It’s nice to be home. I want to begin by thanking you all for your prayers for me while I was on retreat. It was a week of many blessings and much peace, I believe on account of your prayers and love. I have to admit that it was disheartening to come back from such a profound experience of joy and peace into the social climate so full of unrest, injustices, violence, and divisions, coming now even to our area in Baton Rouge. Moving from one experience to the next really gave me something to reflect on as I drove home – the need of the human heart for peace. We were created for it, we long for it when it isn’t there, and even those who war against others and commit violence ultimately still seek peace as the final goal. The world offers us many ways to have peace. We can simply be without violence. We can work to gain the things that make us happy, the worldly possessions that make us content in some way. We can have a peace that comes by way of simply giving up our own (often religious) beliefs on ‘hot topics’ and thus smoothing things out. But none of these aspects of peace are lasting. There is only one place that gives lasting peace and it is the Heart of Jesus Christ.
The familiar story of the Good Samaritan is one that provides a great variety of options to pray with it. Certainly it is prescriptive in how we ought to live the Christian faith – the clarification of ‘who is my neighbor’ and ‘go and do likewise’ compel us to action for the spread of the Kingdom of Mercy. Too, we can reflect upon the individuals of the story and see in them aspects of our own life – the time that I have been the Samaritan, innkeeper, priest or Levite, wounded man, or the robbers. These are fruitful and help us to become more understanding of the mercy to which we are called.
As I’ve done mentioned in other homilies, the story is also that of the Lord Jesus. The wounded man on the roadside is us, humanity; all of us. The priest & Levite are those who do what is expected of them in the culture of the day; it was actually proper for them to avoid a person who was bloodied or dead, as it would make them ritually unclean and unable to perform some of the services expected of them. The Lord is the Samaritan who breaks the rule of what ought to be done and instead shows mercy to the one in need, at great personal cost. He pours out his wine and oil – signs of the Sacraments – and binds the man up and then brings him to the Inn for continued care. He stays for a short time and then departs, assuring that he will return and pay back everything given. The early Church Fathers saw in this the reality that Christ came to bring humanity to the ‘inn’ that is the Catholic Church, where we are to be continuously cared for until the Lord returns. What I spent time praying with this week was that while the oil and wine – symbolic of the Sacraments – was necessary for the healing of the man, it was not all that was provided at the inn. The innkeeper would surely have had to continue the work of the dressing and cleansing of wounds, but would have also to give food, shelter, clothing, conversation, and more to the man in the time of healing. This latter part, it seems to me, while not part of the sacramental order of things is of vital importance. And so to the Church provides for us the Sacraments and to compliment them, various devotions to feed and clothe us in the grace and peace of God.
The more I try to hear the voice of the Lord in prayer and try to read the signs of the times, the more and more I am convinced that right now all of our problems can be solved, all of our questions answered if we but simply have recourse to one particular devotion in the Church and that is the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart is, in a sense, hidden within this parable of the Good Samaritan because the parable is one of a love that seeks to show mercy. This is the merciful and Sacred Heart of Christ. In the 1600’s Our Lord appeared in a vision to St. Margaret Mary and stood before her, His Heart visible to her eyes. She marveled at it because it was ablaze with fire – a furnace of love. Another time He appeared and the same thing happened, except this time she gazed even deeper at the Heart and noticed that the brightness was far beyond that of the Sun, and yet it was also clear as crystal. Purity and passionate love. Seeing this, He reached out and took her own heart and placed it within His. As a log catches fire in the fireplace and gradually becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the flames, so too her heart began to catch flame and to burn with that same love in the Heart of Jesus. He then took her heart and gave it back.
In these days we must seek to do the same. We must rest in prayer and allow the Lord to set our hearts on fire with His love. We must turn to prayer first and foremost and there learn what to do. This, of course, has won me the ridicule of friends and others who see prayer as the ‘easy way out’. It seems that when things get too tough, the best thing is to simply say ‘pray about it!’ and all is better. While it could easily become the easy way out, I’m convinced it’s really not. One retreat I came across a timely quote by Catherine Doherty that affirmed this insistence upon prayer: “We must trust, resting peacefully on God’s breast, listening to His heartbeats, and realizing that in listening, we will find the answer to our questions.” It is in resting upon the breast of God, spiritually speaking, that we are able to truly discern what it is that God desires of us. Prayer is vital because it purifies us and allows us to seek the Will of God and not simply go with our own response. Every homily that you get from me is version 2.0 because the first homily in my heart is what I want to say, then that homily has to be purified before the Blessed Sacrament in prayer, where it is filled with the Love of God and given in a new way that I pray is fruitful.
Again, the parable calls us to action and mercy, but how do we show it? What do we do? What do we say? Where do we go? How Who is our neighbor? The answer to these and every question can be found in the quiet heartbeats of God. So I want to invite you to take up once again the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Read a book about it. Find the prayers. Read one of the 4 papal documents written on it in the last 125 years. We have the statue here in church and many of you have images or statues in your homes. Take a minute this week and sit with that Sacred Heart. You don’t have to say anything, you need not ask a single question if you don’t want to. But know that if you take the time and listen, the Lord God will soon speak.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.