The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Ezekiel 34:11-16; Romans 5:5b-11; Luke 15:3-7)
In the second reading St. Paul speaks to us of God’s great love for humans. In the gospel Jesus draws us a picture of it. The Lord describes how the Father’s love extends even to those who reject his ways by the story of the man who goes looking for a lost sheep. When Jesus asks who would not leave behind ninety-nine sheep to look for one stray, we might think that this was the custom of the time. However, he probably has in mind that more prudent shepherds would stay with the flock to minimize their losses. His point is to say God’s love for each person is extravagant – like that of a caring shepherd who knows each sheep by name and cannot bear to think of any becoming prey of wild beasts.
Does God love us who try to stay close to Him as much as a retrenched sinner? This, of course, is the dilemma of the elder son in the parable of the prodigal which follows that of the man who has lost a sheep and the woman who has lost a coin. (Luke shows that God loves men and women without partiality by regularly including stories of women alongside those of men.) How can we doubt it? The image of the Sacred Heart perpetually on fire demonstrates that God’s love burns beyond the almost endless energy of nuclear fission to include all creation, especially each and every human being. We are sometimes advised not to locate any human in hell. The reason for this warning is that God’s love is so magnanimous that it can penetrate the thickest firewall of human turpitude.