Sacred Heart Novena
THE NOVENA IN HONOUR OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
will begin on 20th June and continue until the 28th June
Weekdays: 11:00, 7:30
Saturday: 11:00, 6:00
Sunday: 11:00, 12:30
Homilists at the 11am Mass:
Day 1 - Fr Finbarr Lynch SJ
click to read homily
Day 2 - Pat Coyle
click to read homily
Day 3 - Fr Brendan Comerford SJ
click to read homily
Day 4 - Rev. Dr. Ruth Patterson
click to read homily
Day 5 - Christine Halloran
click to read homily
Day 6 - Dr. Jessie Rogers
click to read homily
Day 7 - Bernadette Toal
Day 8 - Grainne Doherty
Day 9 - Bishop Eamon Walsh
Sacred Heart Novena
St. Claude La Colombière
Spiritual director who promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart
Claude La Colombière (1641-1682) enjoyed an intense, if brief, life, notable for the part he played as champion of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. He is remembered principally as the spiritual director who recognized the truth of the revelation that St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received; he also showed heroic virtue in enduring imprisonment that weakened his health and led to an early death.
Colombière was born in southern France and studied at a Jesuit school from an early age. He entered the Society of Jesus when he was 17 and followed a normal course of studies: grammar, literature, philosophy and theology. After teaching for a few years in Avignon, he studied theology in Paris and wasordained April 6, 1669. He taught for another three years and then became preacher at the Jesuit church in that city before going on to tertianship. During that year of prayer and reflection, he felt moved to take a special private vow to obey all the rules of the Society in the most strict manner possible.
The French Jesuit's first assignment after tertianship was to be superior of a small community in Paray-le-Monial, where there was also a convent of cloistered Visitation sisters. One of them was Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque to whom God's presence in prayer was revealing a message of divine love. Some other members of her community thought her prayer was a delusion, and their skepticism caused her suffering. She received assurance from the Lord, however, that he was sending her his "faithful servant and perfect friend." Colombière became the confessor of the convent and Sr. Margaret's spiritual director. She opened her soul to him and told of the supernatural events taking place in her life. He had the insight to recognize this prayer as a real gift from God and a true revelation. In his own prayer, Colombière came to learn the Lord's wishes more clearly. In June 1675 the Lord made an explicit request regarding the devotion to his Sacred Heart, asking her to establish the Friday following the octave of Corpus Christi as a special feast and to tell Colombière to do all he could to spread this devotion.
Colombière's time in Paray-le-Monial lasted only until October 1676 when he was assigned to be the preacher to the duchess of York in London. Although England was officially non-Catholic, King Charles II allowed his brother the Duke of York to have a chapel in St. James Palace. The chaplain had to come from outside England; so the young French Jesuit left his own country to live in a foreign court. He continued to preach what was most dear to him the message of Christ's love for humankind, symbolized by his Sacred Heart. The sermons resonated with the duchess who years later became the first royal personage to petition Pope Innocent XII to establish a solemn feast in honor of the Sacred Heart.
Royal forbearance did not protect the Jesuit from betrayal by a Frenchman whom Colombière had befriended in London. In November 1678 the man falsely denounced the Jesuit to the government in order to win a reward. Colombière was arrested on charges of traitorous speech against the king and parliament and placed in a cold dungeon where his health rapidly deteriorated. He was released after a month in prison, but the damage was done. He returned to France and slowly headed south, stopping frequently when weakness overtook him. He arrived in Lyons on March 11, 1679 and stayed there as a spiritual father to the young Jesuits in the school where he himself once taught. He continued to preach about the Sacred Heart, but his own health did not improve so superiors sent him back to Paray-le-Monial in 1681. Although he loved the place dearly, he could not recover. In early February 1682, a fever took him; when he died on Feb. 15, he was only 41 years old.
