Once again Jesus criticizes the Pharisee for his attention to the details of the law without paying attention to the heart of the law; namely, love of God and love of neighbor. He also criticizes the scholar of the law. Rather than making it possible for the people to love and revere God, they make it a burden to be a devout Jew. More concerned with their worldly status, the Pharisee and the scholar of the law ignore the central message of God’s judgment and love.
The words of both Jesus and Paul from today’s readings direct us to an essential truth about our faith: God is a just judge, who shows no partiality to worldly status. Who we are in the world means nothing if we are not disciples of Christ who love God.
Today we remember St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. On December, 27, 1673, the feast of St. John the Evangelist, Margaret Mary claimed that Jesus had permitted her to rest her head upon his heart and then disclosed to her the wonders of his love, telling her that he desired to make them known to all humankind and to diffuse the treasures of his goodness and that he had chosen her for this work.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is a relatively new phenomenon in the Church. It was not until the year 1765 that the Church recognized the devotion which was so dear to St. Margaret Mary. Construction of the first church named for the Sacred Heart was begun in 1779 at the order of Queen Maria I of Portugal. It was dedicated ten years later.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart emphasizes the heart of God’s law. The furnace of love that is emblazoned on the image of the Sacred Heart stands as a reminder that God, the just judge, is first of all a God who is love personified. May we always live with that kind of love evident by our words and our actions!
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator