Fr. Roger J. Landry
Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Monmartre, Paris
Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart
Pilgrimage to the Saints and Shrines of France
September 13, 2013
Rev 12:1.5-6.14-17, Ps 45, Jn 2:1-11
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Today in this holy Basilica of the Sacred Heart, we ought to begin by pondering the meaning of Jesus’ Sacred Heart. It is noteworthy that we have never had a feast of Jesus’ sacred brain, even though it was hypostatically united to the Word of God. We’ve never had a celebration of Jesus’ sacred hands, even those they saved us in a carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, reached out to touch and heal so many, and were pinned to a tree for our redemption. We’ve never feted Jesus’ sacred feet, even though they traversed the Holy Land to bring us the Good News, were washed with a sinners tears, anointed with a friend’s aromatic nard, and wiped with their hair. No, we’ve only celebrated Jesus’ sacred heart, and done so for two reasons.
- First, the heart, in Biblical terminology, symbolizes the center and entirety of a person. To say that a person has a good heart or has no heart is to talk about the person’s overall character. To focus on Jesus’ heart is to focus on her entire humanity.
- Second, the heart is obviously an organ of love. To ponder Jesus’ heart is to meditate on the love that flowed from that heart, pierced for our offenses, as we read about in the Gospel today. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion to Jesus’ merciful love. It’s from this heart that, as we sang in the Responsorial Psalm, we draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation. And today we come to drink from that live giving stream to the dregs, because we know that that stream is meant to be a spring welling up inside of us to life eternal.
- But we also know that a heart can be wounded, that a heart can be broken, when love is not reciprocated. That’s what we encounter in today’s first reading, when Jesus, speaking about his people, said I “took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer. My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred.” Even then he refused to punish, because “I am God and not a man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.” Instead he wanted to bring his people to conversion, so that they might receive his life, live in his love, and share it. That message of conversion was the mission of all the prophets.
- But just as with the people of Israel who took God’s incredible love and saving deeds for granted, so have we. When Jesus appeared in the 1670s to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in Paray-le-Monial where we will be visiting later, he 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 the difference, irreverence, sacrilege, and the coldness and scorn that men have for me in the sacrament of love.” The sacrament of love to which he is referring is the Holy Eucharist. That’s why Pope Benedict back in 2007 when he gave us his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist called it, “Sacramentum Caritatis,” or “the Sacrament of Love.” Jesus said that in response to his pouring out his heart for us in the Eucharist, he received from most only apathy, impiety, frigidity, contempt, and desecration. These are unbelievable words! But it got even stronger. “What I feel the most keenly,” Jesus lamented, “is that it is hearts that are consecrated to me that treat me in this way.” This obviously applies to priests and religious who take Jesus for granted. But it applies to every baptized Christian, who through baptism has been consecrated to the Lord. It’s one thing when so many in the world take Jesus’ gift of himself for granted, but when Christians, all the more Catholics, who know that the Eucharist is Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity, neglect him, who prioritize soccer games, or Sunday cartoons, or work over him, it wounds him. That’s why in reparation for the offenses against his heart, he asked for three different Eucharistic devotions. The first would be the feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after Corpus Christ, to united the Sacred Heart specifically to the feast of Jesus’ Body and Blood. Second he asked for people to come to Mass and receive him worthily on first Fridays, a day especially dedicated to the Sacred Heart. And on the Thursday before, he asked for us to spend time in Eucharistic adoration as he was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s one of the great glories of this Basilica that since it opened in 1885, Jesus in the Eucharist has been adored uninterruptedly — for 128 years! — in this Basilica, giving him the love he deserves and doing reparation for all the ways, not just in the Eucharist, people neglect him and wound him. If we wish to have a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we need to recognize both the reality of his person as well as the depth of his merciful love in this great Sacrament.
- But I also believe that Jesus teaches us even more the way we can love him and repair the damage done by ourselves and others. We just need to reverse what he himself said to St. Margaret Mary. Instead of treating him with indifference, we’re supposed to make him in the Eucharist the biggest difference in our life, as our true priority, as the “source and summit” of our existence, the fulcrum of our week and day. In response to irreverence, he wants us to treat him with deep piety, adoring him outside of Mass, making genuflections and profound bows with devotion and love. In contrast to those who treat him with coldness, we’re called to treat him with passion, to be more enthusiastic about him than the most fanatical follower of a sports team is about his hometown squad, and to show it through the way we sing with gusto, pray the Mass, welcoming others with warmth and love. In response to the scorn or contempt with which most treat him, we’re called to treat him with grateful appreciation, even endless thanksgiving. And in contrast to sacrilege, we’re called to receive him as a holy temple fit for his presence, among other things. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is meant to transform us, to help us adore and receive Jesus in the Eucharist with precedence, piety, passion, praise and purity — in short, by treating him as he deserves.
- Today we come to this holy basilica to ask for that gift. One of my favorite scenes in the life of St. Margaret Mary was when Jesus mystically took her heart out of her breast, placed it in the burning furnace of his own heart, melted away all the impurities and frigidty, and returned it to her, so that she could love with the same fire with which Jesus loves the Father and others. Today we come before Jesus asking for the same heart transplant. “O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto thine!”
The readings for today’s Mass were:
A Reading from the Book of Hosea (Hos 11:1,3-4,8-9)
Thus says the LORD: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer. My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not a man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you. The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm — You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation (Is 12:2-3, 4, 5-6)
God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid.
My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior.
With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation.
Give thanks to the LORD, acclaim his name;
among the nations make known his deeds, proclaim how exalted is his name.
Sing praise to the LORD for his glorious achievement; let this be known throughout all the earth.
Shout with exultation, O city of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel!
Alleluia — “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, says the Lord, for I am meek and humble of heart”
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to John (Jn 19:31-37)
Since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced. The Gospel of the Lord.