Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was my turn to offer the reflection for our Seminary Community at mass. Here's what I had to say (in Italian, of course :)
On this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Church offers us the image of the Good Shepherd in the Gospel. This is the Good Shepherd who goes and searches for the lost sheep. Now, we are all students of the Scriptures. In fact, I recently passed my Synoptics (study of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) exam! So, we know that there are two versions of this parable – with two different settings (sitz im leben) for two different communities with two different messages. I’m sure we could all reflect on this today. But instead, I propose that we forget all that . I propose that we focus on the heart of Jesus – the heart of the one who loves us with an unquenchable love. Let us focus on the heart of the Shepherd who leads us, his flock.
We all heard the famous quote from Pope Francis at the Chrism Mass: We are to be shepherds living with “the odor of the sheep”. I dare to say, that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is full of our odor. Like the shepherds in today’s readings, Jesus will give up all else to find us, to carry us home, to embrace us to himself. The shepherd looks after his sheep with loving care. Likewise, the heart of Jesus is big and wide, full of compassion and love, always forgiving and tender. The shepherd knows every one of his sheep. Likewise, the heart of Jesus knows each of us. The Shepherd is always with his sheep, protecting the herd from wolves. Likewise, the heart of Jesus yearns to be with us and keep us from all harm. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, will give up everything – even life itself – for you, for the whole world.
It is no wonder that this image of the Good Shepherd is so beloved. We turn to it at funerals. From the catacomb paintings here in Rome, we know that it was present in the early days of Christianity. We find comfort in praying Psalm 23: In Jesus we find all that we need. In Jesus we find peace and consolation, comfort and abundance, goodness and mercy all the days of our lives. The Good Shepherd protects us and loves us. And this is the heart of Jesus, the heart of the Shepherd.
In the English world, there is a beautiful hymn that expresses so much of what the heart of Jesus means. Don’t worry, I’m not going to sing it. But the title says so much: “The King of Love my Shepherd Is.” It is the tenderness and love of the Shepherd that shows us the heart of Jesus. Today, brothers and sisters, let us fall in to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. And in doing so, we will fall in Love.