Cardinal Charles Maung Bo
Jesus shows himself as love today. The Church gathers around the world to celebrate the central message of Christianity: Love. It is significant that Christianity does not celebrate any Sacred Brain or Sacred Hands. But it comes together to celebrate the great symbol and citadel of love: Sacred Heart.
Jesus’ only commandment is “Love one another as I loved you.” His love was expressed through action on the Cross. When the Roman soldier pierced his heart, he gave the last drop of his blood for humanity. Even till its last throb, Jesus’s heart was beating for each one of us.
We have come to celebrate that great incarnation of Love. That love articulated so beautifully as the replica of God’s love: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, not to condemn but to redeem.” That love was expressed in Jesus.
When Jesus appeared to Gertrude, to Margaret Mary A. and others, He spoke of his intense love through showing his heart. The Sacred Heart devotion that has spread to every nook and corner of the earth, has only one message:
Christianity is a four letter religion: Those four letters are L-O-V-E.
This feast of the Sacred Heart calls us to set our God perspective in order: God is love. The fire and brimstone preachers of the fast have done great havoc to Christianity through their preaching about another four letter word: Hell. The fear of hell and fire has stolen the beauty of Christianity. Prosperity Gospel peddlers have commodified Christ’s gospel of love into the Love of the almighty dollars. The entertainment industry has further trivialized love reducing to carnal pleasures. This feast throws a great challenge to all those misrepresentation of love. This feast is calling all of us to return to the core calling of humanity: Fall in love, Stay in Love.
Love can be turned into exploitative, manipulative, abusive and even destructive activity. This feast calls us to set our life’s role and destiny based on Jesus example. The love of Christ’s Sacred Heart is Agape:
The selfless, sacrificial, redemptive and unconditional love.
Christianity is about falling in love, staying in love and let love decide everything in life. Not just a bodily attraction masquerading as love; rather the Body offered on the Cross as the supreme summit of love, the light set on the hill top of love. John gets into a poem of love in his gospel about Christ’s love:
"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” John 15:13.
We have all experienced these monumental unselfish, sacrificial love in our lives. Think of our mothers — at the risk of death because even today, many mothers perish when they give birth to their children — chose to give life to each one of us. Like Jesus who said, “take this, this is my body,” our mothers have broken their bodies and shared with us, like Jesus who said, “take this, this is my blood,” our mothers have shared their precious blood with us, in the bargain asking for nothing, except for the sublime experience of loving us.
That Eucharistic love of our mother is the love of the Sacred heart.
This great love is shown by the health professionals during the pandemic. Hundreds have perished, leaving their families to heart wrenching, unending sorrows. Like Jesus each one of them chose to show a sacrificial love knowing fully well the there is no greater love than lay down one’s own life for his friends.
This Calvary Sacrifice of the health professional is the love of the Sacred Heart.
Think of scores of pastoral workers, priests, religious and others who perished in their sacramental reach out to be with the COVID victims in their last moment, accompanying their dead bodies to orphaned graves! And the self sacrifice of priests and others who offered their protective equipment to others so that they may live.
This extra ordinary poignant show of unconditional love is the love of the Sacred Heart. We have come to celebrate this human spirit of supreme sacrifice, these martyrs of love in this COVID apocalypse.
The Catholic Church has taken to the devotion to the Sacred Heart to show that love is the only way, Love is the only message of Jesus. As Catholics we celebrate Love. In one of the many apparitions to Sr Margaret Mary, Jesus showed his heart and said: Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love.
Yes. Jesus’ sacred heart loved, even to the exhausting and consuming levels, to show the fires of love. His life and message set the world on fire.
“ite inflammate omnia. Go forth, and set the world on fire - of love”
Christianity has been abused by misrepresentations as a guilt riding roller coaster, a loveless dry religion of sin, guilt and hell. This feast remedies all falsifications. Christianity is a way of love, the fire of love, the Bible is not a book of sin and vengeance.
The Bible is a lyrical cascade of love. In one of the greatest love poems in human history, the book of Song of Songs, the romance of God with humanity is painted with immortal words on love.
Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. ( Song of Songs 8: 6)
Yes Love is stronger than death. Yes. Love ends with God. For those in love there is no death. Love is heaven, Love defines our life. This feast of the Sacred Heart celebrates the fire of love, reminds every Christian that our full time vocation is Love. Because God is love and love is God. Those who do not know love, do not know God. He might go to a thousand churches, say a thousand prayers, as John strongly affirms:
"He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:8.
