(Homily for today’s Solemnity at Sacred Heart Church)
This is a special day of prayer in our parish community. Our building and our people are named for an image of Jesus that reminds us of the enduring love that God has for of us, especially people who are hurting, lonely and fragile. We are named for the compassionate life and ministry of Jesus, the Sacred Heart.
Our prayer this morning, even more than yesterday or tomorrow, challenges us to live among those whom the Sacred Heart loves. We are chosen by the heart of God to bring compassion, peace and a rich understanding of mercy to those around us. Of course, we cannot give what we do not have, that is why we pray today for our own lives to be converted into love, because we are also fragile, lonely and misunderstood.
We are challenged to live within the Heart of Jesus to be for others what we hope Jesus will be for us. We must first examine our own lives to uncover within our sin the heart of love that we seek.
We are tempted to put other people down because of their talents or gifts because so often we believe we are not good enough, yet Jesus offers us the realization that our talents must be woven together to become a community of heartfelt compassion.
We are tempted to stifle other peoples’ voices because we do not agree with their perspectives or their accents or patterns of speech, yet Jesus is inviting us to listen to other people with new ears and a new awareness of people’s stories and backgrounds.
We are tempted to sit comfortably in our pews, in the places that we think belong to us, yet the Heart of Jesus is calling us to shift our bodies to move over, to provide a place of rest for people who are here for the first time, those who wait for optimism and encouragement from us and from God.
We are tempted this morning to believe that love is only for those who keep the rules of the Church, those people whom we already know, those who fill this room on a regular basis, yet the Sacred Heart is challenging us to pray for people across the globe who exist daily without shelter or clean water or family or those who restlessly search for meaning, for jobs and for a healthy future.
We are tempted to use our own voices to judge people, to speak with violence and blame, to shame those whom we do not even know, yet Jesus is inviting us to learn a new language of peace, a peace that begins with our interactions, a peace that begins today in our Eucharistic action of breaking bread and sharing a cup.
We are tempted to humiliate people because of how their lives have turned out, whether in divorce or ill health or addictions to food or drugs or rage, of how often or not they stand in line for confession, yet Jesus invites us to be the soothing balm that brings people together without judgment or violence.
We are tempted into worry for our children and grandchildren about their faith and lives, yet the Sacred Heart challenges us to not become hypocritical about our own lives and actions, making sure love is always our guide. We cannot become cynical or threatened for we must allow the work of the Sacred Heart to heal those in need of healing and to protect the lost, the abandoned and the forgotten even when they are own children.
We are tempted to point our fingers at people to set them into a direction that is not easily attainted. “Get a job…Get your act together… You are lazy and fat…you are a bum or a fag or a druggie, or a dike or a sinner or a crazy. You just suck resources from the government. Why should we help you?” Yet, Jesus reminds us of the blind man, the leper, the demonic, the tax collector and the prostitute. We are called today to put mercy, love and forgiveness into daily practice for real people in our families, neighborhoods and cities.
We are tempted in our church this morning to sit in silence because we want to protect our lives from God, to sit without challenge, to have our private morning devotion, yet Jesus calls us together to become the name that is on our building, the place where the Sacred Heart dwells, a people of hope for tomorrow, a people of love for the future.
Let us pray on behalf of all of our parishioners in the name of Jesus:
Sacred Heart of Jesus, guide our parish community beyond our fear. Open for us a new path in times of transitions with our staff and the worries we bear of the care of our buildings, our service among people in poverty and the future of our children. Guide us as we work with Catholic Charities, Westside Cares and other organizations to more easily put charity into practice. Protect our parishioners with mental illness and depression, those who live from paycheck to pay check, those who cannot find forgiveness from past hurts, those who live with despair, those who feel abandoned raising their children, people who grieve their losses and those whom we have lost in death. Comfort us in our sorrows and give us hope today in your loving and embracing mercy. We ask this through the Father and in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.