Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, celebrating the popular devotion to Our Lord’s Most loving and Sacred Heart, as first revealed through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque and all others through whom God had revealed the great love in His Most Sacred Heart, the great love of a loving Father, the love of a most loving and compassionate Shepherd, Our God.
In the Scripture passages we have heard today, most prominently the Lord was depicted as the Good Shepherd, as the Figure Who showed great love and compassion, care and mercy to us all, who are of the Lord’s flock, His most beloved sheep. This is most profound example used by the Lord Himself to show how much He has loved His people, in a community where many among the people had the profession of shepherds.
In the Book of the prophet Ezekiel, the passage which is our first reading today spoke of the Lord referring to Himself as the Shepherd of Israel, the One Who would guide His people to the right path, protecting them from harm, binding and healing their injuries, watching over them and looking out for those who have been lost from Him. He would guide them all with justice, mercy and compassion, which is exactly what the Lord Jesus would reiterate with His message of Himself as the Good Shepherd.
In our Gospel passage today, the Lord again referred to Himself before the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as the Good Shepherd, showing to those people how God is loving and merciful, kind and compassionate to all of His beloved ones, even to the worst and most rebellious, the most wicked and the greatest of sinners among them. No one is ever beyond the reach of God’s love and compassionate mercy.
In order for us to understand the significance of the encounter and the words the Lord spoke to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law more clearly, we must understand the philosophy and the actions that those two groups of people often took at that time. They put the obedience and adherence to the Law over everything else, and they were very particular with how those laws and regulations are preserved and followed.
And they deemed all those who did not follow the Law as they have followed and preserved it to be inferior and unworthy, to be sinners and undeserving people while at the same time thinking highly of themselves and being proud of their own obedience and adherence to the strict observation of the Jewish customs, traditions and laws, and being highly respected by the people and being very influential in the community.
That was why they were very ardent in their prejudiced attitude against the prostitutes, tax collectors and other people deemed to be sinners in general. They also thought of people with disabilities and sicknesses as those whom God had punished and cursed because of their sins. They looked down on them and rejected them, and when the Lord sought all these people, they immediately cast the same prejudice on the Lord, seeing Him approaching those whom they deemed to be unworthy and unclean.
This is where the Lord showed His love and revealed what it truly means for one to obey the Lord and His laws. Mankind might have been unfaithful, wicked and filled with sins, and yet, fundamentally we are all still His beloved creations, His beloved children and people. We are the sheep to Him, Who is the Shepherd of all of us. And a shepherd loves his flock of sheep above all else, and a true and dedicated shepherd will do everything just so that his sheep will be good, safe and well taken care of.
Sometimes the sheep end up going wayward on its own, being misled or distracted by things that probably sparked its curiosity, and the sheep becomes lost from the flock. The shepherd knows all of his sheep, and every single one of them are precious to him. If one of the sheep is lost, the shepherd will come to know of this very quickly, and unless he does not care for his sheep, he will do whatever he can to find that lost sheep.
A sheep that is left to wander on its own is in a great danger because of all the threats that can destroy it, from falling into a ravine, or off a cliff, of being hunted and killed by wolves and predators among many others. And how are all these relevant to us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is what each and every one of us have experienced ourselves and perhaps even are experiencing now at this very moment.
For it is sin and the temptations to sin which have led us astray from the Lord, end up in us being separated from God and from the flock of God’s faithful as we end up falling deeper and deeper into sin. We have become the lost sheep of the Lord, and the Lord Who is our Good Shepherd does not want us to be lost from Him. Rather, He wants us to be reconciled to Him and be found, and He had done everything He could to gain us back.
That is what He meant when He said that the shepherd would seek the one lost sheep even though there was only one lost sheep among one hundred sheep in all. The shepherd would do everything to find that one lost sheep so that the lost sheep may be found and be reunited with the rest of the flock, safe from all the dangers that could have happened to it if it remained lost and separated from the flock.
Unless we are found and reunited with our loving Shepherd, we will fall deeper and deeper into sin, and from there into the danger of eternal damnation, out of which there is no escape from eternal despair and suffering, annihilation and total destruction. This is not the fate that God, our loving Father, Creator and Shepherd wants to happen to us, because He loves each and every one of us so much.
That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate this great love which Our Lord has shown from His most loving and compassionate heart, His Most Sacred Heart, which was filled with love for each and every one of us, so much so that, He did the ultimate act of love to show us just how much He loves us and how precious each and every one of us are to Him. He took up His Cross, suffer persecution, pain and the worst of pains and went through a most humiliating death so that, all of us may live.
That is just how much Our Lord loves us, in His loving and bleeding Most Sacred Heart. In the depiction of His Most Sacred Heart, we see the Lord’s Heart being surrounded by a crown of thorns and with a great burning flame representing His ever passionate and burning love for us. And that crown of thorns represents all the pains and sufferings He had suffered for the sake of that love He has for us.
And now, we have those whom God had called to be His caretakers, His shepherds made in His own image and example, namely our priests, who are shepherds of God’s flock, representing the one true Shepherd in our midst. They are the ones who go around the world taking care of us all, God’s beloved people, showing the same love that God has poured forth from His Most Sacred Heart.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, today that is why, on this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we also pray as the whole Church together for those who have been called by God, to be His servants and followers, His priests, dedicating themselves into the priestly life and to shepherd His beloved people. On this day, we gather our prayers for them, that each and every one of them may be courageous and be loving just as Our Lord has loved us so deeply.
And at the same time, let us all realise this great love that God has shown us, that He had done everything for our sake, enduring every kinds of imaginable sufferings of the worst kind, that we may be saved. He did all of that in order to save us and to reunite us to Himself. Each and every one of us are truly precious to Him. Next time, before we even contemplate to sin or to disobey God, let us remember that every single sins we commit, no matter how small, how insignificant they may seem to us, they are wounds we inflict on the Lord, that He bore willingly for our sake.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all strive to be better disciples of the Lord, and be more dedicated to Him, remembering how He has loved us so wonderfully and generously despite of all of our nonsense and disobedience. His patience and most loving Sacred Heart is truly our hope, and we should cling closely to this hope we have in Him. May the Lord Jesus Christ, His most loving Sacred Heart continue to love us all, now and forevermore as always. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us all. Amen.