DAY 1 SACRED HEART NOVENA 2019
St Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street
Day 1 - 20 June 2019
Homily by Fr Finbarr Lynch SJ
2 Cor 11: 1-11 Matt 6: 7-15
We celebrate 23 beatified martyrs today. They are all Irish martyrs. They are people like you and me who have lived their love for Jesus in small ways every day. In this novena of prayer, we also celebrate Jesus' love for them and for all of us.
It is fortunate that our Sacred Heart novena begins with the Lord's teaching on prayer that we heard in the gospel. It was prayer that enabled those martyrs to be faithful to Jesus when the crisis came in their lives: when the crisis came, they did not back off. They had built up a daily habit of saying 'yes' to Jesus.
In the gospel today, Jesus teaches us the 'Our Father'. In my reflection on it, I have come to see that the 'Our Father' is a prayer of the Heart of Jesus: it comes from his heart. It expresses his love for his Father and for all the Father's plans for our world. It expresses his desire that we have a forgiving heart towards each other like the Father has towards us. In this prayer, we see the Heart of Jesus.
In the short space of a homily, I can pick out only a few points that will be of help for our own personal prayer.
The first point that Jesus makes about prayer is that it is more than words. So, he says: "In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard." Personal prayer is more than saying words. It has to come from the heart. In fact, personal prayer can be silence before God. What would make silence be prayer? We know that when we are close to someone in friendship, silence can be more eloquent than words: words can spoil the moment. The close relationship calls for a silent presence.
I remember a woman telling me what her deep prayer was like. It was a prayer without words. She told me what it was like. She said it reminded her of sitting in front of the fire at home, and her mother seated on the left and her father on the right. Mother was knitting, and father was looking over the newspaper. Though there were no words being said, she sensed a communion between them: she sensed her parents were connected with each in their hearts. She said her own personal prayer had grown to be like that. There was something going on between herself and the Lord, but without words. She was towards the Lord and the Lord was towards her. It was a relationship of love. I am sure that many of you here know what I am talking about here, I encourage you to trust the silent moments between you and God.
So, Jesus is saying that personal prayer is more than words. It is more than the saying of prayers. What is it? It is relationship. He tells us what kind of relationship. So, he says, "When you pray, say, 'Father'" That one word contains so much: we must linger here.
Saying 'Father' is much more than getting the title of address right.
If I am to address God as 'Father', who, then, am I? If God is my Father, then I am God's child, a daughter or a son of God, by adoption. This is where our personal prayer begins. You and I are God's children. God is our Father: we are God's family. I begin prayer as a son or as a daughter.
I am accepted already. It is Jesus who is teaching me this.
When Jesus, the Son of the Father, invites me to address God as 'Father', just as he himself does, what is Jesus saying to me about myself? Jesus is inviting me to come close to him. He is saying to me, "When you pray, come, stand where I stand, and be in the same place as me where I address my God as 'Father". I am to stand in the presence of Jesus before our Father. I am already accepted by God. I am already in a special relationship.
There is more. Jesus is saying, 'You belong here now, in the Trinity, with me. I am sharing this space of my Sonship with you.'
All this is implied by Jesus' instruction, "When you pray, say, 'Father'". This is Christian prayer. This is new. This is what Jesus has brought.
The name 'Father' suggests family. We pray as members of God's family. I come to prayer, not as a stranger, but as one of the family. No one is more honoured than anybody else. Whenever I pray, I am in my Father's house, with Jesus, and with you.
When you or I enter prayer, we enter the presence of the Father of Jesus looking at us with love. He looks at us with all the tenderness of a father and mother. God looks at us with desire. God is saying to us, all the time, "I want you. I want you to exist. You are important to me."
I often travel now in the Luas, and there I often see young children in a buggy being tenderly touched by a mother or a father. It is lovely to see. God is like that towards us, radiating love on us, delighting in us. This love is there already: I don't have to earn it. It is waiting for me. God is close.
In the Lord's Prayer we say "our Father in heaven". The words 'in heaven' are a reverent, Jewish way of saying that he is God. I pray to Father-God. He is the Creator, the Source of all the Universe. Everything in the world comes from him. Everything we have is his gift. Every minute of every day, God is giving us everything we have. God is so good. We want to praise and thank him.
