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Inside the Sacred Heart

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

First Reading: Ezekiel 34:11-16

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I will lead them out from among the peoples
and gather them from the foreign lands;
I will bring them back to their own country
and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel
in the land’s ravines and all its inhabited places.
In good pastures will I pasture them,
and on the mountain heights of Israel
shall be their grazing ground.
There they shall lie down on good grazing ground,
and in rich pastures shall they be pastured
on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-3A, 3B-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Second reading: Romans 5:5B-11

Brothers and sisters:
The love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person
one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood,
will we be saved through him from the wrath.
Indeed, if, while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son,
how much more, once reconciled,
will we be saved by his life.
Not only that,
but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel: Luke 15:3-7

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes:
“What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them,
‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance.”

NAB

DEV_J3

Full Catholic confession: I never understood the Sacred Heart.

My childhood parish had a statue in the basement of Jesus pointing to His wounded, bleeding heart—and it creeped me out. My college had a basilica by the same name, but I never noticed its meaning. Despite two decades of Catholic education, I cannot remember a single lesson about the theology of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

All of which made my encounter with the Sacred Heart that much more stunning.

When our daughters Maggie and Abby died in our arms over two months ago, my husband and I had our hearts torn apart. I never knew the human body could withstand such suffering. But at the moment of their deaths, I realized that we had entered into the Sacred Heart of Jesus—where everything is broken and bleeding, but also sealed with purest love.

Because the intensity of pain at our daughters’ deaths was surpassed only by the depth of love for them—and our joy at the foretaste of Heaven they offered us in their last moments. The same joy they now enjoy forever within the Heart of God. The same joy that waits for each of us, beckoning our hearts to break like His in this life so that we can rejoice forever with Him in the next.

Because this is what the Sacred Heart does. It loves foolishly by the world’s standards. It cares tenderly for the small and sick that the world ignores. It runs wildly after one lost sheep. It rejoices lavishly over a single repentant sinner. It rescues each of us from where we were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.

The Sacred Heart is broken and wounded, bleeding out of suffering love. This is what makes it Divine: it does what we scarcely believe a heart could do.

When we pray to have a heart like Christ, do we know what we are asking? We are praying for our hearts to be broken. Only when they are wounded like His can they begin to beat like His, too. Only when a heart suffers out of deepest love for others can it be transformed into a heart like God’s.

I understand the Sacred Heart now. It cannot be confined to a statue or a basilica or even a single solemnity. It is the pulsing, beating heart of everything we believe about the Christian faith.

It is the broken, bleeding heart that loves us. It is the sacred, suffering heart that saves us.

Today when you pray to become more like Christ, pause to realize what you are asking. Pray for the strength to let your heart be broken out of compassion. Pray for the grace to let your heart be sealed with love. Pray with deepest gratitude for the Sacred Heart.

photo credit

Laura Kelly Fanucci is a mother, writer, and theological researcher. She and her husband are raising three little boys in the suburban wilds of Minnesota. You can find out more about her here.

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