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The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – Year A – OT
Readings: Deut 7:6-11; 1 Jn 4:7-16; Mt 11:25-30.
1/ Reading I: RSV Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; 8 but it is because the Lord loves you, and is keeping the oath which he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them; he will not be slack with him who hates him, he will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command you this day.”
2/ Reading II: RSV 1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he is in us, because he has given us of his own Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; 26 yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. 27 All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
I. THEME: God’s love is expressed beautifully through Christ.
Love is the topic which is mentioned the most in human life. This isn’t a surprise because love is the motive that influences all human activities. But when we must look for a right definition of love, we are puzzled because people define love very differently. Xuan Dieu, a Vietnamese poet, defines: “Love is to die a little in one’s heart.” This definition shall be discarded by many people, especially those who are disappointed in love. For them, love isn’t died a little but their whole heart. The writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry defines, “Love isn’t about looking at each other but looking in the same direction.” This definition is also not right because how can we find a lover who looks at the same direction with us in all things? St. John probably gives us a beautiful and deepest definition when he defines, “God is love.” However, it is a theological definition, needed to explain more clearly.
All the readings in the solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus help us to understand God’s love for human beings through some historical events, especially through Christ. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Deuteronomy emphasizes the fact that God loved and chose the Israelites as His own people before they even know and return their love. He made many covenants with their patriarchs to bless and to protect them, and He is loyal to these covenants forever. In the second reading, St. John also emphasized the fact that God loves people first because He is love. God so loved people that He sacrificed His Only Son to redeem their sins; when He sacrificed His Son, He sacrificed Himself. In the Gospel, Jesus knew all human beings who “labor and are heavy laden,” so he calls all to come to him to be taught and to find rest.
1/ Reading I: “The faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.”
1.1/ “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth.” To understand these words properly, we need to read the Book of Genesis when God chose Abraham and made the covenant with him (Gen 17:5-10). According to this covenant, God promises to grant him three following things: First, a crowded generation; secondly, the Promise Land of Canaan; and lastly, He shall bless and protect him and his generation if they observe all of His commandments and are circumcised. The author of the Book of Deuteronomy confirmed that the only reason why God did these things is out of His love for them, not of any other reason. He wrote, “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples;but it is because the Lord loves you.” This is so obvious because when God made this covenant with Abraham, Israel isn’t a nation and Isaac, the one who shall bear the crowded generation, didn’t exist yet.
After this covenant, Abraham’s generation was born and increased through Isaac, Jacob and his children. Since Joseph, Jacob’s young child, became the second man after King Pharaoh of Egypt, he brought his father, his brothers and all their families to settle in Egypt. They increased very fast and became a threat for the Egyptian king. They were maltreated greatly and the king used many ways to prevent their increase of population. They cried to God and He used Moses and Aaron to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, into the deserts to be purified and to be taught by Him before let them enter the Promise Land. The author of Deuteronomy briefly described this process as follows, “It is because the Lord loves you, and is keeping the oath which He swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt.”
1.2/ God is faithful: God takes initiative when He made His covenant with Abraham and his descendants. According to human tradition at that time, if one party violates any article of the signed covenant, it shall be voided. Looking back into the Israel’s history, we observe that God is always loyal to what He promises; the betrayals always came from the Israelites. The author of Deuteronomy also affirmed this fact, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations.”
2/ Reading II: God is love.
2.1/ God loves us first: The author of the First Letter of John reveals for us many important things about the divine love (agape):
(1) Love originates from God: God creates the world and everything in it out of love for people. If He hates anything, that thing shall not be existed. All kinds of love originate from God, such as: the love between husband and wife, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters or between friends.
(2) Whoever loves, that person is born by God: God creates people according to His image (selem) and likeness (demut) (Gen 1:26; 5:1-3). People like God the most because they know how to love. The author of the Johannine First Letter confirms, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.He who does not love does not know God; for God is love.”
