In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul makes the argument that we are justified by our faith in Jesus rather than through obedience to the Law. To understand what Paul is saying we must first understand what justification is. Quite simply, justification is being right, as in being in a correct or right relationship with God. So according to St. Paul, believing in Jesus places us in a right relationship with God. To further clarify what it means, St. Paul states in the opening words of chapter five of his Letter to the Galatians: “Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” He claims that the yoke of the covenant makes us slaves and is a heavy burden simply because no human being can be justified by obedience. We are all sinners. We will disobey the Law at some time or another.
St. Matthew uses this same image of the yoke to describe our relationship to Jesus. This particular Gospel passage is frequently used at funerals and for various feast days including the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi. Jesus declares that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Unlike the yoke of the Old Covenant, the New Covenant that we have in Jesus justifies us simply by believing in Jesus.
We recognize how Jesus could make such a claim when we compare his words to the words of Moses which we heard in the first reading. Moses and the prophets all declare that disobedience will be repaid with destruction, that the disobedient will personally pay for it. While Jesus’ words are of rest, meekness and humility, Moses words are harsh and heavy and condemnatory. In truth, what could be easier than simply acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of God, the very personification of God’s love for us.
The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the personification of the notion of being in a loving relationship with a God who wants nothing more than to allow ourselves to be loved. We are called to remain in this love that God has expressed for us in the gift of Jesus. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is one of the most widely practiced and well-known Catholic devotions, wherein the heart of Jesus is viewed as a symbol of "God's boundless and passionate love for humankind".
The popularization of this devotion in its modern form is derived from Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, who said she learned the devotion from Jesus during a series of apparitions to her between 1673 and 1675. Later, in the 19th century, another Catholic nun in Portugal, Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart, a religious of the Good Shepherd, requested that Pope Leo XIII consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As Sister Joyce wrote so beautifully on the community website, we are all tired and in need of some rest. We are tired of the pandemic, of the racial injustice that has inflamed so many, and of the police brutality and the rioting that seems to open every news cast these days. In the Sacred Heart we find the remedy for our weariness, for love conquers all and makes our relationships right.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator