“Que Viva el Sagrado Corazón de Jesús!”

The Sermon for the Second Sunday after Pentecost

Preached at the Comunidad Hispana/Latina

of the Episcopal Cathedral of the Nativity

in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

June 19, 2022

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who glory in the Heart of your beloved Son and recall the wonders of his love for us, may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from that fount of heavenly gifts. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sagrado Corazón de Jesús,

viva llama de amor y de luz;

amigo tierno de Betania,

maestro y modelo de virtud.

Reina, reina, Jesús para siempre;

reina aquí ¡oh amado Redentor!

y derrama tus gracias, divino Jesús;

quiero vivir tan sólo de tu amor.

Sagrado Corazón de Jesús,

viva llama de amor y de luz;

amigo tierno de Betania,

maestro y modelo de virtud.

Before I begin my reflection today, I would like to acknowledge the vocation of fatherhood. Best wishes today to all fathers, grandfathers, godfathers—and to every man who nurtures, mentors, and encourages others. We celebrate you, not only on this one day each year, but every day—as you love, care for, and bless those entrusted to your care. May you persevere in love, and never loose hope or become discouraged—even in challenging, and often difficult times.

The excerpt from the Holy Gospel according to Saint Luke, which we have just heard proclaimed, ends with these words: “The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.”

My dear ones, each of us has been challenged by our Lord to give witness to how much God has done for us. In short, we are invited to become missionaries who preach the message of gratitude in this world. Rather than focusing on problems, difficulties, disappointments and hurts, we are called to celebrate the many daily blessings that God so freely and lovingly gives us.

While this is our individual vocation, it is also something which we are called to do as a community of faith. How great is God’s love for us! What incredible mercies and gifts we receive. May we never take them for granted! May we never fail to give thanks. May we never fail to share that joyous news for the world.

I would ask you to prayerfully consider joining us each evening to pray, as a community of faith, the office of Vespers. It is livestreamed each night, normally at 6:00 pm, on our Facebook page. All you need to do is long on to Facebook and join the video. Each night, those who participate are offered the opportunity to share their prayers, petitions, and acts of thanksgiving for blessings received. I found it fascinating that one of my heroes, the Reverend Lorenzo Labrija—in a presentation at the Nuevo Amanecer Conference at Camp Kanuga–shared with us the surprising news that studies have demonstrated that those who engage in such prayer, in an interaction with God’s holy Word, and with expressing gratitude for God’s blessings, find that their lives are often changed and transformed. So, if you are looking for something to help you grow in faith, please consider this option.

Episcopalians from the Americas have often had a complicated relationship with the Roman Catholic Church. Many come from countries in which Roman Catholicism was the predominant expression of Christianity. While our own Tradition shares much with theirs, there are differences—and sometimes those differences have been a source of conflict, rather than dialogue. For instance, many may come from countries in which the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (which will be celebrated this Friday, June 24th) is a national holiday. If some come from a more “Protestant” background, they might be willing to casually dismiss this Feast as too “Catholic,” or too “Roman.”

What they might not realize, is that this devotion played a dramatic and pivotal role in the lived experience of most Roman Catholics in the 18th, 19th, and even 20th centuries. At a time in which the radical Calvinist theology of Jansenism had come to infect the Roman Catholic Church, there was such a fear of God, of the sinfulness of the human condition, and of the fear of hell that many Roman Catholics feared to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.

The devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus helped to correct that abuse. Rather than stressing God as righteous and indignant judge of fallen and sinful humans, it stressed the love, mercy, tenderness, and compassion of God. Rather than focusing on the imperfection and failings of humans, this feast invited people to conversion, to transformation, and to growth in holiness, and in love. It served as reminder of the all-encompassing desire of God to reconcile every person, and to welcome them into loving Communion. It was a reminder, not of how much our Savior suffered, but of how much He loved—and loves!

In only a short period of two weeks we celebrate two very important civil holidays.  Today, we joyfully celebrate Juneteenth—that amazing day in which the Promise of the Emancipation Proclamation became more than just empty words. The chains and shackles of chattel slavery were broken once and for all in this country after centuries. Enslaved persons of African descent were finally released from the cruel and dehumanizing bonds of slavery. Sadly, the abuse of our Black Sisters and Brothers continued with Jim Crow, Segregation, and Imprisonment. Even so, this was an incredible step forward. Thankfully, two years ago, it became a National Holiday.

Next Sunday will be Pride Sunday—the day in which we recall and celebrate the Stonewall Riot in NYC, which marked the true beginning of the Struggle for LGBTQ+ rights, equality, justice, and inclusion. There is always a huge March in New York City on that day. Sadly, this has not yet become an official holiday. And we are deeply aware of the continual struggle which this community faces—and most especially the trans members-and those who are Black, Brown, or of Native American or Pacific Island descent. There is much progress remaining to be made—and yet this is an incredible milestone and step forward.

In the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus we learn that God’s unconditional grace is feely offered to each and every person without limit, distinction, or condition. We learn that in that bruised, wounded, and broken heart are to be found healing, reconciliation, health, and wholeness. The wounds of sin, of division, and hatred may be washed away by the blood and water which are poured out from the hear of Our Lord. And, it is only in that outpouring of love and grace that these things will be truly made possible.

I invite you to consider for a moment these words from a Preface for this Feast taken from the Mass of the Roman Rite:

“Who, with admirable love, gave himself for us

and, elevated on the cross,

made from the wound in his side

that there should flow forth ,

from the founts of water and the blood,

the Sacraments of the Church,

so that in that way,

approaching the open Heart of the Savior,

everyone may always drink with joy

from the sources of salvation.”

Perhaps this Feast, this Solemnity, could have meaning for Episcopalians as well? Perhaps it could become a focus of dialog, of discussion, and of understanding with not only our Sisters and Brothers from the Roman Catholic Tradition, but with anyone who seeks to be connected to God.

Let us boldly share our gratitude for the Love of God, made real, present, and effective in the reality of the Sacred Heart of our Lord! Live Forever the Sacred Heart of Jesus!

Entronizado serás en todo el orbe,

donde quiera que haya un hogar;

y buscando tu amparo, te busco Jesús;

yo quiero un día contigo reinar.

Sagrado Corazón de Jesús,

viva llama de amor y de luz;

amigo tierno de Betania,

maestro y modelo de virtud.

Bendecid nuestra patria querida,

se el dueño de nuestra nación;

y que en toda la tierra resuene esta voz:

Viva, viva el Sagrado Corazón.

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