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Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Portland OR

In the rich tradition of the Church, the month of June is set aside in devotion to the Sacred Heart. In a particular way during these weeks we are encouraged to a new fervour and new love for Christ by increasing our fervour and love for his Most Sacred Heart, that font of eternal life and fire of everlasting charity. Depictions of the Sacred Heart remind us of this by the flame that accompanies the Lord’s heart. The love of Christ is so strong that his heart is aflame for us; consuming itself in a furnace of pure love in order that we might benefit from its heat and its light; in order that we might share in the sacrifice it makes by consuming itself, and so have that same love burn deep within us.

Of course we desire to spend all eternity in the presence of that love, and yet even in this life we are called to become more and more closely conformed to  it in the heart of Christ, who is love personified. In order to do this, of course, we must place ourselves close to that source of love, close to Christ himself, and in a special way we are afforded the opportunity to do just that in the sacramental life of the Church, and especially in the celebration of the sacraments in the Sacred Liturgy.

Saint John Chrysostom reminds us that the water and blood which proceed from the Sacred Heart of Christ are a symbol of the sacraments of baptism and the Most Holy Eucharist. The Church, he writes, “is founded on the spiritual renewal by the bath of rebirth and on the Most Holy Sacrament both of which have their origin in the side of Christ.” Thus our participation in the life of the Church, by virtue of our grafting to Christ—our incorporation into his life in baptism, and our participation in the worship of the Church, are intimately intertwined.

We cannot fully be members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ, the Church, if we do not participate in her sacramental life, and we cannot participate in her sacramental life if we have not first passed through the sacramental portal of holy baptism, and been prepared to receive God himself, hidden under the forms of bread and wine in the Eucharistic species, by the ritual and actual purification of souls from the stain of original sin.

It is for this reason that the Sacred Priesthood, in a very particular way, is configured as an instrument of the heart of Christ. Saint John Vianney poignantly reminds us, and especially we priests, that “the Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.” So closely connected is the sacrifice with the sacrificer, that to be a faithful priest means that one must live in that privileged space in which the fire of Christ’s heart burns with a particular intensity. And it is the duty of all us, and particularly those members of the lay faithful, to pray not only for more priests, but for more holy priests, and for a greater sanctity amongst those who are already consecrated for the offering of sacrifice at the holy altar.

All of this is an encouragement we who come to worship the Lord in this act, the Eucharistic oblation. We do so this evening in honour of his Most Sacred Heart, and in doing so we are also given the opportunity to receive the benefits of that intimacy with Christ: by our baptism, in the life of the Church, through the gifts of the Most Holy Eucharist, and the offering of bread and wine at the hands of his priest. Here at the sacred altar we come to that very furnace of love and life, that place where darkness and cold are dispelled by the radiance and heat of pure and undefiled love. And so here we learn how we are to be: not just in the existence we enjoy in this world, but in the life that we hope to enjoy in the world to come.