I remember when I was growing up, often visiting my dear grandmother. She and I were best friends in so many ways. I remember when we visited that she had a beautiful framed picture in the living room, given a spot of honor where everyone could see it, and that picture was of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Whenever I think of the Sacred Heart, I remember grandma, whose name was Margaret Mary, named after the saint who promoted veneration of the Sacred Heart in the first place.
And so, today we celebrate, with incredible gratitude, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through his most Sacred Heart, the love of God is made manifest among us. This love is a pervasive love that burns in our hearts and changes our lives and leads us back to the God who made us for himself. This love is irresistible if we give ourselves over to it. It is a love that pursues us and a love that can go far beyond whatever distance we have fallen from grace. It is a love that, seeks out the lost and strayed, and binds up the injured and the sick; and, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, comes to us not by any merit of our own – God knows! – but only by the free gift of our God who made us precisely to receive this great love. We who have been loved into existence must love others as we have been loved. The love of God pours forth from the heart of Christ just as the water and blood poured forth from his side as he hung dead on the cross. Death could not stop the outpouring of grace that he came to bring.
Today’s Gospel reading gives us a beautiful picture of God. God is that shepherd who does the unthinkable: leaves the 99 behind to follow their own devices while he seeks out the lost one. That’s more love than any of us has a right to expect, yet it is freely poured out to us.
Today’s feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus finds us wholly consumed by grace. We have been loved into existence by our God who made us like himself. We have been loved into grace by Jesus who gave his life rather than live without us. And we are being loved into heaven as we give ourselves over to the work of the Holy Spirit who is that love between the Father and the Son. God is love and today we experience how powerful that love can be if we give ourselves over to it.