Psalm 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10
1 John 4:7-16
The first reading is a testimony to God’s grace, fidelity and mercy. God is gracious: he freely chose Abraham and the People of Israel to be his own, not because of their greatness and might, but simply because he set his heart on them. God is faithful to the three promises he made to Abraham; he is faithful despite the infidelity of Abraham’s descendants. Finally, God is merciful: he is the faithful God who keeps his “covenant of mercy” down to the thousandth generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments.
The words “covenant of mercy” are important. The people of Israel had entered into a kinship covenant with God on Mount Sinai. This was supposed to be the moment that they would become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exodus 19:3-6). They would rule not through political power or military strength, but through wisdom, righteousness and holiness, through holy lives, prayer, and sacrifice (see S. Hahn, A Father Who Keeps His Promises, Servant Books, 147).
Instead of keeping the covenant, the people broke it almost immediately by worshiping the golden calf. After forty years in the desert, Israel would sin again at Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:1-9). Just as the first generation worshiped a false god, so did the second generation. And so, when Moses speaks to the people on the plains of Moab, with words recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy, the people know that they have sinned greatly and that God has mercy on them. They learn that God’s kindness and mercy are everlasting. God is patient and will slowly prepare his people for the coming of his Son.
The Psalmist sings of God’s mercy: he pardons all our iniquities, he redeems us from death, he crowns us with kindness and compassion. He deals with us not according to our sins, but according to his mercy and grace. He can purify us if we allow him to touch our wounds. He can make us heirs of divine life if we allow him to reign in our hearts.
The Old Covenant, broken again and again by the people, was brought to fulfillment by Jesus Christ in the New and Eternal Covenant. In the Gospel, we hear Jesus rejoice in an exclamation of praise to the Father. He knows that he accomplishes the work of the Father and is revealing to little ones, to the humble, the inner life of God and the marvelous plan God has for man. In the New Covenant, God will make us his children in and through his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. We will be born again, not from below, but from above.
After praising his Father, Jesus tells us that he knows the Father and that he can reveal him to us. This is a deep mystery: the Son proceeds from the Father as the Word of God, and so, when Jesus is present in us through grace, he is present in us also through the gift of wisdom. In the Word, we share in the generation of the Word whereby the Father manifests himself.
On the Cross, Jesus will reveal to us the depths of the Father’s love for us. God loves us so much that he sends his Son to give his own life for the salvation of sinners, for our salvation, for the salvation of those who by pride had cut themselves off from God. This leads into the third message of the Gospel: we can find rest in the meek and humble heart of the Word of God. When we turn to God in this way, we cast off the heavy yoke of sin and take upon ourselves the light yoke of grace.
This life of grace is what Saint John speaks about in his first letter, today’s second reading. Everyone who loves is begotten of God. The Son was sent into the world as expiation for our sins. In doing this, he gained life for us. We filled with God’s grace, merciful love and eternal life, because we receive the gift of the Spirit.
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart invites us to gaze upon the Cross and see the Father’s love manifested in the Son. God didn’t chose us because of our human talents or greatness. Rather, he chose us from the beginning in his Son for no other reason than his goodness: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life” (CCC, 1). He wants us to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and heirs of his blessed life.