The first three petitions of the 'Our Father' come out of that awareness, out of a desire to praise and thank him. Being grateful to God is important for prayer.
My mother died in her 92nd year. I remember her saying to me a few times in her eighties, "When I wake up in the morning, I give thanks to God that I have another new day. I am grateful that I can see a pin on the ground and bend down and pick it up." My mother came to live in a state of gratitude. She was grateful for all the little gifts that she saw happening in her life. It is beautiful to see people in their old age live in a state gratitude, despite their diminishing health.
I think that to live in a state of gratitude is to live in a state of prayer. It is a prayer without words, like I was describing at the start of my talk. My attitude in prayer:
For a personal relationship to be good, I need to be in the relationship more for the other person than for myself. This counts for prayer, too. When I pray, I need to be in the prayer more for God than for myself. So,
I say to God: it is you I want, not the nice feelings that I like to have when I pray.
A forgiving heart: Jesus, in the 'Our Father', expects me to be a forgiving person. God forgives me: I must forgive other people. If I hold back from forgiving someone, I do something to myself: I close or narrow down my heart in regard to that person. I block myself from giving forgiveness, and at the same time, I block my heart from receiving God's forgiveness. Forgiveness needs to be part of my attitude every day.
- I come to prayer as a daughter or a son of God. I am accepted already.
- In fact, I am greatly loved.I did not earn this love. It is just there.
- Prayer can be without words. This is because prayer is relationship. I am already in a special relationship because Jesus has invited me into his space and to address God as 'Father'. I am part of God's family gathered around Jesus.
- In prayer, I need to have the attitude of being here more for God than for myself.
- Forgiveness needs to become part of my attitude every day.
I am Infinitely Loved. Brian Grogan SJ (Messenger Publications 2017)
Patterns of Prayer. Eugene McCaffrey ODC (Paulist Press 2003)
An Ignatian Introduction to Prayer. Timothy M. Gallagher OMV (Crossroad 2003)
When You Pray: Finbarr Lynch SJ (Messenger Publications 2012)
When You Can't Pray: Finbarr Lynch SJ (Messenger Publications 2016)
DAY 2 SACRED HEART NOVENA 2019
St Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street
Day 2 - 21 June 2019
Homily by Pat Coyle
My mother in Derry had great devotion to the Sacred Heart. And one time when I was returning to work in Dublin, she was saying that she needed a new picture of the Sacred Heart to replace her old and battered one. “I’ll get one for you,” I piped up. “I know somebody who does great paintings”. Knowing me she agreed somewhat hesitantly before shouting after me “And Pat, I want to be able to recognise Him as the Sacred Heart! “
My mother certainly had her own very clear image of what the Sacred Heart looked like. And I’m sure all of us here today have our own image to. What God are you praying to in this novena? What are you asking for? What will happen to you and your relationship with God, your image of God, if your prayers are answered – or if they’re not answered.
In the Gospel today Jesus talks of God as someone for whom ‘nothing is impossible’. Not long after this he will use the same words again – this time directly to God – as he pleads for his life in the garden of Gethsemane, terrified of the horrific death that is facing him. “Father all things are possible for you… remove this cup from me.” We know what happens next, his prayer is not answered. But note how he ends that agonised prayer, “not my will but yours be done”.
The hard truth is this. Before we ask anything of God, God has something to ask of us. It’s in todays gospel. What we heard today only makes full sense if we know what went directly before it – the story of the wealthy young man who was truly moral, had kept all the laws, and recognising Jesus as good and wise teacher, went to him for advice.
Jesus, we are told, loved him. And explained to him that he’d one last thing to do – give up all that he held dear and commit his life totally to Jesus. The young man walks away – sad, not bad. Jesus acknowledges to the disciples the price of true love of God in the image of the camel and the needle.
