.
- In 1917, when Mary appeared to the three shepherd children in Fatima, she said to them, “God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” She invited the whole world to consecrate themselves to her heart as an antidote to the sin that leads to what she showed the children in three visions: to hell, to the destruction of atheistic communism, and to the persecution of the Church and even assassination attempts against the Holy Father. In order to live out well our consecration to Jesus’ Sacred Heart we do so through consecration to her Immaculate Heart. United with her, we enter into the consecration of her Son to the Father for our sanctification (Jn 17). We seek to partake of her purity, her prayerfulness, her obedience, her courage. As I’ve said many times, this was the secret of Saint John Paul II’s purity, prayerfulness, obedience and courage. Each morning he would recite St. Louis de Montfort’s consecration formula, renewing his total entrustment to her and begging her for a heart transplant. He would pray, “Totus tuus ego sum, et tota mea tua sunt. Accipio te in mea omnia. Praebe mihi cor tuum, O Maria!” “I am all yours, Mary, and all I have his yours. I accept you into the totality of all I am and have. Give me your heart, O Mary!” Today we make that prayer our own as we renew our consecration to her, entrusting ourselves totally to her maternal love and asking her to help us so that we may respond like she did to the love of her Son, so that we might respond as St. Margaret Mary did.
- And the best place for us to do so is here at Mass. We remember from yesterday’s Feast that Jesus said, “Behold the heart that 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, irreverence, sacrilege and the coldness and scorn that men have for me in the sacrament of love.” The Sacrament of Love is the Eucharist. It’s here that Jesus wants to transform our hearts mystically like he did for St. Margaret Mary. In the great miracle of Lanciano from the year 700, when Pope Paul VI allowed it to be analyzed in the early 1970s, we discovered that the whole was human heart wall, a sign that when we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we are receiving his heart and he’s seeking to help us to become one with what, with whom, we receive. Jesus burns with the desire to transform us through Holy Communion, but from most people — including from those consecrated to him — he receives ingratitude, indifference, irreverence, coldness, sacrilege and scorn.
- Today, Mary wants to help us to respond to the gift of her Son not with ingratitude but with incredible thanksgiving that overflows into our entire day and life. Instead of indifference, she wants to help us to make Jesus in the Eucharist the biggest difference in our life. Rather than irreverence, she wants to assist us to treat him with great piety. In lieu of coldness, she wants to inflame us with her own passionate love or her Son. In contrast to the sacrilege of all those who receive Jesus unworthily, she wants to help us to receive him with the purity with which she received him within at the Annunciation and received him later in the Masses celebrated by St. John and the other apostles. Instead of scorn and contempt, she wants to help us to do so with great praise, like she did in the Magnificat which today took the place of the responsorial psalm.
- Today we ask her to give us her heart so that we may love Jesus in a way that we may receive the heart transplant he gives us at every Mass so that we may leave here today so inflamed by his love that we with that love might light the world ablaze.
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Judith 13:17 All the people were greatly astonished. They bowed down and worshiped God, saying with one accord, “Blessed are you, our God, who today have brought to nought the enemies of your people.” 18 Then Uzziah said to her: “Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies. 19 Your deed of hope will never be forgotten by those who tell of the might of God. 20 May God make this redound to your everlasting honor, rewarding you with blessings, because you risked your life when your people were being oppressed, and you averted our disaster, walking uprightly before our God.” And all the people answered, “Amen! Amen!” 15:9 When they had visited her, all with one accord blessed her, saying: “You are the glory of Jerusalem, the surpassing joy of Israel; You are the splendid boast of our people.
Luke 1:46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. 51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
Luke 2:46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, 47 and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.