Friday June 22, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Sacred Heart
Reading I (Ezekiel 34:11-16) Reading II (Romans 5:5b-11)
Gospel (St. Luke 15:3-7)
One might wonder why, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we are hearing all about a shepherd. But in order to understand the love of Our Lord which, of course, is symbolized by the heart, one has to understand the heart of a shepherd. The Lord tells us, in the first reading today, that He Himself will pasture His sheep; He will be the shepherd; He will bring them to the green pastures and the plush grazing ground. He tells us that He will gather us from all the places we have been scattered when it was dark and gloomy. He will bring us back and He will teach us. That is the love of the heart of a shepherd: He will actually go out looking for his sheep.
It is like the heart of a parent. If we hear on the news that there is a lost child, we might say, "How unfortunate. We can pray for them." If you are the parent of the lost child, you are not going to say, "How unfortunate, maybe I will pray for my kid." You are going to be out looking for them while you are praying at the same time. You are going to be frantic about the way you are praying because your heart is filled with love for your own.
We are the Lord's own. We are members of Jesus Christ, we are members of God's Son. He Himself is our Father and He will shepherd us. He has given us His own Son to be the shepherd. He has given us His own heart. That is why Saint Paul, in the second reading, can talk about how through Him we have been reconciled, we have been brought back; even though, like sheep, we strayed and we were scattered. We have been brought back and we have been reconciled through the Blood of Christ. If we want to understand the love of Jesus Christ for us, the love of God for us, Saint Paul tells us that "it is almost unheard of that anyone would have the courage to die for someone who was just, but it was while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us." That God would do this for us is something beyond our wildest imagination, unless we understand the heart of the Lord and the love of Jesus Christ. He came specifically because He loves us infinitely, unlike our love. Even a parent's love for a child, as profound as that is, pales in comparison to the love of Our Lord for us because His love is perfect, it is infinite, and it is complete. His love burns for us. It is a heart that is absolutely infinite love. He gives Himself totally to us.
In the Gospel reading, He tells us about the joy there will be over finding one lost sheep. When we look around the chapel today, imagine the joy in Heaven over all of these sheep that were lost and have been found, over all of these sinners who have repented. There is not one of us here who can say that we never went astray. There is not one of us here who can say, "I do not have a need to repent. I did not ever have a need to be reconciled. I never wandered from God. I do not need a shepherd." We know better than that. So, when we see how many the Lord has brought to Himself, the rejoicing in Heaven is tremendous. The rejoicing in our hearts for the love of the Lord (because of His heart) should also be tremendous. We have no need to be down on ourselves, thinking how rotten and horrible we are and all the other things. That is nonsense. It may all be true, but we do not need to be thinking about that. What we need to be about is rejoicing that Our Shepherd has come to find us, has brought us back to the fold, and has reconciled us with Our Heavenly Father.
Note: Father Altier does not write his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.