Jesus makes the same demand of his disciples, (Peter got that) and of us too. And it’s equally hard. Total surrender to the loving will of God. Total trust in the loving heart of God and God’s ways, which, let’s be honest, are often a mystery to us. We say it so readily – ‘Sacred Heart of Jesus I place all my trust in you’ – but it’s a big ask. Easy to say but a lot harder to do.
Did you ever hear of the famous tightrope walker Blondin? He crossed the Niagara Falls on a tightrope in this month in 1869. He went blindfolded, across the water and the crowd cheered him – “You’re wonderful, the best”. He did it again in a sack to even more rapturous applause and praise – “You’re amazing, perfection”. Then he trundled over with a wheelbarrow and the crowd were ecstatic – “You’re our hero, we love you.” they acclaimed. “You think I’m the best, can do no wrong, you trust me I can do anything on this rope?” he asked. ‘‘Yes yes, we do “, the crowd replied. “Ok”, says Blondin, “Who wants to get in the wheelbarrow?”
It’s hard to trust when we know that in truth our prayers are not always answered the way we want them to be. If we are to surrender to God, we have to know God loves us. And know it not just in our heads but in our hearts. If you’re afraid of God, if you see him as a judge, a puppeteer who pulls all our strings, a harsh and demanding father, you’re never going to get in that wheelbarrow.
One man who knew all about walking a tightrope was Pope John XX111 as we can see in a revealing story his secretary tells about the Pope’s night time ritual.
It was during the time of the second Vatican Council. Huge upheavals were going on within the Church and millions of Catholics were wondering what was going to happen next? Political instability, wars, and cold wars were the order of the day in the wider world, and John was painfully isolated from his Curia. Each night, he would kneel down on the prie-dieu in his little chapel but only for a very short while. “What prayers do you say?”, his secretary finally asked him one night as he rose up. To which the Pope replied: “I say, ‘God, it’s your church, look after it, I’m going to bed”’
Jesus could face his harrowing death because he trusted the God who all through his life he called ot just Father but ‘Abba’, ‘Daddy’, a term of endearment. God wants the same relationship of love with us. God is vulnerable, open, and seeking every one of us, who are stamped through with God’s image.
It is when we have that relationship with God, that image of God who loves us so much, that our hearts, like Jesus’, become sacred too. And everything we seek and pray for, is answered in the light of that deep love which we follow into mystery.
Mystery like that of the life of St Aloysius Gonzaga whose feast we celebrate today. From the earliest age he was touched in his heart by the loving kindness of God even though he grew up in a society of “fraud, dagger, poison, and lust.” As a son of a princely family, he grew up in royal courts but by 17 he’d turned his back on the possibility of a life of wealth and luxury and became a Jesuit. When he was 23, he washed and cared for people dying of the plague in a Jesuit hospital. There, he caught the plague himself and died. So young, so much to give, it doesn’t make sense. The events that happen to us are random. God is in the response and always responds lovingly – though not always in the way we expect.
I learnt this as my father was dying in our home where we were nursing him. He had Alzheimer’s’ and lung cancer, and had gone into a coma, so it was almost impossible to get water into his mouth without it dribbling out.
My mother was at her wits end, so I suggested if we had an ear drop squirter- yoke like this, we might be able to squirt the water into the back of his throat. I was grasping at straws and we had no such thing. But we muddled through the day.
That night I was putting my three-year-old niece Stephanie to bed. A full moon was shining through the landing window as we climbed the stairs. The despairing thought crossed my mind that, as my heart was breaking, G-d was as impassive and indifferent as that moon. “Do you know or care that my beloved daddy is dying?” I heard myself say. “Or are you like the distant God who winds up the clockwork universe and retires?”
I read Stefanie her stories and as I was leaving her bedroom, she called me back, once to tell her another story, the next time to give her another kiss. I was exasperated the third time she called me, anxious to get back to Daddy downstairs.
I went back into her room saying, “This better be good”. “I have a present for you” she sing-songed, and pulling back her duvet she produced, unbelievably, an ear- drop squirter. “I had sore ears one time, my mammy got that for me, and I kept it for you.”
