Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Since June is liturgically dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I thought it might be helpful to write a brief background on the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

One key passages of the Gospels is where our Lord says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light" (Mt 11:28-30). Thus, while meditating on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are called to share in the love of the Lord and strive to express our own genuine love for God, ourselves and our neighbors.

Throughout the Gospel, we see the outpouring of Jesus' love and mercy from His heart, whether in miracle stories, the reconciliation of sinners, or the compassion for the grieving. Even on the cross, our Lord poured out His mercy and love for us: there the soldier's lance pierce His side and out flowed blood and water (Jn 19:34).

The early Church Fathers clearly cherished this meaning of the Sacred Heart of our Lord. St. Justin Martyr (d. 165), in his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho said, "We the Christians are the true Israel which springs from Christ, for we are carved out of His heart as from a rock." Likewise, St. Iraneaus of Lyons (d. 202) said, "The Church is the fountain of the living water that flows to us from the Heart of Christ" (Adversus Haereses). The devotion continued to grow during the Middle Ages particularly due to the influence of Franciscans and Dominicans Friars. In 1353 Pope Innocent VI instituted a Mass honoring the mystery of the Sacred Heart.

The devotion increased due to the fervor surrounding the apparitions of our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90). Following the visions and writings of St. Margaret Mary and her spiritual director St. Claude la Columbiere, many Popes have written on the importance of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII’s Encyclical Haurietis Aquas, May15, 1956, (literally You will draw Waters) on devotion to the Sacred Heart, Pope Benedict XVI wrote, this devotion “continues to be vital for a living relationship with God.” In the 20th century, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus led to the Devotion to Divine Mercy revealed to St. Faustina Kowalska in 1931. The later devotion is clearly a broadening of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is June 7. “Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on us!”

Msgr. John S. Mbinda


The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Solemnity of Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ
Some Background History

The Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ known in Latin as Corpus Christi intends to underline our unity (communion) with Christ - the Body, and we - his members. In this brief catechesis I offer some historical background to help us see its origins and so appreciate its meaning.

Since the time of the apostle, the Church celebrated of the Eucharistic meal at which Christians received the Body and Blood of Christ. All seven Sacraments are esteemed by Catholics, but the Eucharist holds a special place among the Sacraments. St. Ignatius of Antioch (105 AD) referred to the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality” (Letter to Ephesians 20:2). St. Ephrem the Syrian (373 AD) taught that even the crumbs from the Eucharistic host sanctify thousands of people (Homilies 4,4). Thomas Aquinas considered the Eucharist as the greatest of all Sacraments (Summa, III: 65,3). Thus the tradition of the Church has viewed the Eucharist as unique since earliest times.

Every Sunday is a feast of the Eucharist, because by participating in the Mass, and in receiving the Body and Blood of Christ, we are relive the memory of the Last Supper as we honor and celebrate the Eucharist. The feast of Corpus Christi owes its origins to St. Juliana, a nun of Liege, Belgium, who was led to start a celebration of the Mass around AD 1230. At an early age, she developed a strong devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and she longed for a feast in honor of the Eucharist.

Pope Urban IV (1261-October 1264) published the Bull Transiturus (September 8, 1264), in which, after having extolled the love of Jesus Christ as expressed in the Holy Eucharist, ordered the annual celebration of Corpus Christi on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. The Pope also commissioned the great Dominican theologian St. Thomas Aquinas to produce the proper Mass prayers, as well as several hymns, to enhance the beauty of the feast of Corpus Christi. Among the beautiful Eucharistic hymns composed by St. Thomas Aquinas are the Pange Lingua, which we sing during the transfer of the Holy Eucharist to the altar of repose on Holy Thursday; the Salutaris Hostia. The Tantum Ergo, which we customarily sing during Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is taken from the last two stanzas of the Pange Lingua. He also composed the Lauda Sion, which is the Sequence optionally used for this Sunday’s Liturgy before the Gospel Acclamation; and the classic Panis Angelicus, renditions of which are a favorite at weddings. From our own liturgical history we are rooted in Catholic tradition.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda


Trinity of Persons: Model of Communion

The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity comes on the Sunday after Pentecost. It is not by chance that the two solemnities follow each other. If you look back you realize that since Easter, we focus on the Paschal Mystery of Christ that culminates on Pentecost, the sending of the Holy Spirit. The Solemnity of the Holy Trinity helps us to affirm our central truth and faith in One God: the Father (who creates), the Son (who redeems) and the Holy Spirit (who sanctifies, unifies and reconciles). Our learning about the Trinity begins with Baptism. That is why we begin and end all our prayers, "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". This prayer leads us into the mystery we celebrate this Sunday, the Most Holy Trinity. One of the greetings at the beginning of each Mass is an excellent synthesis of this truth "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you" (2 Cor. 13:13).

The Holy Trinity is not just a subject for theological speculation on the three divine persons in One God. It is not so much about the awesomeness of God, but about an awesome lover who draws us into communion with Him. The Holy Trinity is a life of communion to be lived, shared, and imitated. Therefore, we need to go beyond talking about love, communion and sharing and putting that teaching into practice by being instruments of reconciliation and compassion. That is the reason why God in creating us does not put us directly into heaven, because if He did so, we would mess life up there! Our life here on earth is a time to practice in concrete ways sharing, healing and living in communion with the people God has given us. There are three practical points on the Solemnity we celebrate this Sunday; 1) The Holy Trinity is not a subject for theological speculation but a model of life of communion in God to be lived and imitated; 2) In this sense we are challenged to be instruments of reconciliation, healing and compassion; 3) In order to be such instruments, we need to be nourished by prayer together, for example in the family, prayer groups, bible study groups or in basic Christian communities.

Msgr. John S. Mbinda Pastor