One of the earliest images of Jesus in sacred art is that of the Good Shepherd which we see in both today’s first reading from Ezekiel and the Gospel. It is because the Heart of Jesus is filled with love for humanity that He is the Good Shepherd who says He will go to any length to recover wandering and wounded humanity. Any length, including the torture and death of crucifixion. As St. Paul writes in today’s second reading from his Letter to the Romans, “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” There could be no greater proof, no greater sign, of God’s love.
That sign continues now and is made present in every Holy Sacrifice of the Mass that is celebrated. Yet, what is humanity’s response? What is my response? In the Third Week of the “Spiritual Exercises,” St. Ignatius wants us to be aware that the love revealed on the cross is for me, so that if I were the only human being who ever existed, Jesus would still have done this for me. St. Ignatius writes: “In the Passion it is proper to ask for sorrow with Christ in sorrow, anguish with Christ in anguish, tears and deep grief because of the great affliction Christ endures for me.”
Only such a personal awareness can lead to a conversion of heart. When Jesus revealed His Heart to St. Margaret Mary in 1675 He lamented: “There it is, that Heart so deeply in love with men, it spared no means of proof—wearing itself out until it was utterly spent! This meets with scant appreciation from most of them; all I get back is ingratitude—witness their irreverence, their sacrileges, their coldness and contempt for me in the Sacrament of Love.”
Jesus asked for today’s feast so that humanity might make up for its ingratitude. Let us thank God today for the proof of His love that He gave us in Jesus who continues to love us with His Sacred and Eucharistic Heart.