Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ, provincial superior of the US Province of the Priests of the Sacred Heart (Dehonians), was the main celebrant and homilist at the June 11 Mass for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. Dehonians joined residents at Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake in the feast-day Eucharist in the Good Shepherd Chapel. Fr. Ed’s homily follows.
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – June 11, 2021
Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus!
Today we celebrate a feast that speaks of love, compassion, tenderness, and mercy. A feast that speaks of Heart.
The Heart is an ancient concept in the Scriptures. It occurs more than one thousand times, making it the most common word in the Bible. The heart is the center of the person, where one’s desires, affections, and intentions reside. The heart is the seat of the will just as the mind is the seat of the intellect. Our minds reveal what we know, but our hearts reveal what we love; the heart implies love or affection.
We see Jesus’ love and compassion for us in His heart, our founder, Fr. Leo John Dehon wrote. “The Heart of Jesus is overflowing with compassion for all those who suffer; those beset by troubles, difficulties, and hardships; for the hungry, the toilers, the destitute, and the sick and infirm. His is the Heart of a Father, the Heart of a Mother, the Heart of a Shepherd.”
Think of the positive words we use to describe our hearts or those of others: a soft heart, a gentle heart, a beating heart, a loving heart, a generous heart, a kind heart, a tender heart, a forgiving heart, a merciful heart, a dear heart, a renewed heart, a new heart, a heart of flesh, a heart of gold. And the negatives: a hard heart, a frustrated heart, a bitter heart, an unforgiving heart, a broken heart, a divided heart, a heavy heart, a bad heart, a jealous heart, a heart of stone. Jesus’ heart has all the positives, and offers us a way to follow, a bridge to conversion, from the negative to the positive.
So, we can say that the basic attitude of Jesus’ heart is one of unconditional love. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the symbol and image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which prompts us to make a return of love.
Our Scripture readings today speak powerfully of God’s loving heart. The prophet Hosea sums up where we stand in the sight of God. He tells how God the Father, our Creator, nurtured the people of Israel – loving his people the way a parent loves a child, teaching them to walk, feeding them, caressing them in love. In spite of Israel’s dependence on God, Israel often rebelled against God. Like a disruptive, angry teenager, Israel declared its independence from God. It’s like many of us, we profess that we are dependent upon God for everything, but we also pretend to be self-sufficient. As a result, we stumble and fall in our relationship with God.
It is in the heart of Jesus, pierced by the soldier’s lance, that this love becomes tangible, real, utterly available to us. For from his pierced heart, there flows water and blood, the source of the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. By sharing in these sacraments we share in that divine love to be found only in the depths of Christ’s Sacred Heart.
In the Eucharist we receive “the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” – we receive that fullness of God’s love which flows from the heart of Jesus. This is the source and font of that love which forms the heart of the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is the source and font of our ability to do works of charity in such a way as to be pleasing in God’s sight. It is this Sacred Heart, “overwhelmed by pity and pierced by a lance” for our salvation, that we worship, adore and seek to imitate in our lives, so that “Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith” and we may be transformed into people with loving, compassionate and merciful hearts for humanity.
The open side and the pierced heart of the Savior most wonderfully expressed for Dehon, a love whose active presence he experienced in his own life.
“As disciples of Father Dehon, we want to make union with Christ in His love for the Father and for all, the principle and center of our life. With special love we meditate on these words of the Lord: Abide in me, as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. (John 15:4).” SCJ Constitutions #17.
Later in his life Fr. Dehon wrote in his Spiritual Testament: The Heart of Jesus, “I leave you the most wonderful of treasures,” He could think of nothing more precious to pass on to his spiritual sons. “As much as I can,” he continues, “I confide all of you to the Heart of Jesus. I recommend you to his mercy. I address to him this prayer which he addressed to his Father in behalf of his disciples, ‘My Father, keep those whom you have given me’.”
Unlike a treasure that is carefully preserved and seldom handled, however, the Heart of Jesus is intended for the realities of daily life and the imperfections of the human condition. Fr. Dehon wrote, “Like St. John, my master and model, I say to all of you, ‘Love one another as Jesus Christ has loved you.’ I beg of you, by all the affection I have for you and by the affection you have manifested to me, that you act in such a manner that holy charity may ever reign among you. Never offer a word of criticism or of bitterness against another among you.” The Retreat with the Sacred Heart, 39th Meditation
Faithful to hearing the Word and sharing the Bread, on this feast we are invited to discover the person of Christ and the mystery of His Heart ever more deeply, and to proclaim His love.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus, a heart which was formed in Mary’s womb; a heart which beat as he preached the Good News and healed the sick; a heart that stopped on the cross and was then pierced by the soldiers’ lance. It is also the heart that beat once more at the Resurrection and continues to do so for us today.
It is in the Sacred Heart that we see the love of God which created the heavens and the earth; a love which created humankind and then redeemed us in our fallen nature. The Sacred Heart is also one of fully human love; one which expressed itself in the love of Jesus for His Mother; the love of Jesus for His disciples, and the love which he showed for all he preached to and cared for. It was a love that was also able to forgive those who nailed Him to the cross.
As we slowly come out of the COVID pandemic that plagued our lives for the last sixteen months; as we begin a “new normal”; and as we raise our minds and hearts to God in prayer on this feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us make our own hearts to be like Jesus’, loving God above all else, and loving one another and ourselves as God loves us, with love, compassion, tenderness, and mercy. Let us unite our hearts with his, so that the deepest longings of Christ’s Sacred Heart may become the deepest longings of our own.
As Fr. Leo Dehon said: “The Sacred Heart belongs to you, he is your treasure and your resting place”.
– Fr. Ed Kilianski, SCJ