Second Friday After Pentecost

Sacred Heart of Jesus (B)

In the later part seventeenth century, devotion to the Sacred Heart blossomed. St. John Eudes and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque turned a formerly private devotion into a public spirituality. The theology of the Sacred Heart is attractive, for it stresses the divine love of Jesus for us, and asks acts of love in return, especially as reparations for evil in the world.

First Reading: Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8-9

God spoke through the prophet to his people:

1 "When Israel was a child, then I loved him,
and called my son out of Egypt.
3 Yet I taught Ephraim to walk.
I took them by his arms;
but they didn't know that I healed them.
4 I drew them with cords of a man, with ties of love;
and I was to them like those who lift up the yoke on their necks;
and I bent down to him and I fed him.
My heart is turned within me,
my compassion is aroused.
9 I will not execute the fierceness of my anger.
I will not return to destroy Ephraim:
for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of you;
and I will not come in wrath."

World English Bible

The words of God through Hosea formed a speech of condemnation, but, then, mercy. The divine described his relationship with Israel as a parent with a child. The child grew up unruly (idolatry and unfaithfulness in 11:2, 5-7, not listed here). While a harsh sentence would have been just, God could not part with his child, his Chosen People. Out of love and compassion, God revoked his anger and poured love upon his beloved.

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Second Reading: Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19

8 To me, least among all the saints, was given this favor, to evangelize the Gentiles about the unsearchable of CHRIST, 9 and enlighten [all] the plan of the mystery, having been hidden for the ages in God, the (One) having created all things, 10 so that the many-faceted wisdom of God might be made known to the rulers, the principalities, and the powers through the Church, 11 according to the purpose of the ages which (God) made in CHRIST JESUS our LORD, 12 in whom we have a boldness and an access in confidence with faith in HIM.

3:8-12 In this long sentence, St. Paul laid out the reasons for his ministry (to evangelize the Gentiles and to enlighten everyone about God's plan of mysterious plan of salvation) and the results of his ministry (the spread the God's wisdom through the Church). Both Paul's ministry and the results of that ministry were according to divine providence (3:11). The cause of both was the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When the Christian believed in Christ, they had access to the Father, an access that gave the faithful boldness and confidence (3:12).

14 On this account, I bend my knees to the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 so that he might grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his Spirit for the inner man, 17 to reside in Christ within your hearts through faith, having been founded and rooted in love, 18 so that, along with all the saints, you might be strengthened to seize (with the mind) what is the length and width, the height and depth, 19 and to know the love of CHRIST, exceeding (all) knowledge, so that you might be filled with all the fullness of God.

3:14-19 In this long sentence, Paul prays for the Ephesians (bends his knees to the Father) for two reasons:

1. God would give the Ephesians spiritual strength (through the Spirit for the inner man) and the presence of Christ in the hearts of the believers (3:16-17).

2. As a result of this strength and divine presence, the faithful could grasp the immensity of God's plans (width, length, height, depth) and know the love of Christ that outstrips knowledge. Understanding God's plans and possessing the love of Christ fills the faithful to overflowing. (3:18-19)

St. Paul saw his ministry in a way that outstrips ours. He saw his efforts through God's eyes and in the long view of God's salvation history. For Paul, ministry was a grace, a divine favor. After all, he spread Good News that was nothing less than the wisdom of God; this wisdom was hidden even from the angels until the time of revelation was right. That revelation is to be found in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

If St. Paul was alive today, what would he pray for? He would pray for us, in the same way he prayed for the Ephesians. He would pray that Christ would live in us and that God would strengthen our characters by his Spirit. He would also pray that we could begin to understand the vast plan of our salvation and that we could be filled with the love of Christ, an experience and reality at outstrips knowledge.

St. Paul envisioned his ministry within God's grand plans. He prayed that all followers experience the presence and activity of God in their lives.

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Gospel: John 19:31-37

31 Since it was Preparation (Day), in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross(es) during the Sabbath, for it was the great day of that Sabbath, the Jewish (leaders) asked Pilate that (the soldiers) could break their legs and remove them (once JESUS and the thieves had died). 32 So, the soldiers came and they broke the legs of the first (one), then the other of the (thieves) having been crucified with HIM. 33 But, having come to JESUS, as they saw HIM already having died, they did not break HIS legs, 34 but one of the soldiers pierced a spear into his side, and immediately blood and water came out. 35 The (person) having seen has witnessed, and his witness is true, and that (person) knew that he spoke the truth, so that you might believe. 36 For these (events) happened, so the Scripture might be fulfilled, "A bone of HIS will not be broken." 37 And again another Scripture states: "They will see whom they have pierced."

19:31 "during the Sabbath, for it was the great day of that Sabbath" While this phrase might sound redundant, the Passover was celebrated as a Sabbath day. The "great Sabbath" occurred when such a holiday as Passover fell on the Sabbath, as it did in 33 A.D. Whether John referred to such an event is a matter of speculation.

19:36 "A bone of HIS will not be broken." This was either a reference to the purity of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12) or to the righteous man the Lord oversaw (Psalm 34:20). In the context of John's gospel, the reference to the Passover Lamb is preferred.

"They will see whom they have pierced." This was a loose variation on Zechariah 12:10. This verse was a reference to the Day of the Lord, the judgment time when Judea and its capitol would be vindicated.

In John's gospel, the death of Jesus occurred on Preparation Day, not on Passover. The Passover John spoke of was a "Great Sabbath," when Passover fell on the Sabbath. Such an occasion would be a truly holy time. Leaving the bodies of the executed on display would offend the religious sensibilities of the populace on such a day. So, the leaders asked Pilate to speed their deaths. In response, Pilate sent out his soldiers to complete the task. This lead to another image full of symbolism.

When the soldiers plunged the spear into the side of Jesus, there was three results: water and blood, the eyewitness, and the fulfillment of Scripture. Water and blood had sacramental overtones: water for Baptism and blood for Eucharist. These poured out of his body (almost as gifts); the scene seemed to portray the source of the rituals.

The eyewitness verified not only the veracity of the report, but its underlining reason for relating the scene. The eyewitness retold the scene as a reason for others to believe. In other words, his witness justified the belief that Baptism and Eucharist did celebrate the death of the Lord. Both came from his side.

The eyewitness also bridged the scene with the fulfillment of Scripture. As the notes above tell us, John used the Exodus/Numbers verse to connect Jesus with the image of the Passover Lamb, one of his themes (see John 1:29). He used the verse from Zechariah to portray the context of the scene and the symbol of the Passover Lamb. The death of Jesus was both Messianic and eschatological. John saw the cross as a sign of God's Chosen One and of his judgment.

On this feast, we reflect on the overwhelming love of God for us. That love beacons to love in return and to love God in the name of others, especially those who do not or cannot love.

How can we possibly love God, when his love for us is so vast? How can we love God for others, even those who hate God?