My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
As I was saying, this is a very special day here at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angeles.
We are praying today in the presence of a precious relic — the heart of the great priest, St. John Vianney.
This is a true blessing for the family of God here in the Archdiocese and we are grateful for this privilege.
As we know, St. John Vianney was a parish priest in France in the 19th century and he is a model for all priests. So, we want to pray today in a special way for our priests and for our seminarians, the men training to be priests in our seminaries. May they be inspired and renewed by the sacred presence of this relic and may they open their hearts in a new way to Jesus Christ and the holiness that he calls all of us to.
We also want to continue praying today for the Church. As we know, in Rome this morning Pope Francis concluded a special summit of bishops from every nation that has been discussing clerical abuse and the protection of the children.
So, in the presence of the heart of this holy priest, St. John Vianney, let us pray that God will keep renewing his Church and grant us more holy priests and more holy bishops.
St. John Vianney used to say that “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”2
This is a beautiful truth —truth about the priesthood, but also about Christian life. Because all of us are called to live with the heart of Jesus. We all participate in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. There is, as we know, the ministry of priesthood but there is also the common priesthood of all the faithful.
So we are all called to live with the heart of Jesus. And our Gospel passage today shows us what the heart of Jesus looks like.
That beautiful passage of the Gospel that we just heard this morning — from St. Luke’s Gospel — contains some of our Lord’s most challenging teachings. As we heard:
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. …
Give to everyone who asks of you …
Do to others as you would have them do to you …
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
So my dear brothers and sisters, this is the heart of Jesus, this is the heart of his Gospel. His message.
And the heart of Christ is a great and generous heart — it is magnanimous. The heart of Jesus is wide open to love and to give everything for others; his heart is open wide to show mercy and forgiveness.
This is the heart of Jesus and Jesus is calling each of us today to love with his same heart. He is calling us today to love as he loves, to give as he gives. He is calling us today to forgive as he forgives and to be merciful as he is merciful.
Again in Scriptures today, we are being challenged today to the “imitation of Christ.” And my dear brothers and sisters, we need to know every day — as we do — that Christ is our model. He is, in a sense, the practical example for our lives,
And this is what St. Paul is talking about in the second reading of today’s Mass. He says:
Just as we have borne the image of the earthly one,
we shall also bear the image of the heavenly One.
St. Paul says we are like Adam, who God created from the dust of the earth. There is no doubt of that. But we are called to become like Jesus, the “last Adam” — who came down from heaven to show us the face of God and the true image of our humanity.
And this is the beautiful possibility of our life — to become Jesus, to have a heart like Jesus. And we are most like Jesus when we are merciful, when we are showing forgiveness, when we are giving to others in love, without expecting anything in return.
This is what Jesus commands, as we just heard in today’s passage of the Gospel. This is what he expects from us in our everyday life. And we know we can do it, because Jesus has gone before us. I think this is always important to remember. Jesus never asks us to do anything that he has not already done before us in his human nature.
Jesus invites us today to follow him in this radical love, this radical attitude of the heart. But I think it’s also important that we understand correctly what Jesus is talking about.
When he tells us to love our enemies, he does not mean that we should surrender to evil and hatred. No. Not at all! He is telling us that we should overcome evil with good, that we should overcome hatred with love.
In the same way, when Jesus tells us to forgive, he does not mean that we should let other people keep hurting us, or that we should just tolerate the bad things that people do. Not at all.
We love our enemies because God loves them — and because God loves us. We forgive others, because God has forgiven us. Only love and forgiveness can break the cycles of violence and injustice in our world. Only holiness can conquer evil, and only truth can overcome lies.
So, my brothers and sisters, let us reflect on these challenging and beautiful teachings — on the beauty of the heart of Jesus — and we will be rewarded for our mercy, for our love.
Jesus tells us today:
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give, and gifts will be given to you …
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.
Let’s trust in the promise of God!
We are made to do great things, to do beautiful things for God. But we need to seek the heart of Christ, we need to give everything we have to God! All for Jesus! That is how the saints live. That is how Jesus calls us to live. And he will help us and guide us if we trust in him, if we are faithful to his Word.
So this week, as we were reflecting on the mind of Jesus, now let us reflect this coming week on what is in the heart of Jesus. Let us keep asking Jesus for the courage to open our hearts and to have a generous spirit— to love other people with that same great love that he has for us. To the point, as we know, of giving his life for each one of us.
So let us ask for the grace this week to be more forgiving, to be more understanding of others — especially our loved ones, those who are closest to us.
And let us ask St. John Vianney, and Mary our Blessed Mother to help us — all of us — to grow in the image of Jesus. To have and live with the heart of Jesus. To love our enemies and to be merciful as God is merciful.