After a year of Covid, we are all heavy laden, and in great need of rest for our souls. The spectre of sickness and death wears us down, as does the devastating effect of pandemic restrictions, which grow ever more burdensome in response to the spread of the virus. Many people are desperately sick in hospitals, and those who serve them grow weary, while even more people see their livelihoods destroyed; the toll of human misery grows ever greater. We are meant for one another, and the unnatural and seemingly unending isolation and distancing can be unbearable. And at a time when spiritual strength is needed most, access to the essential spiritual oxygen of the sacraments is curtailed; that restriction cannot endure for long. In the midst of this grief, we also see extraordinary examples of love and sacrifice, and selfless service of those who are afflicted, but the tensions of our times are starkly before us all.
Quite apart from the pandemic, these are indeed days of suffering, with so much conflict in the world, and such contention in civil society. Across the globe refugees flee oppressive regimes, and the blood of martyrs rebukes us in our comfortable Christianity. In our own country, social trends antagonistic to the Gospel gather strength. Anger mounts in the social media, in political discourse, and sometimes in the streets. Even in the Church, and especially in the Church, we cannot escape from the tides of acrimony.
In the face of all that, we listen even more intently to Our Lord:
“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls,” (Matthew 11:28-29)
There never was a golden age and we, like each generation of Christians, must serve where God has placed us, battered by the wind and the waves, often afraid, but ready to encounter Jesus walking on the stormy waters, saying to us: “Be not afraid.” (John 6:20) Especially in these tempestuous times we have a mission, received in Baptism and Confirmation, to move outward with compassionate love, in the imitation of Christ, to share his healing love.
To be able to do that, however, we need first to go deeper in our own life of faith, through prayer, through meditation on sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, and through the sacraments. As the prophet Isaiah says: “with joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3)
I firmly believe that to give us the guidance and strength required to fulfil our mission as disciples of Jesus more effectively, in a world so much in need of his love, we also need to rediscover a treasure, central to our life in Christ, that is hidden in plain sight in our Catholic spiritual heritage. It seems ever more clear to me that especially in these days we would all do well to focus intently on the symbol of the compassionate love of Christ: the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
And so I am inviting all Catholics in this archdiocese, in all our families, religious communities, parishes, hospitals, schools, and institutions, to focus on the significance of this sign of the sacrificial and compassionate love of Christ, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to make devotion to the Sacred Heart a vital part of our life of faith.