Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” We shall do so, because He has done so for us; today is one day in particular where the Church, in her tradition of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, emphasizes this reality. There is hardly a Catholic who has not seen an image of Jesus holding out His Heart, aflame with love, surrounded by thorns and pierced, offering it as a gift to us.
Yet today we are given the parable of the Lost Sheep. We realize that Jesus is the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine behind in pursuit of the one. But would a shepherd really do such a thing? Perhaps, but given that the shepherd in this story is Jesus we know that He absolutely would, for we read in John’s Gospel that He is the Good Shepherd, and Jesus says that, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.” (John 10:29-30) “The King of Love our Shepherd is…” as the old hymn goes; He pursues His every stray sheep out of love, and promises never to lose any that the Father has given Him (John 17:24), and no one can take us from His hand because He is One with the Father, and there is no strength greater than the Lord of All.
Have you wandered into the valley of the shadow of death? The Lord is your shepherd; He has followed you in and will lead you out. Have you turned away from the Food and Drink of everlasting life? He will guide you to good pastures, and nourish you with His own Flesh and Blood. Are you weary? Come to Him, all who labor and are heavy burdened; beside restful waters He will give you repose. Are you listless and without purpose? Take His yoke upon you and learn from Him, for He is meek and humble of heart. The Lord is your Shepherd; what more could you want? He has gone before you in all things, even death; all for love of you, a singular sheep among His flock, with a singular love as though you were His only lamb.
And so when any of His sheep are returned to the fold, the rest of the flock rejoices for their missing member has returned; in other words when one sinner repents, heaven celebrates. Why is this? Because those souls know the joy of reconciliation with God. Repentance, we could say, is not merely turning back to God, just as the Prodigal Son had to do more than simply turn around. To repent is to admit of one’s need for God, to accept God’s offering of Himself in Christ; the Prodigal Son—very much a lost sheep himself—was reconciled in the embrace of his father, who says to his jealous, older son, “…everything I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31) Whatever your sin, your weakness, your struggle, be not so sheepish as to hide from the Shepherd: where can you go that He will not follow? Where can anyone go to escape the love of His Most Sacred Heart, or be beyond earshot of His every thunderous heartbeat, shaking the very foundations of the universe with His love for mankind?