(3) The ways God expresses His love: God expresses His love by many ways in the world and the history; but according to the author, the most beautiful way was when He sacrificed His Only Son, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.”
(4) God loves us first: It isn’t that we love God first; but it is God who loves us first. He loves people though people have nothing to be loved. He loves people even when they are still sinners. The author states, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.”
2.2/ We must love each other: As stated above, the characteristic which makes people to be like God the most is to love. They know how to respond to God’s love and to love each other. The author commanded his faithful, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” The reciprocal of this love is emphasized in the Fourth Gospel, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love” (Jn 15:9). “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34).
There are many kinds of love in life, such as: the romantic love between a man and a woman, the spousal love between a husband and a wife, the fraternal love between brothers and sisters or those who share a common goal, the human compassion for those who are suffering. Pope Benedict, in his encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, # 10-11, thinks all kinds of love originate from God; but all these kinds of love are imperfect in comparison with the divine love because they still have the selfish element in them. The most perfect love which people need to reach is the divine love; because with this love, people can love others as God loves them. When people possess this love, they can meet Jesus’ challenges as in chapter five of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, such as: to love enemies, to do good deeds or to pray for those who persecute them.
3/ Gospel: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart.”
Jesus made a comparison between the wise and the understanding (sophos, sunetos) with the lowly (nêpios), to tell his audience that they need to have the child’s attitudes, such as: trust, humility and eager to learn, so that he could convey to them knowledge about God. A prideful and suspected attitude shall prevent them from recognizing what he would like to reveal for them.
3.1/ Knowledge about God: Jesus said to them, “All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
(1) Jesus knows His Father more than anyone else: The Greek verb which the author used here is “epiginôskô,” to know a person as he is or a thing as it is. People understand God with different levels; only Jesus understands God with the most perfect level. This isn’t a surprise because Christ is the Logos or God’s intellect. He and His Father are one (Jn 10:30).
(2) People know about God through Christ’s revelation: If God doesn’t reveal for people, they shall never be able to know Him. Christ is God’s revelation. He comes to reveal His Father for people as he announced to his disciples, “He who sees me sees him who sent me” (Jn 12:45). Moreover, in order for people to understand these revelations, they need the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, to enlighten and to guide them from inside.
3.2/ Two lessons we need to learn from our master: Though Jesus’ disciples must still bear the heavy laden, they don’t bear it according to the worldly way; but Christ’s way. To do this, they need to learn from Christ. Two important virtues we need to learn from him are:
(1) Meekness: This is the second beatitude. We can learn this virtue from Jesus. He is God himself; he can destroy all those who reviled, scourged and killed him because he didn’t commit of any sin, but he didn’t do that. Instead, he chose the way of forgiveness. On the cross, he prayed to the God, “Father! forgive them because they know not what they do.” He reconciled people with God and others. He taught us to love, to forgive, to pray and to do good deeds to our enemies. Human beings also like those who are meek, gentle and easy to forgive. Wickedness and revenge make us hatred by all; we shall not find true peace by getting angry with people.
(2) Humility: is the virtue that opposes to the sin of pride. No one likes the pride and those who always show that they know everything. Humility is to know oneself in the relationship with God and others. The humble know that all they have are from God, so they shouldn’t boast with others, but use their given gifts to extend God’s kingdom and to serve others. The pride steal God’s grace and always feel unrest because they fear that others shall be better than them. They are discontent when they don’t get what they want, and angry with all people.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– The divine love (agape) is the most important element of our life. We need this kind of love in us before we can do any good deed for ourselves and others; without this love we can’t fulfill what God commands us to do.
– We must experience God’s love before we can return our love for Him.
– Love must be expressed by deeds. The Father expressed His immense love for human beings by sacrificed His Only Son for them. The Son expressed his love for human beings by died on the cross to redeem their sins. We must also express our love by sacrificing our life for God and others.