Two days later Daddy died. He weighed five and half stone and all his major organs had broken down.
But the angel Stephanie in a town called Derry had brought us the good news that God never abandons us, and all prayers are answered at least with God’s presence, if we have the courage to follow love into mystery, and trust in the love-filled Sacred Heart.
DAY 3 SACRED HEART NOVENA 2019
St Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street
Day 3 - 22 June 2019
Homily by Fr Brendan Comerford SJ
Not to worry!
To be honest with you, I find it somewhat ironic that the Gospel reading this morning tells us ‘not to worry’ when, over the last few days, I’ve been doing just that - worrying about what I might say to you this morning.
Strange experiences from St Paul
Initially, when I looked at the Readings, I didn’t feel too attracted by the First Reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians where Paul speaks about the ‘visions and revelations’ he has had and about ‘being caught up into the third heaven’. What, in the name of God, was Paul talking about? I thought that I’d better do a little bit of background research to help me understand this strange passage. It seems that when Paul was in Corinth in Greece, there were rival preachers to Paul going around boasting about their spiritual experiences in order to show off that they were really authentic apostles.
Spiritual experiences on retreat!
I spend a lot of my time directing people in silent retreats. Therefore, I hear many people talking about their experiences of prayer. Thankfully, in the vast majority of cases, this is a great privilege but, every now and then, you get someone coming in telling you all about the beautiful experiences they’re having during prayer. After a while, the devil in me makes me a bit suspicious and so I begin to ask them about their relationships with other people, only to find, in some cases, that these are so busy praying that they don’t have a meaningful relationships with anyone, but are actually quite critical of others! Perhaps, in the words of St. Francis de Sales, such people are more in love with the consolations of God than with the God of consolation. They’re more attached to the nice feelings they get from prayer than from what the God of consolation calls all of us to do – to go out from prayer into the love and service of our neighbour. Christian prayer should always lead us out of ourselves to attend to the needs of the other in as much as our age and energies permit.
A very “holy” nun
I mentioned St. Francis de Sales there a moment ago. Francis was the bishop of Geneva, Switzerland, in the 17th century – he is one of my favourite saints. He was a very attractive, compassionate figure with his two feet planted firmly on the ground. He also happened to have a gentle sense of humour. One day Francis was visiting a convent of nuns which he had help to found. It had been reported to Francis that a nun of great holiness lived there. This prompted Francis to enquire what office in the community this holy nun held. She did not hold any office, the other nuns replied, nor had she ever done so, since she was always intent upon her devotions, always first in chapel and last to leave – therefore, the nuns felt that they could not ask her to do anything else. “In that case,” remarked Francis drily, “let us wait until she has exercised some office in the convent in order to discover just how holy she really is!”
Let’s laugh at our weakness
We all have something to learn from this “holy” nun. Perhaps it might be helpful to smile at ourselves when we catch ourselves out in our human weakness, yet again! I think that one of the most important gifts to ask for in prayer is the gift of a sense of humour – the ability to laugh at ourselves, not to take ourselves too seriously – God doesn’t – I hope! If God doesn’t take us too seriously, maybe we don’t have to spend all that time worrying!
St Thomas More’s sense of humour: “Grant me a good digestion
Speaking of a sense of humour, I love St. Thomas More’s Prayer for Good Humour. Remember Thomas More was the Lord Chancellor of England and he was beheaded because he would not agree to Henry VIII’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. You may know the prayer already. I pray it every day and it helps me.
Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest.
Grant me a healthy body, and the necessary good humour to maintain it.
Grant me a simple soul that knows to treasure all that is good
And that doesn’t frighten easily at the sight of evil,
But rather finds the means to put all things back in their place.
Give me a soul that knows not boredom, grumblings, sighs and laments,
Nor excess of stress, because of that obstructing thing call “I.”
Grant me, O Lord, a sense of good humour.
