For today's Solemnity, I will be breaking open the word -giving a homily- in my community. Those of you who read my blogs and do so before 5:40 pm will get to read this before my community hears it!! I still struggle with incorporating some of Pope Francis' words in my blog without having the entire text of my reflections highlighted. I'll keep working on that, but in the meantime, you'll have to deal with the highlighted stuff today!
There is an absolute smorgasbord of themes today, ranging from love, redemption, renewal, all of which would require homilies of their own. Despite that, I'll try to touch on as many of them as I can in a few minutes.
As a person who came rather late to the faith, solemnities like the one we have today, were originally something I couldn't make much sense of. It was in fact easier for me to not make a big deal over such celebrations, which were not that 'scriptural' to begin with ( this is probably what I told myself back in the days. That would have been the closet Protestant in me speaking. He still gets to have his say once in a while, though I've learned to limit his contributions to my prayer life over the years, especially when his contribution is a negative one!).
It's when we were in Guelph for the Spiritual exercises that I sort of made my peace with the Sacred heart of Jesus, because I came to truly understand what this image stood for in my life. In the early days of the exercises, I was taken out of my comfort zone a little, when they asked us to 'play with pottery'. They wanted us to illustrate our faith journey with something concrete that we could illustrate with pottery. Now I have absolutely no artistic talent whatsoever, so I was not comfortable with this idea at all!
Despite this, a vision emerged in my supposedly un artistic mind: I wanted to make a vessel...preferably a jar -so I could pretend that I had made a Jar of clay-...but I wanted it to be chipped, to be broken on the side...and inside the broken jar, I wanted to place the Sacred heart of Jesus...a reminder to me that even though I think I'm broken, and at times, I feel unworthy of God's love, God, through his son Jesus, loves me infinitely more than anyone ever has or ever will. As Bill Clarke, a very wise Jesuit from our province would say, God loves me as I am...in my brokenness, and this is what I wanted to depict with this piece.
Of course, as I've hinted at, when it comes to being artistic, I just plain suck. That night, I wasn't very prayerful around my block of clay. I remember stressing a lot. I mean, once you have such a wonderful artistic vision in your head, you really want to see it come to life.I kept trying to mold my block of clay into something that even remotely resembled a jar...and I tried everything...I may even have tried to channel the pottery maker from the movie Ghost by singing "Unchained Melody" to myself. In the end, I did make a jar...if...Jars are Square shaped, have no handles and no obvious place from which the water could pour...but this exercise caused me enough stress that I decided to focus more on the Heart... Which became the center piece of my work.I even painted it, made a crown of thorn around it...to remind myself how much was put into this love for me. Even if I couldn't portray my brokenness, I wanted this heart to express my understanding of how strong this love is. I wanted it to show how humbled I was at how this heart had conquered so much for the sake of our salvation. I wanted to illustrate that I understood now, how this heart was calling me to a new life, rooted in love of others. Notice, I didn't say anywhere that I understood how loved I was.
This remains a challenge for me, but apparently, not just for me. This is what Pope Francis was hinting at this morning when he said, It’s harder to open our hearts and let God love us than to love God in return..our love for God and others is unquestioned, and grows daily. However, no matter how much that love grows, sometimes we forget how much more we are loved back.
meditating on the strength of God's love has always been a challenge for me. It's all a little overwhelming at times. How could we possibly love any where as nearly as God does..how can we return that love in any way? How can we even approach something as rich, and as powerful as the Sacred heart of Jesus? In a way, the more we ask this type of question, the further we get from understanding that love..
For as St. Ignatius (quoted by Pope Francis) reminds us, this love, "manifests itself more in deeds than in words...that is more giving than receiving."
And this is something we are all capable of. Once we accept that as Romans 5 states, God's love is poured into our hearts through the holy Spirit, then there is no turning back. Yes, we remain children of Eve who still easily get off track in our walk with God, and not infrequently succumb to the grief and darkness of our world. But once we get over that, once we stop being overwhelmed by the attention that the shepherd has given to us, then can we live out our redemption, by walking in the path of righteousness, not for our own sake, but for the sake of the one who loved us with all his life and now asks us to do the same.
For the Shema that we heard yesterday exists, because we understand God's faithfulness to us. We understand that even in our darkest hour and moment, God's light shines through the sacred heart of Jesus, and pours itself into each of our own heart, restores our soul, and strengthens us so that we can go out there and be good Shepherds for others, committed to the wellbeing of all of God's children, committed to being present to each one of them, as they themselves journey with the living God,in the presence of the Sacred heart of Jesus.
Ezekiel 34: 11 - 16
11"For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.12As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness.13And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the fountains, and in all the inhabited places of the country.14I will feed them with good pasture, and upon the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on fat pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel.15I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD.16I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice.
|Psalms 23: 1 - 6|
|1||The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;|
|2||he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;|
|3||he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.|
|4||Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.|
|5||Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil, my cup overflows.|
|6||Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.|