Last Friday, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I preached in my community at Marquette University. Our celebration of the feast included the traditional renewal of the Consecration of the Society of Jesus to the Sacred Heart and also Fr. Michael Class's profession of final vows. Here is the gist of what I said.
In our first reading (Hosea 11: 1,3-4,8-9) God, speaking through the prophet, declares his love even though his people have abandoned him. He says: "My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred." The translation "overwhelmed" is actually mild compared to the original Hebrew which is the same word used to describe the utter destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19. To say "My heart is broken" is even too mild. Perhaps it would be better to say "My heart is crushed."
This is amazing. It's amazing to think that the Creator, the God of the Universe, the God whom philosophers called "the Unmoved Mover" would be so moved by sin and the human misery it causes.
But this is the mystery, the nature of love. If you love, you will suffer. If you love, you will suffer for your beloved. You will suffer with your beloved. And since God is Love itself, as St. John writes in his First Letter, God suffers to the utmost. We suffer when the ones we love suffer. God, who loves more than we can, suffers more than we can. God does this through his Son Jesus whose passionate love for humanity led to his passion and death on a cross.
These are "the inscrutable riches of Christ" that St. Paul writes about in our second reading (Ephesians 3: 8-12,14-19). It was God's plan to make creatures whom he would love, who would love him in return, and who would be united with him forever. God created us so that we "may be filled with all the fullness of God." How this is possible "surpasses knowledge." It requires the knowledge and language of love. As the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote: "The heart has reasons which reason does not know."
We are able to "be filled with all the fullness of God" because of the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, gifts from the very Heart of Jesus. Our Gospel (John 19: 31-37) tells us that after Jesus had died on the cross a "soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out." The Church has traditionally seen in the water the symbol of Baptism which unites us to the Body of Christ and in the blood the Eucharist which nourishes our union with him. In Baptism we become temples of God the Holy Spirit and in the Eucharist we are "filled with all the fullness of God," the very body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ, including his Sacred Heart.
The knowledge of this deep, personal, and passionate love of Jesus moved St. Ignatius to give all. In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius, having reflected on the love of God revealed in various ways, responds with a prayer of total self-offering: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. You have given all to me. To You, O Lord, I return it. All is Yours. Dispose of it wholly according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace. With these I am rich enough and want for nothing more.
The knowledge of "the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" is what moved St. Ignatius to offer himself completely. It is what moves every Jesuit who has come after him. Vows are a return of love for love. As Christ gave all out of love, so the one professing vows does so out of love. So do we as we renew the Consecration of the Society of Jesus to the Sacred Heart.