Sunday, 9 June 2013
10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, Shaftesbury
I want to say a few words today about what God looks like, about His Sacred Heart.
We, as Christians, claim to know what God is like, claim to know Him and not just have an opinion about Him. This, of course, is not considered to be an acceptable position in our post-modern culture. In post-modern thinking there is no single ‘truth’, only many different opinions that grasps partial truths, and many different opinions about what god is like. Such a view, however, is not compatible with acknowledging Who Christ claimed to be. He claimed to be God, and He demonstrated the reasonableness of His claim by the profundity of His teaching, the goodness of His life, and His miracles –chief among them being His rising from the dead.
The point I wish to make that follows about this is simple: We know what God ‘looks’ like because we see it in Christ, see it in His Sacred Heart. And the Church kept the Feast of the Sacred Heart this Friday, and the month of June that we’re now in is always the month of the Sacred Heart.
Jesus shows us what God ‘looks’ like. Let us look very simply at today’s Gospel text. How did Jesus act? How, to be more precise, how did He show Himself to FEEL in His passions?
He saw a widow, mourning “the only son of his mother”(Lk 7:12). And, “He felt sorry for her”(Lk 7:13).
Note, He didn’t feel annoyance at yet another problem brought before Him, He didn’t say, “all these people are going to worry me to death”.
Rather, “He felt sorry for her”. This shows us His heart, the heart of God. And so we truly know God.
The doctrine concerning the Sacred Heart is very profound. In concerns the Incarnation, the union of the human and the Divine in the one person of Christ.
In what sense can we say God has a “heart”?
Physically, God had no heart –He is pure spirit in His divinity. So, in the Old Testament the Scriptures can only refer to His ‘emotions’ in a metaphorical sense, symbolically. Literally speaking, He “felt” nothing for us because feelings and passions are part of what constitute our BODILY nature –and He had no body. And it might well have been wondered, in the Old Testament, what God’s passion would ‘look’ like if He had any.
All that changed in the Incarnation. When the Son, the second person of the Trinity, took a human nature He took with it a human heart, with the ability to experience and manifest human feelings and passions.
The point, however, is this: the feelings and passions in Jesus are those of God Himself, not feelings and passions belonging to someone other than God. Jesus is ONE person with TWO natures –one divine person, Jesus, with both a divine nature and a human nature. And the passions IN that human nature belong to that ONE divine person; show us what the divinity is like. We can note this: the one person of Christ could thus do things only God can do. His miracle of raising the dead that we heard today was thus worked differently from the raising worked through Elijah. Elijah had to pray to God, three times. Jesus, in contrast, just commanded, “get up”, and His divine power, His OWN divine power, worked the rising.
The ONE divine power was at operation in Him, in Jesus. There are not three rival powers in the Trinity but “one and the same operation”(Catechism n.258). And, when this operation is at work, as it is continually at work, it “makes known both what is proper to the divine persons and their one divine nature”(Catechism n.259) . So, when Jesus ACTS He makes the divinity known to us. And when Jesus FEELS He makes the divinity known to us. Because, as a result of the Incarnation, there is now a divine heart, showing forth the divinity in human form.
So, what does God ‘look’ like? He has shown us in the Heart of Jesus. As the vision to St Mary Margaret put it some centuries ago, inspiring so many of the statues of the Sacred Heart like that in our own Church here: God ‘looks’ like love, “behold this heart which has so loved men”.