Today is always a special day. Pope Francis reflecting on the meaning of the feast of the Sacred Heart during his Santa Marta mass reminds us of how it is really a feast which calls us to celebrate God's love. As reported by Vatican Radio, Francis tells us that:
“It is not us who first loved God,” it's the other way around: “it is He who loved us first” he said.
The Pope said the prophets used the symbol of the almond blossom to explain this reality highlighting the fact that the almond blossom is the first to bloom in spring.
“God is like that: he is always first. He's the first to wait for us, the first to love us, the first to help us” he said.
Francis continued, it is not easy to understand God's love as is narrated in the passage from today liturgical reading in which the Apostle Paul speaks of“ preaching to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ.” “It is a love that cannot be understood. A love that surpasses all knowledge. It surpasses everything. The love of God is so great; a poet described it as a “bottomless sea without shores…” This is the love that we must try to understand, the love that we receive” he said.
The Pope said that throughout the history of salvation the Lord has revealed his love to us: “He has been a great teacher.” Recalling the words of the prophet Hosea, he explained that God did not reveal his love through power but “by loving His people, teaching them to walk, taking them in His arms, caring for them”.
“How does God manifest his love? With great works? No: He makes himself smaller and smaller with gestures of tenderness and goodness. He approaches His children and with his closeness He makes us understand the greatness of love” he said. Finally, Pope Francis said, God sent us His Son. “He sent Him in the flesh” and the Son “humbled himself until death”. This, he said, is the mystery of God's love: the greatest greatness expressed in the smallest smallness. This, he said, allows us to understand Christianity.
Reflecting on what Jesus teaches us about what kind of attitude a Christian should have, he said it is all about “carrying on God’s own work in your own small way”: that is feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, visiting the sick and the prisoner. Works of mercy, he said, pave the path of love that Jesus teaches us in continuity with God’s great love for us! Not words about love, but concrete gestures. Pope Francis concluded saying we do not need great discourse on love, but men and women “who know how to do these little things for Jesus, for the Father .' “Our works of mercy, he said, are the continuity of this love.”
The image that has captured my imagination is the blooming almond tree. It is not an image we tend associate with the Sacred Heart, and yet as we reflect on it, that symbol of the almond is very powerful and suggestive. Francis has given us much to think about by referencing the almond tree! I shall spend the next few days thinking about it!
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