Homilette for Friday, June 19, 2009

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

(Hosea 11:1.3-4.8-9; Ephesians 3:8-12.14-19; John 19:31-37)

Why does the soldier stick his lance into Jesus’ side? Is he cruelly trying to pile on disgrace? Or perhaps he mercifully means to put Jesus out of his misery if there is any life left in him? One commentator suggests this soldier’s motive is beside the point. He says that by mentioning the incident, John the Evangelist merely wants to show that Jesus is really dead. More important than its exegetical meaning, the symbolic meaning of the act has captured the imagination of Christians through the centuries. The lance thrust into Jesus’ side pierces his heart indicating that like most people in the world Jesus suffers a broken heart.

Reviewing the gospel, we see much reason for Jesus’ feeling abandoned and broken. His people, the Jews, have almost unanimously rejected him. The supposedly law-driven Roman government has knowingly played into the hands of the Jewish conspirators. One of his closest disciples has betrayed him while another, the leader of the pack, has denied him. Yes, Jesus is spurned by those whom he has cared for.

In this world having a broken heart is not as remarkable as what we do with it. Basically, there are two options. We might allow the bitter experience to teach us that others suffer a similar fate and need consolation. Or we might sulk and complain about our pain. Symbolically again, Jesus takes the former route. Blood and water signifying the grace of Baptism flow from his wound. This same grace enables us also to respond with compassion to the suffering of others.