Celebrating the “very love of God”

Fr. Jim welcomes everyone to the feast-day liturgy
Fr. Jim welcomes everyone to the feast-day liturgy

Fr. Jim Schroeder, SCJ, was the homilist for the Feast of the Sacred Heart Mass at Sacred Heart Monastery on Friday, June 12. The main chapel was just about filled to capacity with benefactors, religious and other friends of the community. The following is the text of Fr. Jim’s homily:


Hosea 11:1,3-4,8-9. How the Lord loved Israel as a little child
Ephesians 3:8-12,14-19. Paul preaches the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.
John 19:31-37. The soldier pierced His side. They will look upon him whom they have pierced.


I think this is one of the greatest feasts in the church year and certainly my favorite, because this solemnity celebrates not just an historical event but the very love of God, the Heart of God, as present in the Heart of Jesus. We Christians can perhaps be a little superior thinking it is only in Christ and the Christian covenant that we celebrate God’s tender love. However, our first reading today reveals God as a tender parent, not just to Israel, or Ephraim, but to each of us. It speaks of God holding us in His arms and drawing us close with human cords, with bands of love, as raising us to His cheek and feeding us. This is the God Jesus refers to as “Abba,” the loving parent. Once on a bus I saw an orthodox Jewish parent hold a little child so the child could jump up and down on his knees. The child kept gleefully chanting, “Abba, Abba, Abba,” “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” This is our God, the Sacred Heart of God, who Father Leo Dehon our Founder wrote, “Has the heart of a father, the heart of a mother, the heart of a shepherd.”

The choir from St. Mary's in Hales Corners provided the music
St. Mary’s choir, Hales Corners

Jesus was and is this Heart. Father Dehon wrote, “The heart of Jesus, the love of Jesus, is the whole of the Gospel.” As we look through Scripture we see the love of Jesus that has no bounds, that surpasses all understanding. He broke the customs, the rules, and the prejudices of both His religion and His culture. He reached out in love to religious leaders but also to heretics, and even to foreigners who were pagan invaders. He valued and embraced those society considered just property: slaves, children, and women. He welcomed sexual sinners and criminals. He approached and touched the unclean: shepherds, lepers, the physically and mentally ill, and even those possessed. He forgave and repaired relationships with his apostles who had abandoned and denied him, with Paul who persecuted Him, and He prayed for forgiveness for those who tortured and executed Him.

With an embrace like this, we know that Jesus has a place in His heart for us, too. We can revel in His love and let ourselves be held by Him. His love calls us to love in return, to offer to Him our hearts.

Fr. Paul Kelly visits with a friend of the community after Mass
Fr. Paul Kelly visits after Mass

You know, no matter how much people scorned and hated Him, no matter how they abandoned and denied Him, tortured and hurt Him, Jesus did not get hard-hearted. He did not develop a heart of stone but kept a heart of flesh, one that could be vulnerable and hurt again and again. We see this in our Gospel today: Jesus loved us to death, and even then His side was opened and His heart pierced so that He had no bounds, He gave His all for us, His very last drops of blood and water.

His loves calls us to open our hearts to others as He does. Our new General Superior Fr. Heiner Wilmer preached on this in his Mass of Thanksgiving. He quoted bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, whom Pope Francis just beatified: “It is unconscionable for anyone to call him- or herself Christian and not have a preferential option for the poor”–and he meant poor in the full spectrum of the word. Our Rule of Life says that “Christ identified with the lowly and the poor.” Dehon lived that love “for the humble, the lowly, the workers and the poor.” Can we love like that? Does our love move us to such reparation?

Fr. Dominic Peluse catches up with a friend of the community
Fr. Dominic Peluse and a visitor

You know, when Fr. Dehon started the Priests of the Sacred Heart he turned to Sacred Heart devotion as promoted by St. Margaret Mary. We tried to make reparation to the Sacred Heart for others in a very spiritual way. We almost took on a holier than thou approach, such as making a holy hour of reparation at midnight for all the sinners on New Year’s eve. However, in time, Dehon became clear about what reparation is. He wrote, “It is necessary that veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which has begun in the mystical life of souls, come down and enter into the social life of the world’s peoples. It will bring the sovereign remedy to the cruel ills of our moral world.” Father John van den Hengel our last vicar general said the unique spiritual gift Fr. Dehon gave to the whole church was to unite devotion to the Heart of Christ with repairing the world by implementing the social teachings of the church. We are all called to a reparation that is to “remedy the sin and lack of love in the church and in the world,” as our Rule of Life puts it. The love of Christ is the root of our life and impels us. Our devotion to the Sacred Heart is not to be just a spiritual relationship between Jesus and me, but it is to move us to bring the Reign of the Heart of Christ, the reign of God’s love to my neighbors, to strangers and immigrants, and to all societies, all groups, all clubs, all corporations, all unions, all parties, all governments, etc. Will I let the love of God for me touch and move me to that extent?

God has given us such a gift in His love for us, and in His call to love others as He does. This is our devotion to the Sacred Heart, the Heart of Christ today, to give Him our love and to love those in the church and in the world who most need love and compassion. Let us now give God thanks for this great gift and let us celebrate it.

I am going to sit quietly for two minutes, and I will time it, to let us all revel in God’s love and to let God move us to reparation.