Allow me the grace to be able to laugh & to take a joke,
To discover in life a bit of joy and to be able to share it with others.
When I say that prayer each morning, my mind often focuses on that phrase that obstructing thing called ‘I’. I don’t know about you but the person who most often gets in my way of seeing and acting correctly is myself with my conscious or unconscious unfreedoms, often trivial concerns, the daily attacks of my ego and what do these do? – they cause me to worry! Worry prevents me from being attentive to others, to the daily gifts that come my way under different guises, to the beauties of nature and to the whispers of God in the everyday.
The beauty of nature
We know from the Gospels how attentive Jesus was to the poor and the sick but he must also have been attentive to the wonders and beauty of nature. Think of how often he refers to nature in his parables. In today’s Gospel, he’s asking us to look at the birds of the air and the flowers in the fields – at the wonder and beauty of them. Jesus is asking us to ‘pay attention’ and learn a lesson from what we see.
God: smiling me into smiling
Just to close with one thought about our consciousness of our weakness. I came across some lines the other day which have really helped me: God forgives me with the compassion of his eyes when my back is turned to him. I have been told that he forgives me, but I will not turn and have forgiveness even though I feel his eyes on my back. God forgives me for he takes my head in his hands and turns my face to him. And though I struggle against those hands, for they’re human, though divine, scarred with nails, though I hurt them, they do not let me go until he has smiled me into smiling and that is the forgiveness of God. (Austen Farrar).
Remember the look and out-stretched arms of the Sacred Heart towards us and recall those words “He has smiled me into smiling.” That’s a much more helpful image of the Sacred Heart!
Fr Brendan Comerford SJ is on the Retreat Team at Manresa Retreat House in Dublin
DAY 4 SACRED HEART NOVENA 2019
St Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street
Day 4 - 23 June 2019
Homily by Dr Ruth Patterson
A PRAYER TO TAKE AWAY
Dear Jesus, you are the God of welcomes. We come from different places, externally and internally. Our journeys have not been the same. But somewhere within us there is a common ache or yearning, a desire that we might experience your welcome in a deeper way than we have known before. Increase our trust in you so that we may journey unafraid and with joy to that place where we hear you say, ‘Welcome home!’
Dear Jesus, you are the God who feeds us. We have been hungry and thirsty, searching for food for the journey and wine for rejoicing, but we have been looking in the wrong places – and we’re tired and a bit despairing. Help us to hear your invitation to sit down and be fed by you, you who are the Bread of Life.
Dear Jesus, there is nothing I can do that will make you love me more than you love me already and nothing I can do that will make you love me less. I find that all a bit overwhelming but right now I choose to believe it, to believe you.
Thank you for revealing to me that I am beautiful and beloved. Amen
DAY 5 SACRED HEART NOVENA 2019
St Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street
Day 5 - 24 June 2019
Homily by Christine Halloran
My son Michael was born at four minutes past five on a Friday evening. Lying in my arms, the first thing I noticed was his eyes, deep pools of blue that I could get lost in, it blew my heart wide-open.
What did Elizabeth see in John’s eyes?
As I recall that memory today, I wonder what it was that Elizabeth noticed when she first looked at John? What struck her the most? Was it his ten little fingers, his perfectly formed eyelashes, maybe he had a mop of black hair? Was he frail and sickly or strong and hardy? Would she ever have guessed what he was to become?
A bridge for her people to Jesus
A man that would show people that there was a way their sins could be wiped out.
A man who would introduce them to a new way of looking at God.
A man who would move them away from fearful service to a punishing God to the warm embrace of a compassionate Father.
If she had ever thought that her son would be the bridge that would lead people to Jesus – God made flesh and blood, it would certainly have blown her heart wide open.
Times of change for me: love entering or leaving my heart
So I started thinking about today’s gospel in light of my own life, and I wondered if there were times when I had to let go of my old ways of being and open myself to a new and enlightened way of seeing and perceiving God. What I came to realise was that the greatest times of change for me involved love and its effect on my heart. For instance, the first time I fell in love with a boy when I was 17 or when my heart overflowed with love at the birth of my children. At other times, it was when love left my life, when close friends and loved ones died, most especially my mother.
