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June 8, 2018 - Strength To Comprehend Love

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Scripture Readings

I grew up a Protestant, and was always a little bit freaked about by the pictures I saw in some Catholic material that showed Jesus holding his large heart, with what seemed like bolts of lightning emanating from the heart. And, when I first became Catholic, this was not a feast day toward which I immediately gravitated. Like the rosary, the Sacred Heart was one of those Catholic oddities that overwhelmed my Protestant sensibilities, because it didn’t seem quite scriptural – and well, maybe a little bit because the idea of Jesus holding his heart seemed a bit too Indiana Jones (the second movie). As I have grown in my Catholic faith, though, I have come more and more to appreciate the Sacred Heart, even reading about the lives of Saint Margaret Mary and Sr. Josefa Menendez. This is a feast day that focuses so much on Jesus’ love and mercy for the world – important things for our world that has so many hurting people who want something more for their lives. 

And, I have come to realize how very scriptural meditation on the Sacred Heart is. Of course, today’s readings accentuate that point. The first reading is from the prophet Hosea, who was asked by God to marry a prostitute and then proclaim to the people that his relationship with his unfaithful wife is like the relationship God has with his unfaithful people. This background is important for reading the passage (11:1, 3-4, 8c-9) because here we see that God is angry at the peoples’ mean acts and lack of faith, but despite all that, loves them very much. One thing we could say about our world today is that there are many people who wonder if God is real, or who despair about God’s presence in a world that seems so dark. Perhaps we ourselves have had moments of doubt, and wondered, “If I have these thoughts, perhaps God will not really love me.” But this scripture suggests otherwise.

So, too, does the epistle reading (Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19), where Paul is describing the nature of Jesus’ love. It is so all-encompassing, so rich, so overwhelming, that Paul has to pray that we might have the strength to comprehend it! A love that needs strength to comprehend is complex and deep enough for our doubts. But also, that kind of love goes far beyond our sentimental views of love. Hallmark greeting cards that proclaim “love” are not this kind of love. This scripture calls us to think differently and more thoroughly about what it means to be loved and to love.

And so, the Gospel reading (John 19:31-37) is a scene from Jesus on the cross. Many people wrestle with how this scene of torture and death really depicts love – but that is where the “strength to comprehend” comes in. Jesus’ love is not like ours, and thank goodness for that! We too often do not love well. 

That is all the more reason to have this day set aside for meditating on the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his love and mercy. Perhaps we can come to understand just a little bit more about his love and so enrich our own loves.

- Jana M. Bennett