Friday, June 27, 2014
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
[Deuteronomy 7: 6-11; 1John 4: 7-16; Matthew 11: 25-30]
Today the Church marks the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. This feast draws us to the wonder of God's ineffable love, revealed in the heart of Christ. It thus provides the perfect setting for appreciating the mystery and gift of the ministerial priesthood that we celebrate tonight. The step that Kristopher Schmidt and Joachim Ostermann take tonight is clearly countercultural. Since it is not modelled on contemporary secular logic it will lie beyond the understanding of many. However, it is easily understood and readily celebrated by the community of faith. Anyone who has been touched by the love of the Lord knows the power of its attraction and the desire it evokes within the heart to respond completely. The gift of God's love awakens the recipient to the mystery of call, and enables the response of complete self-gift. Assisted by this solemnity's deepest meaning, and guided by Sacred Scripture, let us ponder this.
Kris and Joachim, your academic preparation took place at Newman Theological College, whose patron and namesake located the very essence of the Christian life in a communion of hearts: cor ad cor loquitur, heart speaking to heart, in a mutual dialogue or, better, a mutual embrace of love between God and believer. Contemplation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals that the bond of love God grants us with himself is a participation in the very communion Jesus shares with the Father. He who has come from the heart of the Father (cf. John 1:18) tells us in the Gospel tonight that the purpose of his advent is to reveal that heart to the world, indeed to make known to us the communion of life and love that obtains between the Father and the Son. By the pouring out upon the world of the gift of the Holy Spirit, recipients are drawn into this very same communion and are enabled to live henceforth cor ad cor loquitur, in a life united with God in the mystery of his love.
This wonder, manifest in the heart of Christ, stands behind the teaching of Saint John in his first letter, where he articulates the central conviction that informs and shapes every Christian life: "So we have known and believe the love that God has for us." (1John 4:16) The Sacred Heart of Jesus symbolizes the outpouring of divine love in its fullness into human history. When touched by this love of Jesus, I am transformed, changed forever. No longer do I understand life's horizon of meaning and definitive direction as something I must figure out and determine for myself. Henceforth it is forever clear that I receive my life's purpose from outside myself, from God. It is, indeed, foreseen and determined by God even before I was born (cf. Jeremiah 1:5). The conviction of God's love stills within me that ever-present temptation to self-determination and disposes me to listen to the voice of the Lord and to allow His love to determine the course of my life.
Furthermore, God's gift of love and call is pure gift, in no way merited on my part. In the passage from Deuteronomy we hear Moses teach the ancient Hebrew people that God's choice arises purely and simply from the mystery of his love. He expresses this beautifully when he speaks of God "setting his heart" on his people. This phrase evokes both love and determination. When God set his heart on the people of Israel, he freely chose them and drew them to himself in a bond of love with a view to preparing the world for the accomplishment of his saving plan. From eternity, God's heart was set upon creating and redeeming his beloved creation in and through the gift of His Son, who calls us still now in varying ways to serve this divine purpose.
Kris and Joachim, at a certain point in your own personal histories you were brought to the realization that Jesus had set his heart upon you, and had chosen you to serve his beloved people through the sacred office of the ministerial priesthood. By God's grace, you, in turn, have set your heart on Jesus and on following him through this particular service of the Church. This bond of love is the very centre and engine of the priest's life and ministry. Communion with his heart will transform your own and enable you to love and serve no longer with your own heart but with his. Long ago God promised through Jeremiah to raise up shepherds after his own heart (cf. Jeremiah 3:15) Ask the Lord daily to bring that promise to fulfillment in you, and be ready to accept its implications. Meek and gentle of heart, Jesus dealt tenderly with the sinful and suffering. So, too, must you be always gentle with the wounded of our day who seek the healing of Christ. As his heart was pierced by the sins of humanity and broken by our indifference, so too will yours be whenever the Gospel is rejected. However, the inevitable pain that touches the heart of a priest will be far outweighed by the immeasurable joy that comes from serving Jesus as the instrument of his transformative grace. In the Gospel the Lord's heart is rejoicing at the acceptance of divine revelation by the childlike. You, too, will know joy in your heart as you witness marvellous things unfolding in the lives of those who accept God's saving word and healing mercy that reach them through your ministry.
Thank you for placing your trust in the love of the Lord and accepting his call. Now you will give voice to that trust by expressing before God and his Church your commitment to service. As you do, know that the faithful of the Archdiocese of Edmonton surround you with their love, gratitude and support.
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
June 27, 2014