Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“The Church is born primarily of Christ’s total self-giving for our salvation, anticipated in the institution of the Eucharist and fulfilled on the cross. “The origin and growth of the Church are symbolized by the blood and water which flowed from the open side of the crucified Jesus.” “For it was from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death upon the cross that there came forth the ‘wondrous sacrament of the whole Church.’”As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church #766)
With due respect to today’s great solemnity of Pentecost, often called the birthday of the Church, the Church herself reminds us that it is from the Heart of Jesus that the Church is born. Throughout her history, the Church has held a special devotion to the heart of Christ, expressed most clearly in the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in a convent in Paray-le-Monial, France, Jesus revealed His Heart, burning with love, crowned with thorns, pierced, and surmounted by the Cross. It is from the Sacred Heart of Jesus that the Church comes forth, for the Church is the instrument Jesus establishes so that the Gospel can be proclaimed and His love can be poured out onto the world.
Pentecost is the day the Church begins her work. Just as from the Heart of Jesus, love and mercy are poured out for the salvation of the human race, so on Pentecost, the Church begins to carry out her mission to bring that love and mercy of Jesus to the world. The mission is carried out by preaching – on the first Pentecost, Peter and the Apostles proclaimed the Gospel with conviction, and their words moved hearts to believe in Jesus. The mission of the Church is carried out in the sacraments – on the first Pentecost, the Apostles baptized some 3,000 persons, and from that day to this, the Church has continued to bring the saving waters of baptism and the grace of the sacraments to the world. The mission of the Church is carried out in service to the poor, abandoned, disenfranchised, and alone – from the very earliest days of the Church and continuing through the centuries, the Church has understood the need for a preferential option for the poor and has engaged in charitable work. The mission of the Church is carried out in that accompaniment by which she points her children to the suffering Heart of Jesus, and stands in solidarity with those who are in pain and difficulty.
These last two weeks have demanded of us serious reflection on the state of our world, and has provoked for many of us questions about how we are to respond to the needs so evidently presented. In praying through my own feelings about the shooting in Uvalde, TX, I was moved to write to the pastor of the Catholic Church in town, Fr. Eddy Morales. As a pastor, I cannot imagine what he is experiencing or the weight he carries as he prays with and guides his parish and the whole community through these dark days, and I wanted him to know he is held in prayer. He has been beautifully supported by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, the archbishop of San Antonio. The Archbishop has been a visible witness of the compassion of Christ. In the face of unspeakable tragedy, Fr. Morales and Archbishop Garcia-Siller are carrying out the Church’s mission to stand with those who weep and mourn. They are living signs of the presence of the Heart of Christ.
If it is from the Heart of Jesus that the Church is born, then it is through the Church’s ministry and sacraments that we find access to that Sacred Heart. On Pentecost the Church began to carry out her mission. This task is multi-faceted and never-ending. We are being invited to reflect today on how we carry out that mission. Our first step ought to be entering into the Heart of Jesus, in which we as a Church community have our origin. From that heart, we will learn how to accompany those who suffer, how to speak the truth in a hostile culture, how to pray for those who do evil, how to forgive, how to share the Good News, and so much more. In the aftermath of tragedy, we tend to look for answers, to offer solutions, and to demand action. As we do, let us look to the heart of Christ first, and seek for solutions that lead to the heart of Jesus. Let us be the compassionate presence of Jesus for our world. In Uvalde, a community grieves and our nation grieves with them. The spiritual heart of that grief is being served by the Catholic Church, by Fr. Eddy and Archbishop Garcia-Siller. The physical locus for so many of those prayers is a place called Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Let us place Uvalde and our shared grief in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and ask the Holy Spirit today to inspire in us deep compassion and readiness for action.
“We do not want a Church that will move with the world. We want a Church that will move the world.”