SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Dt 7:6-11; 1 Jn 4:7-16; Mt 11:25-30 ]

We have just celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi when we contemplated on Jesus giving Himself to us in His body and blood.  Following this feast, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart.  This feast invites us to contemplate deeper into the heart of God.  The heart is always a symbol of love.  It is a symbol of passionate love.  In a world where there is so much selfishness, materialism, competition and desire for fame and power, there is a lack of graciousness and compassion in society.  Indeed, people today tend to care more about themselves, their success and enjoyment in life than repaying their gratitude to their parents, especially the elderly and the weak, Church and society.  It is about themselves first and foremost but not about others.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart brings to mind the heart of God’s love for us in Christ Jesus.  God’s love is not mere words or sentimentalism.   The love of God is personal and concrete.  St John tells us that “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him.”  God was not just sympathetic to the sufferings of His people.  He did not save us from on high and sent His holy angels to help us.  He personally came down to be with us in our struggles, to identify with us and to show us the way to true freedom and fullness of life.  This happened when God became man in Jesus.  God pitched His tent among us, suffered with us so that no one can say He does not understand the pain of humanity.

Indeed, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating for the marginalized and the poor.  In the first reading, God said to Moses, “If the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, it was not because you outnumbered other peoples: you were the least of all peoples. It was for love of you.”  This too was the same mission of Jesus.  When He began His mission, He made the prophecy of the Suffering Servant His own when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”  (Lk 4:18a)  Jesus’ preferential option is for the poor and the marginalized, the sinners and the outcasts of society.

Secondly, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating for those who are suffering, oppressed and under bondage.  Our God is a compassionate God.  When He saw the Hebrews in slavery, He told Moses, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”  (Ex 3:7-8a)  Indeed, Jesus came to deliver us from our captivity to illnesses, sin and the Evil One.  “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” (Lk 4:18b)

Thirdly, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating with graciousness that He would even choose us to be His people.  “You are a people consecrated to the Lord your God; it is you that the Lord our God has chosen to be his very own people out of all the peoples on the earth.”  Indeed, to think that we are worthy to be chosen by the Lord!  Yet in Christ Jesus, we have become adopted sons and daughters in God.  Jesus said, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” (Jn 15:16)  St Paul wrote, “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption … we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Rom 8:15-17)

Finally, in Jesus, we see the heart of God beating for us even unto death.  God did not spare Himself from giving Himself to us even though we are ungrateful to Him.  Paul wrote, “He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?”  (Rom 8:32)  Moses said, “It was for love of you and to keep the oath he swore to your fathers that the Lord brought you out with his mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”  God is true to Himself and faithful in love even unto death.  This is what St John wrote, “this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”   Indeed, in Jesus, the heart of God is manifested fully.

Have you contemplated on the heart of God sufficiently to be able to say with the apostles, “We ourselves saw and we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and he in God.”?    Unless we come to realize the depth of His love for us in Christ Jesus, we will never know the sacrificial love of God for us.  Indeed, if many of us feel discouraged or hopeless or abandoned, it is because instead of focusing on the heart of God, we are focusing on our own pains.  Such an attitude will destroy us.  We become negative and inward looking.

The way out of our misery is to place our faith in God’s love.  This is what St John wrote, “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.”  In a similar vein, this is what the Lord is asking of us.  He said, “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.”  Indeed, it is human to be always anxious about tomorrow, about our finance, our health, our children and our elderly.  We wonder how we can care for them and whether we will have sufficient means to look after them.  Even if we are financially sound, we worry about their career, their relationships and their well- being.  Worry will only cripple us.  Fear will make us live in anxiety each day.

Jesus invites us to come to His Father in total confidence.  He said, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.”  We must be like a child in faith.   If we are humble and trusting, the Lord will reveal to us the wise plan of His Father for us.  Those of us who trust in our own intellect and ingenuity and strength will not find rest.  But like little children, we must surrender our lives entirely to God and walk by faith, not by sight.

But we cannot put our trust in our Heavenly Father unless we develop the same intimacy Jesus has with His Father.  He said, “Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Jesus surrendered His life to the Father even when His mission appeared to have ended in failure on the cross.  He commended everything in faith to the Father that He would deliver Him, for He knew His Father is faithful.  This is what God Himself said, “Know then that the Lord your God is God indeed, the faithful God who is true to his covenant and his graciousness for a thousand generations towards those who love him and keep his commandments.” So too, unless we share the Abba relationship of Jesus with His Father, it would be difficult for us to entrust our lives to Him whom we do not know.  This is the reason why many Catholics lack faith in God because there is no personal relationship with the Father.

But our devotion to the Sacred Heart does not end here.  This devotion cannot make us inward-looking. The heart must be open to others.  Hence, Jesus tells us that if we want to find happiness in life, then “Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heat, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.”  We must now take the yoke of Jesus upon ourselves.  It is the yoke of love and compassion.

Indeed, if we want to go beyond our pain and suffering, we must use our pain and disadvantages to reach out to others in compassion.  St John says, “let us love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.  Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.”   This is the only way in which we can share in His spirit of love and mercy.  When we follow Jesus in reaching out to the sick, the elderly, the abandoned, and the wounded hearts, those forlorn and in despair, sinners and those rejected by society, we give them hope.  We must never think that we are too poor to give.  There is someone who is poorer than us.  Help the one who is poorer than you!

By so doing, we come to realize that we are all in solidarity in suffering as human beings.  We are all suffering, rich or poor, in our own ways.   No one is exempted from suffering.  Our task on earth is to support each other along this pilgrimage of life, to make this world a better place, to give encouragement and assistance to each other.  In healing others, we heal ourselves!  When we do that then the love of God will fill our hearts.  St John wrote, “God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.”  Most of all, in reaching out to others in love and compassion, we see the face of God and live. “No one has ever seen God; but as long as we love one another God will live in us and his love will be complete in us.  We can know that we are living in him and he is living in us because he lets us share his Spirit.”

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore