23 June 2017
Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
St. John tells us that “God is love.” But this isn’t just any love; it’s a kind of love that only comes from the realm of the divine, from God. The other types of love are reflections of God, too: filial love, erotic love, spousal love, and true friendship. Those are forms of love as we human beings know it; and they’re all good. But the kind of love we celebrate today on this solemnity is a very different kind of love.
Today we celebrate the love we know as “charity.” In Greek, the word is agápe [ah-GAH-pay]. And it means, literally, “to prefer,” or “to have a preference for.” And that sounds basic enough. But “charity,” or agápe, is a total preference for whatever is good for the other; it’s complete selflessness, it’s complete gift (with no strings attached), it’s joy in seeing someone else’s needs being met, regardless of what I want. And that kind of love is entirely divine.
The love that gushes out of the Sacred Heart of Jesus isn’t a sentimental love; rather, it’s perfect charity, perfect preference for the good of the other. That’s why Jesus could die on the Cross. He died for us; he also died for the Father, because he preferred the Father’s will to his own. And he preferred to love his enemies and his fair-weather friends because that’s what was good for them. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is perfect charity.
And, really, that’s what we come here to worship. We come to the altar where the perfect charity of God is poured out for us. He hands over his Flesh and Blood to us, he speaks his words from Scripture—purely for our benefit. And that kind of love asks only one thing in return: more love.
The response to charity is charity. We come here to renew our love for God, to renew our preference for God and his ways. That’s the primary (if not the only) reason we come to the altar—to offer ourselves to God and say, “God, whatever you want, I will trust you. Whenever I am burdened or weary, I will turn to you and find peace. Whenever I am lost, I will prefer your way over mine, and be okay. When life is going well, I will offer you thanks and praise.”
The response to charity is charity. God gives and we receive. We give and God receives. No strings attached, no fears, no judgment; just perfect self-gift in love for the other. That how our God works. God is love. What a blessing it is to live with God, now and forever.