St Patrick’s College: a passion for books and poetry
Around the time I turned 40, I enrolled in a BA degree programme in St. Pat’s college. I discovered that I was hungry and famished, with a passion for books and poetry. It was a wonderful time of discovery but things started to go wrong in second year when the college/home life balance began to unravel. I felt overwhelmed and my old coping techniques failed me. Then we got word that my mother had been diagnosed with cancer. So I deferred my final year and with my brothers and sisters, we nursed my mother through chemo. I started back in my final year only to get word two weeks in that my mother’s cancer had come back with a vengeance.
She went into hospice care and she died 6 weeks later.
Relationship with my mother: distance and coolness
My mother was a wonderful woman but my relationship with her had been difficult, and a distance and coolness had set in between us over the years.
I remember feeling totally detached over the whole funeral.
It wasn’t until 18 months later that the enormity of the loss struck. I remember going to our family home. The house was freezing, the heart of it, my mother was gone. I felt chilled to the bone and I walked down that garden path in a daze, knowing that something terrible had happened…
Sketchy relationship with God
One morning, a few months later, deep in grief and feeling guilty about my mother, I found myself crying.
I didn’t know who I was anymore.
My relationship with God at the time was fairly sketchy! There was little room for God in my life. Funnily enough though, I always said my bedtime prayers and I did have both my children baptised and they attended catholic schools. Deep down I felt that God would not approve of the way I had been living my life and that he was angry with me.
Slow change: more loving eyes
I don’t know where the words came from that morning but I heard myself cry out to Jesus to take my hand and lead me home…and all I can say is that it was from that day on that things started to slowly change. I began to see myself through more loving and compassionate eyes. I was opening up on a heart level and I began to realise that God was not angry or disappointed in me, his forgiveness was unconditional. It was me who needed to forgive myself for all my mistakes. What I realised was that the more I was able to see myself through affectionate and loving eyes, the more I was able to see others in the same light.
My heart had cracked open, the icy thaw had begun and a path was clearing so God’s could get in.
Friendship with Jesus
And so began my friendship with Jesus. And through that friendship my relationships with family and friends have become stronger; old hurts have given way to new depths of forgiveness. With time I was able to reconcile myself to my mother and I love her more now than ever before. My sense of God as the law-making, punishing, task master of my youth has been replaced by the all loving, all forgiving Father who wants only the best for me.
A John the Baptist experience
Dealing with my mother’s death and the loss of her loving presence was a John the Baptist experience for me. It was a bridge between my old way of being and the new. And like John, It paved a new path for Jesus to enter my heart.
Our hearts are Sacred because God dwells in them. However, we can lose touch with the deep and essential source of power and love if we allow the bitter and painful thorns of life to wither and harden them.
The path of love and forgiveness is the way home to ourselves and to our Sacred Hearts, God’s Sacred home within us. He is waiting at the door to welcome us in.
Like all loving fathers, he knows the colour of our eyes…his heart is blown wide open when we smile.
DAY 6 SACRED HEART NOVENA 2019
St Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street
Day 6 - 25 June 2019
Homily by Dr Jessie Rogers
Genesis 13:2, 5-18; Psalm 14:1-5; Matthew 7:6, 12-14
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.”
“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
A young soldier lay in his brother’s castle recovering from a serious wound. His leg had been shattered by a cannonball and it took six long months before he was up and about again. There was not much to do so he spent a lot of time daydreaming about a beautiful noble lady he was infatuated with, imagining great exploits on the battlefield and how he would eventually win her love. There were also two books in the castle - a life of Christ and stories of the saints - which he read again and again. In the long, dreary days he began to notice how his dreams of being a great knight and winning the lady’s heart, though enticing at first, left him feeling discontented and hollow. But when he imagined following the example of Jesus and the saints he was reading about, devoting his life to serving God and others, he experienced a deep sense of joy. The first possibility was the obvious path for a soldier to take - pursuing status, fame and glory. But deep inside he knew that was not the path that led to life. So the young soldier chose the other path, the narrow one that led to life. Ignatius of Loyola came to know and to experience God’s boundless, passionate love for him, a love that had to flow out in love for others. He devoted his life to serving God, to helping others find the love of God that he experienced, and he gave to the world the gift of his spiritual insight. He taught others to pray, to pay attention, and to find God in everything. His legacy is the work of the Jesuits throughout the world. Gardiner Street parish is part of that.
