By Archbishop Henry D’Souza
Reflections on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us of some basic truths in our life. God has loved us first. We did not love God and thereby become worthy of his love. Instead he loved us and so we are “born of God’s love”. (1.John 4-7) We often tend to forget God’s love, as we struggle with the problems of daily life. We can even be tempted at times to wonder if God loves us at all.
Jesus gave us his answer, “Come to me all you that are weary and carry heavy burdens and I will give you rest”. (Mat.11/28) Why is it that we go elsewhere in search of rest? We turn to other persons, who often are as helpless as we. Sometimes they do us more harm than good. We turn to creatures who promise us joy and consolation, but in the end they do not satisfy the deep yearnings of the soul. Drugs and drink are the common attractions. Enjoyment, holidays, tours, fanciful expeditions appear on TV and bill boards. They invite us to relax and enjoy the peace and solace of these allurements. These can be tempting choices.
The choice that Jesus offers us is, “Come to me”. This is so straight-forward and so attractive. Jesus is God. Jesus is all powerful. Jesus is all understanding and kind. Yet his invitation often goes unheard. There are few takers.
Jesus himself gives us the reason for coming to him with our burdens and weariness. He promises us, “I will give you rest”. The rest that Jesus promises can only be obtained if we are willing to learn from him. He tells us so: “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart.” He invites us into this school of learning. He will not force us, but when we enter there, he will be faithful to his promise. “You will find rest for your souls.”
St. Augustine was one of those restless persons. He had a very devoted and holy mother, St. Monica. How she prayed for her son and wept long hours over him. But his friends and his own evil inclinations carried him away from the demands of his faith. Then one day he woke up and God’s grace touched him. In his Confessions he wrote those immortal lines, “Late have I loved you, O beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you? For behold, you were within me and I outside. I sought you outside and in my ugliness fell upon those lovely things that you have made. You were with me and I was not with you. I was kept from you by those things.”
This is the strange mystery of the human heart. God’s lovely things keep us from loving God. God has given us so many beautiful things to enjoy. We enjoy them eagerly and avariciously, but then fail to thank God who made them for us. These creatures become our joy and our goal in the place of God – drink, money, glory and pleasure – alas their names are legion.
St. Augustine exclaimed, “Who shall grant me to rest in you? By whose gift shall you enter into my heart and fill it so compellingly, so that I shall turn no more to my sins, but embrace you, my only good?” In his great longing and search, he prayed long hours and wept bitterly. “For your mercies’ sake, O Lord my God, tell me what you are to me. Say to my soul, I am your salvation.”
St. Augustine in fact did hear God’s voice. He turned over a new leaf. He became a changed man. He went on to become a bishop and doctor of the Church. He became a saint.
The invitation of Jesus is made to each of us in this month of June. “Come to me all you who are weary.” If we can but hear his voice and learn from him, we also will find rest in him.