HOMILY: JOHN 19:31-37

ONE OF THE SOLIDERS WITH A LANCE OPENED HIS SIDE, AND THERE  FLOWED OUT BLOOD AND WATER. The blood and water that the Roman soldier saw was a sign that Jesus had truly died. What St. John saw in this lance blow was a sign that Jesus was truly the one sent by God to redeem the world, for he fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah "They looked on him whom they pierced.”  Other followers of our Lord, Fathers of the Church after the Gospel had spread to many peoples, viewed the blood and water as symbols of the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist.  So that the Church was, as it were, born from the opened heart of Christ. As time went on there was a further interpretation given to this event when certain saintly men and women such as Saints   John Eudes and Margaret Mary, contemplated the wounded side of Jesus on the cross. They took the opened side as a sign of the love of the heart of Jesus, pierced by sin. 

We need not choose from among these different ways of understanding the inflicting of this wound in the side of our Savior. Far from being contradictory one to the other, they complement each other. Each of these meanings is valid, each conveys some aspect of the truth revealed in this event. Certainly, the Church includes this account in today’s liturgy because in it she sees something of all these meanings in relation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He truly died on the cross; he did so out of love that came from the depths of his heart. In doing so he reconciled sinners to the Father;  and at the same time, the power to transmit divine life that he placed in the sacraments derived from his willing submission to death. Finally, through these sacraments the Church grows in number and is sanctified, increasing in holiness. Accordingly, it is not unjustified to view the Church and the salvation offered to men and women of all times and races as flowing from the pierced side of Jesus and the heart opened by the lance. 

There are any number of sacred signs and holy devotions offered by the Church to her children as helps to sanctification and growth in the love of God in this life. In eternity many of these will no longer be necessary or even useful and so they will pass away with time. But it will not be so with the glorified body of Christ our Savior. He will always remain for us the Redeemer in whom and with whom and through whom we know the Father. As a result, we shall ever, throughout all eternity, honor the Sacred   Heart of Jesus with our adoration and praise in a spirit of thanksgiving. 

For the Sacred Heart of Jesus is first of all the physical heart whose beating was essential for maintaining life in his body so long as he remained mortal. He is truly man and like all of us required that the blood which nourished his physical organs be constantly circulated by the repeated beating of his heart. But when we speak of his Sacred Heart we refer also to the human emotions and desires, especially the affection that motivated him in his life on earth. The Heart of Jesus is a symbol of his human love for all the children of God. Not only for those who belong to him but also for all men and women, even those who do not acknowledge him.  

There has been a considerable emphasis on reparation to the Sacred Heart associated with this devotion in the times after the revelations made to St. Margaret Mary.  As long as this world lasts such concern to fill up by faith and loving concern what is lacking to our human race in its response to God’s offer of salvation through the suffering and death of his Son will remain important as an expression of the love of God and of his Christ. However, the primary characteristic of this devotion is love and gratitude to our Savior for all he as done for us and for the glory of his heavenly Father in the days of his flesh.  

In heaven we shall have no need for reparation. It will be for the praise of his glory and with sentiments of thanksgiving that we shall continue to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Even in the beatific vision the Sacred Heart of Jesus will continue to serve as a mediator of the Father’s love. It is in the Heart of Jesus that we shall know and love the Father of lights. But then we shall know him not darkly but clearly, as he is in himself, inseparably united with the person of his Beloved Son, whose heart has become for us the fountain of eternal life.

  Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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