What if Ignatius had chosen the other path? His life would have had its ups and downs. He might have died happy, he might have died sad, we do not know - but the incredible gifts of insight and imagination, of spiritual wisdom that God was shaping in him, all of that would not have come to fullness in his own life and been shared with the world. To take all of that treasure and waste it on a petty life of seeking fame and glory on the battlefield and in the courts of the nobility, that would have been like taking pearls and giving them to pigs.
Jesus uses powerful images to make us sit up and notice. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine.” A modern equivalent might be feeding the consecrated host to rats. Our whole being recoils at the very thought.
What about the one, sacred life that you have been given? The person that you are, whom God has shaped lovingly from the moment you began to form in your mother’s womb, for whom the Lord was willing to give up everything to draw you into divine friendship - you are holy, you are a pearl of infinite value. What are you doing with that one precious life?
Where else are our pearls, the things of inestimable value that we have been given? Our families, our friends, our communities, the world, the beauty of nature, the moments that make up our lives. Finding God in all things means seeing the holy at the heart of the most ordinary. Are we treasuring it or are we throwing it away?
Jesus tells us to “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Paradoxically, if we treat our own life like it is worth more than the lives of others, we end up throwing it away. If we become self-absorbed and focused in on ourselves, ignoring others, then the gift of God within us will suffocate and wilt, like a plant in an airless room without any light. The love that Jesus pours into our heart needs to flow out of us to others. That way there is constantly space in us to receive more of Christ’s love.
That which is holy and precious is not only our own God-given life; it is also the other person, be they family, friend, outsider or stranger. Even our enemy is holy and loved by God. In our world, there are sacred lives, deeply loved by God, which other people, even those who call themselves Christian, prefer to throw away. That breaks the Sacred Heart. As we do to others what we would like done to us, we become more like Jesus.
Jesus invites us to life in its fullness. The image of the broad and the narrow gates makes me uncomfortable. It sounds almost as if God does not want us to find the right road, as if it is only for the good or the lucky ones. But Jesus is not trying to exclude anyone. The gift of life is offered to everyone - it is God’s deep desire for us.
Why then do so many people end up taking the wrong road? Perhaps because we believe the lies we are told, we let adverts dictate our values, we listen to our fears instead of to the loving voice of God. We decide we are valuable or worthless depending on what other people say and think.
- Some of us become like Lot in the first reading, who chose what looked like the best land. He took the ‘sensible’ path, the wide road of taking the very best that he could for himself. But by settling there he joined with the people of the plain who were caught up in selfishness and evil. His own family ended up being corrupted and almost destroyed. He took that which was most precious - his wife and children - and sacrificed them on the altar of prosperity.
- Some of us are caught in addictive and destructive behaviour. To choose the wide road is to decide that it is easier to just stay here, and not to set out on the hard road of recovery.
If we go with the flow, we will live small and selfish lives without even noticing what we are doing. Remember that young soldier and the wide and narrow paths that stretched out before him. The road to life looks like hard work, but it is the road where our own deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. It is the road of LIFE!
In our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus we discover more of God’s passionate love for each one of us, and we hear the call to bring this love to others. We open ourselves to God’s transforming work in our lives as we recognise the kingship of Jesus and commit ourselves to living according to his will. Is that hard work? Yes, and no. We take the narrow road, but we discover there the boundless love of God who gives us everything we need. Receive the gift you have been given. Don’t throw it away!