Solemnity of the Sacred Heart
Have we come to know and to believe in the love God has for us?
In the Old Testament we hear that God chose Israel, not because they were a great nation, not because they were gifted or talented, but because he loved them. So, their existence as a nation was a proof of God’s love. He promises to be a shepherd for them, that is, to care for them lovingly.
Yet God wanted to prove his love not for one nation but for all nations. God sent his Son. The Eternal, Uncontainable, Immeasurable love of God, was contained in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ and set that heart on fire. We see the flame of love in every depiction of the Sacred Heart. The foundation of Jesus’ life and existence was the LOVE of the FATHER. Everything that Jesus Christ was, he was because the Father loved him. Everything that Jesus did, he did because he loved the Father.
The same love that burns in the Sacred Heart has been poured into our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit. Have we come to know and to believe in the love God has for us? If we have, then our hearts should burn, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus who said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
My summer as a deacon, I was at Holy Family parish. The religious education coordinator had organized a Mass to begin the religious education year, where the parents and children could meet their teachers and get their materials for the year. Our coordinator decided to have each of the children write on a little construction paper heart, which said “I follow Jesus by __________”. They collected those hearts in a big basket and set them in front of the altar. The lady had planned to make a collage or something out of the hearts, but I overruled her. I’m not a big fan of collages, but the real reason was that the hearts were an offering to God and they had to be treated like a sacrifice. So after the blessing, we took the hearts outside, while the kids and their parents followed us. By the front of the church we lit the hearts on fire, and the smoke rose up to heaven. When a little girl came up and asked “Why are you burning our hearts?” I answered, “Because, our hearts have to be on fire with Love for God.”
Our hearts should burn with the love of God. If they do not, what can we do? We could sit in the chapel and wait for the Holy Spirit to fall on us. But I think we should look at it a different way.
Another great summer experience was my jobs as a camp counselor at a Catholic summer camp in Shawano, Wisconsin. That job taught me how to light fires. Every Wednesday, lunch was hamburgers cooked on a camp fire. While the hungry kids munched on the potato chips and pickles and looked longingly at the raw hamburgers, I would struggle to light a fire and cook the patties. Now, we had a small stack of wood by the fire pit, but you can hold a lighter to a log all day long and nothing will happen.
The secret was to conscript the kids to gather handfuls of twigs and fallen sticks, little branches, bark and dry leaves. The little handfuls of sticks didn’t look like much but with a lighter and some newspaper I could start a full-blown fire in a few minutes.
The fire of the Holy Spirit is already burning in your heart, its just that the fire is faint. So, you need handfuls of twigs, dead and dry twigs. These are your weaknesses and failures, your struggles, which God can use to start a fire.
And there are so many more opportunities for little deaths. Keeping your mouth shut instead of making a cutting remark. Skipping desert or passing on that Latte you just feel you need. Going out of your way to be kind to someone you do not want to speak to. These little dead twigs don’t look like much, but each handful is fuel for the Holy Spirit.
Life has a way of increasing the fire. If we are like big, lumpy logs, then the struggles of life are like chipping us into kindling. Sometimes we come to the end of the day and feel like we are, broken, chopped, crushed, and that all we have left at the end of the day is little splinters. We are becoming the fuel for the fire that purifies our souls, and we are becoming kindling to start other souls on fire, if we pour those splinters on the fire in our hearts. That is why daily prayer is the key to spiritual growth.
However, a good fire isn’t the one that you make with twigs. That is just a start. What you really want in a roaring fire is hard wood, wood that burns slowly and long. That is the kind of fire that will burn through the cold and the rain, that will burn through the night.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus burns with love for the Father, a love deeper than all other loves. And so should we! Deeper than our love for family, for friends, for children and lands, for our lives, is our Love for God; so deep that we could lose children and home, family and friends, and feel that we have lost nothing, next to the surpassing worth of knowing the Love of God. This is what St. Paul felt when he said, ” I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him,” (Phil. 3:8-9) This is the deep fire, the strong fire, the fire that even death cannot quench. When the love of God burns this deep, everything we are comes from this love, and everything we do comes from this love, and we live and love with the same love that burns in the Sacred Heart.
When our love is this deep, we are not afraid to throw everything on the fire; our hopes and dreams, our plans for he future, whatever will burn, so that the love in our hearts will burn bright, and will be a beacon to those who are lost and wandering, and bring them to God.
The world is a cold and dark place and the only candle that burns with the Love of God is your own heart. But why light a candle, when you can light a bonfire? A bonfire is just a pile of junk if it isn’t lit on fire.
What good is your heart if it hasn’t been lit by the fire of the Holy Spirit?