Written on: June 27, 2022
Written by: Sister Karen Marie Voltz, GNSH,
When we speak of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we see familiar images; a medal, a picture, a statue, or a stained glass window.
For me, when I lived at home, there was a statue of the Sacred Heart at the end of our second floor hallway with a seven-day candle always burning. In my parents’ bedroom hung the traditional pictures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In St Margaret’s Church where I minister, the largest stained-glass window in the front of the church is of the Sacred Heart. It faces the east where the morning sun shines brilliantly through it, and captures one’s attention daily. It is breathtakingly beautiful!
As children, many of us learned and still pray today: “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.” and “Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.”
Like many of us, inheriting St. Marguerite d’Youville’s devotions, I love the very first intercession of the Litany of the Sacred Heart: “Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father.”
Today when I think of the Sacred Heart, I think of unconditional love. I often pondered, “How unconditional is this love?” A spontaneous response is, “…I will lay down my life…” In the Letter to the Romans, we heard “God proves His love for us, in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us..,”
This is Christ’s redemptive love, willingly laying down His life for all people. Christ says, “I am the Good Shepherd…I will lay down my life for the sheep.” Jn10:14a,15b.
In today’s Gospel, we recognize the importance of every single lamb, as the shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to seek one. I read the ninety-nine stay together, because they huddle touching each other, as we do in a community. However, a lamb all alone needs the shepherd to come after it. Unlike animals that come back when called, a lost lamb is paralyzed with fear. The shepherd takes the initiative and goes to it. If small, the shepherd cradles the lamb in his arms. If the lamb is bigger, he slings it over his shoulders, grabbing its feet in front of him. In any case, the lamb is carried.
If we identify with that lamb, there are many, many times that God carries us: carries us through sickness…aging…sorrows in our life… transitions…loss of loved ones or friends…the recent isolation during covid…everyday disappointments or challenges…and loneliness.
There are so many lovely images in Psalm 23. Christ, the Shepherd: refreshes us, guides us, gives us courage, dispels our fears as He walks beside us. God’s goodness and kindness follow us all the days of our life.
In the First Reading, [Ez 34:11-16] Ezekiel’s prophecy that God will be a shepherd—is so identified with the Compassionate Heart of Christ that rescues, leads, gathers, gives rest, seeks out, binds up, heals. We know this happens in our families, parishes, communities, neighborhoods, cities, and the Church.
However, so much compassion is needed still: in hospitals, prisons, nursing facilities, toward the homeless, anyone discriminated against, those in refugee camps, or in war-torn countries like the Ukraine.
At the last judgement, it will be the sheep who imitated the Compassionate Heart of Christ, “who will enter the kingdom… who did it for one of these, the least of my people.”