Friday, June 15, 2007

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Bridge Over Troubled Water

Readings: Ezekiel 34:11-16; Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Romans 5:5b-11; Luke 15:3-7

For the past couple of days our Mass readings have offered us the occasion to reflect upon the contrast between life according to the Law and life in the Spirit. And even though our celebration of the solemn feast of the Sacred Heart interrupts the cycle of weekday readings, the readings for this feast help us to continue and to deepen our meditation on the same theme.

We may consider the spiritual life to be concerned essentially with our relationship with God and also among ourselves. And these relationships involve both giving and receiving. When we live only according to the Law, however, these relationships often seem to revolve only around things. We seek God in order to receive from God the things we need to lead a comfortable, even affluent, life. And, we promise to give things back to God in exchange. Sometimes it feels not much different from a business transaction. We give of what we have, often things we can spare, so as to manipulate God into giving us what we want. The giving that we do at the level of the Law may perhaps be more accurately described as investment.

The life of the Spirit is quite different. And the difference is brought out most starkly in the readings for today’s feast. Today, we are invited to fix our eyes upon the image of the pierced heart of Christ and also upon the image of Christ the Good Shepherd. These remind us of the way in which God deals with us. Jesus highlights the difference in his description to the scribes and Pharisees of how the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep to seek out the lost one. Which of you would not do the same? Jesus asks. And the answer is probably all. It simply does not make good business sense, not when one is concerned primarily with things, not when one operates purely on the level of the Law.

But God deals with us on the level of the Spirit. Instead of only giving us things – and surplus things at that – God gives us of God’s very self>: I myself will shepherd my sheep. Even to the point of dying for us while we were still sinners. Instead of giving us things in order to manipulate us into giving something back, God gives what we need to be truly happy -- God's self. The sheep that are lost and astray, the Good Shepherd gathers back into the security of his flock. Those who are hungry, he nourishes. Those who are sick and wounded he heals. This is what we celebrate today. This is what the Sacred Heart reminds us of: a God who operates on the level of the Spirit, who continually gives us of God’s self, whose love is poured into our hearts through the passion, death and resurrection of Christ. In the words of the well-known Simon and Garfunkel hit: like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down… Over the troubled waters of our lives, the Good Shepherd lays down no other bridge than himself…

How are we being invited to cross this bridge today?

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