Christianity is not a religion of law; it is a religion of love. Jesus who came to fulfill the promises of the prophets and the Old Testament, crushed all the Judaic laws numbering more than six hundred old testament laws into just two laws :
- Love the Lord
- Love your neighbor, and your enemy too.
That is Christianity. Your God is Love. You live in Love. That is the greatest prayer. The greatest adoration.
Christianity was built upon the grace of Love. Christ wanted his followers to witness to truth :
A new commandment I give you: Love one another as I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. - John 13:34-35
If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother.” - 1 John 4:20-21.
St Paul has elevated Love higher than all gifts. Higher than Faith, Higher than Hope. He says the biggest gift one could aspire from God is not the exotic and esoteric gift of Prophecy, not the gift of tongues, not the gift of wisdom, not even great generosity towards poor, but only one greatest grace man and woman can ask from God is: the grace to fall in Love and stay in Love.
His Symphony of Love flows like a dancing cascade :
Love never fails.
But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love. ( 1 Cor 13 ).
On this great feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we have come to celebrate love, celebrate the greatest gift of Christianity, the agape, the sacrificial love. As a family, as a Church as a country, the clarion call goes back: Remember there is only one meaning to be human: Fall in Love stay in Love. It will determine everything.
How to make sense of this great message on the feast of Sacred Heart?
How do we make love a dominating characteristic of our lives?
I. Make love the first and the last and the only choice of life.
Indeed loving people is difficult.
But being human also is difficult. Yet this is what the Bible commands. "For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: we should love one another" (1 John 3:11).
We spend time on what we deem important. For many of us these choices are valid: time with family and friends, work, prayer, serving the poor, fighting for rights, protesting wrongs. But as the Scripture reminds us, "And if I donate all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3).
2. Building Faith Communities welding Love into their core identity
First Christians evangelized the world through witness. Witness to agape, selfless unconditional love. Our Church needs to be built on love. During these COVID times, church doors are closed but Christian hearts are always open to acts of love. Our rituals, prayers and communion all need to centered on love.
In his famous sermon "Strength to Love,” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., encouraged Christians to realize that "our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command of love and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives."
3. LOVE AS THE ONLY WAY AHEAD FOR HUMANITY. SACRED HEART IS THE SAVIOR OF THE WORLD.
COVID is proving a painful lesson: Humanity is fragile. An invincible virus has proved to be invincible. It has felled thousands and thousands. It has infected millions. It closed the doors of the churches, it distanced father against and son, mother against daughter. It did not even allow people to grieve for their dear ones.
COVID has proved a great challenge. COVID has also forced the world to set its priorities right. Once again asking each one of us to bring Love as the center of life. From Adam till today, human beings struggle to be human. Hatred and killing are the major original sins. From the first chapter of the Bible till today, history is soaked in blood.
If we look at the last century man killed nearly 135 millions in war and famine. More than 65 million people are refugees today.
We are made to love but our original sin makes us slaves to hatred. History is a river of blood of hatred. This is hell on earth. How to convert this world into heaven on earth?
Sacred heart has the answer : The Power of Love, redemptive power of love!
The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said: "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way."
Yes. The fire of Love. Today in this great feast we have come to discover this great fire, fire of Love.
Fire makes all things possible: Fire was one of the greatest discoveries in all of human history. With that came families, came communities, came all the great civilizations. Fire opened the infinite possibilities in industrialization.
That fire dispelled fear and animal nature of human beings.
Darkness hovers, it strangles, it suffocates humanity. The fire that can dispel that darkness is: The fire of Love.
“Love is long-suffering and kind. It does not envy; does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth: bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
Bishop Michael Curry, when he was preaching at the royal wedding spoke on the theme of Fire of love. He ended by quoting Jesuit Fr Teilhard De Chardin.
Fr Teilhard De Chardin was a great scientist. He gives credit to fire for the first humanization of mankind. He is aware that modern man is dangerously perched at the precipices of self destruction through hatred.
Time has come for the next discovery of fire. The fire of Love. The message of the Sacred Heart is succinct: MANKIND’S GRACE IS ONLY ONE: LOVE. Once love replaces all the war and hatred then humanity will enter into a new civilization.
Teilhard, a great devotee of the Sacred Heart summarized the great impending fire that remains to be discovered;
If humanity ever harnesses the energy of fire again, if humanity ever captures the energy of love — it will be the second time in history that we have discovered fire.
Let the Sacred Heart help us to discover that fire of Love. Let this world be set on fire: fire of Love.