Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Theme: Water and blood as signs of salvation.
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus.
But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.
An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe. For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken.” And again another passage says: “They will look upon him whom they have pierced.”
We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart being referred to here is not the physical organ that pumps blood to the entire body. Pope St. John Paul II explains: “Heart in Judeo-Christian culture means the totality of the person, thus, the Heart of Jesus is actually the person Jesus Christ The Redeemer…. Heart also means the totality of love between persons, the totality of interiority of the person.” And Pope Leo XIII rightly concludes: “There is in the Sacred Heart the symbol and express image of the infinite love of Jesus Christ which moves us to love in return.”
On this Solemnity, we hear the Gospel account of the Apostle John about the crucifixion, particularly the events that took place after the death of the Lord. It is such a poignant narrative where one can feel the heavy feeling of sadness and gloom of the Blessed Mother and of all those present beneath the cross.
Witnessing Jesus die such a horrible and painful death is already an unnerving and overwhelming experience. But the tragic story does not end there: “When they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side.”
Jesus is already dead, but a soldier is not convinced and contented. He had to prove beyond dispute that the Crucified One is really dead. So, “he thrust his lance into His side and immediately blood and water flowed out.” Surprisingly, in God’s unfathomable wisdom and boundless mercy, such a horrifyingly wicked act towards the dead Body of the Lord opens the floodgates of divine graces and salvation.
The lance of Longinus becomes the instrument that opened the Heart of God. Venerable Fulton Sheen puts it beautifully: “At the Deluge, Noah made a door in the side of the ark, by which the animals entered, that they might escape the flood; now a new door is opened into the heart of God into which men might escape the flood of sin. When Adam slept, Eve was taken from his side and was called the mother of all the living . Now as the second Adam inclined His head and slept on the Cross, under the figure of Blood and water there came from His side His bride, the Church. The open heart fulfilled His words: ‘I am the door; a man will find salvation if he makes his way in through Me’” (Jn 10:9). (From the book, Life of Christ, pp. 579-580).
The first one to be bathed in the Blood and water that flowed out of the Sacred Heart was Longinus himself. And according to St. Augustine and other early Christian writers, Longinus was cured of his weak squinting eyes, and is said to have converted to Christianity after the crucifixion. Later, he became a bishop and martyr whose feast is celebrated on March 15.
In his Gospel, the Apostle John alludes to water and blood as signs of salvation. Jesus said to Nicodemus: “No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (Jn 3:5). This is a clear reference to Baptism. Then, in His teaching on the Eucharist, Jesus declared: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (Jn 6:54).
Pope Benedict XVI remarks: “In this double outpouring of blood and water, the Fathers saw an image of the two fundamental sacraments – Eucharist and Baptism – which spring forth from the Lord’s pierced side, from His heart. This is the new outpouring that creates the Church and renews mankind.” (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 226).
Indeed, it is from the wounded side of Christ – from His Sacred Heart – that the Church is said to have been born.
As we gaze upon the Wounded Heart, we reflect on two things. First, God’s love for us, sinners. Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary: “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.” And second, it is our sins that continue to inflict injury and pain to His wounded Heart: “And in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this Sacrament of Love.”
In the eucharistic miracles, wherein the Sacred Host turned into living flesh, scientific and medical examinations reveal that the flesh is a muscular tissue of the heart. Truly, according to St. Margaret Mary, the Sacred Heart is the Holy Eucharist; devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion to the Holy Eucharist.
Each time we come to Mass, let us always be reminded of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, horribly wounded by the ingratitude, irreverence and sacrilege of men. So, let every Eucharistic celebration be an opportunity for us to make a humble and sincere act of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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