Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus- Matthew 11: 25- 30
The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes back to the 11th century and presents the love of God symbolized by the heart of Jesus. This feast was first celebrated liturgically in France in 1670 as a consequence of the revelations to St Mary Margaret Alacoque.
In 1856, Pope Pius IX established the feast and added an octave which was later dropped during the 1955 liturgical reforms of the Church. Since 2002, this feast has also been celebrated as a day of prayer for the sanctification of priests, and in 2009 the ‘year of the priesthood’ began.
The heart is traditionally accepted as the seat of love. In celebrating Jesus’ Sacred Heart, we are celebrating the great love that Jesus had; a love that He received from His Father and for which He gave thanks for. It is this love that Jesus shares with us and willing walks to the cross out of love for us.
When we look at heart of Jesus we see that it is a heart of thanksgiving. The opening lines of today’s gospel reflect that gratitude for God, for He has revealed Jesus to the simple of heart. However, wise and intelligent people like the Pharisees, are shut out from such a revelation; not because God chose to, but more because they chose to rather rely on their learning.
What is it that God revealed? God revealed that Jesus has been handed all things, and the unique knowledge of the Son or the Father is given only by the Son to those whom He chooses. Jesus is the exclusive revelation of the Father.
The heart of Jesus also reveals a compassionate Saviour. Jesus says, “Come to me you who labour and are overburdened. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls, for my yolk is easy and my burden light.”
At first glance there may be nothing compassionate sounding in this invitation, especially to one who is already burdened. It is in understanding the example of Jesus that we understand His heart. In shouldering His yoke, Jesus does not seek to overburden us but that in walking with Him, we learn from the Master Himself.
Jesus who learnt His trade of carpentry from His father, was most certainly familiar with the making of yokes. If a yoke was to be made, the bullock was brought to the carpenter who ‘measured’ the bullock. The carpenter would then fashion a yoke to the measurement of the bullock. Then, like a bespoke suit, the bullock was brought back after the first shaping of the yolk was completed, to see if it fit well. After finishing touches, the yoke was delivered.
The feast of the Sacred Heart reveals not only the compassionate heart of the Father as revealed to us by Jesus, but also His heart of compassion. The etymology of this word ‘compassion’ helps us understand the heart of Jesus. It comes from the Latin word compassionem, meaning ‘to suffer together’.
The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an invitation not merely to adore His heart, but to live the revelation of a compassionate God.
Fr Warner D’Souza
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