Most Sacred Heart of Jesus


††††††††††† A customer went to a barbershop, and as the barber cut his hair, they eventually touched on the subject of God. The barber said: ďI donít believe that God exists. You just have to go out into the street to realize that. If God existed, there wouldnít be any suffering.Ē


†††††††††† Just then, a man in the street with long, dirty hair stopped outside. The customer said, ďBarbers donít exist. If they did, there would be no one with dirty long hair, like that fellow outside."


††††††††††† "Ah, but barbers do exist! What happens is that people donít come to me.


††††††††††† "Exactly! That's the point! God does exist! What happens is that people don't come to God. Thatís a reason why there's so much pain and suffering in the world."


††††††††††† On the feast day of the Sacred Heart, Jesus invites us all, ďCome to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you restĒ (Mt 11:28).


††††††††††† Matthew presents Jesus as the Wisdom of God. His words echo the invitation of Sirach to search for wisdom, in the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Ecclus 51: 25-26):


"Come close to me, you uninstructed,

take your place in my school....

Buy her (Wisdom) without money,

put your necks under her yoke...

See for yourselves; how slight my efforts have been

to win so much peace....Ē


††††††††††† Matthew stresses the humanity of Jesus and his humbling himself to bring us the wisdom of God. He gives us lessons in humility and compassion. He is the way that leads to rest for "you who labour and are overburdened." The burden is a direct reference to the Law of Moses together with the volumes of pharisaic observances added to it.


††††††††††† The Pharisees and scribes laid an intolerable burden on the shoulders of anyone who wanted to be a faithful Jew. Jesus said of them: "They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will they lift a finger to move them? Not they!" (Matt 23: 3-4) They took the joy out of observing God's will, embodied in the Law of Moses, and the faithful were left only a burden, which Jesus wanted to remove.


††††††††††† His way of lifting the joyless burden from our shoulders is by sharing a different yoke with us: "Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart."Here is no arrogant, unfeeling man who imposes burdens on others' backs and leaves them to cope as best they can.


††††††††††† The one who is the Lord and Judge of the world puts his power and glory aside, and gets fully involved with us in living and dying. Here is the Wisdom of God with a human heart.

††††††††††† Can we accept the broken man Jesus as the Wisdom of God? Not when we're satisfied to rest in our own well-being and achievements, and cut ourselves off from the pain of others.


††††††††††† Jesus is the Wisdom of God from his first cry at birth till his last agonized breath in dying, and in his life with us ever since then. If his yoke is easy, it's only because he doesnít leave anyone to carry it alone.We find his burden light when we realize that he shares it with us.


††††††††††† We are called to be the Wisdom of God, gentle, humble, and compassionate, to suffer with others, and to make our common yoke easy and our burden light.


††††††††††† In a Franciscan fraternity, we gather in the name of Jesus and St Francis, and so we experience Jesus in the midst of a suffering world. There our hearts, which cannot contain the pains of the world, are transformed into the Heart of Jesus. Nothing that is human is alien to him.


††††††††††† Our fears and anger are transformed by Godís unconditional love, and we become gentler manifestations of his boundless compassion. Our lives become more compassionate because in the way we live and work together, Godís compassion becomes present in the midst of a suffering world.


††††††††††† Here the deepest meaning of the compassionate life is revealed. By our life together, we become participants in the divine compassion. Through this participation, we can take on the yoke and burden of Jesus Christ - which is all human pain in every time and place - while realizing that his yoke is easy and his burden light (Mt 11:30).


††††††††††† As long as we depend on our own limited resources, the world will frighten us and we will try to avoid the painful spots. But once we have become participants in Godís compassion, we can enter deeply into the most hidden corners of the world and perform the same works that Christ did. Jesus says that we may perform even greater works (Jn 14:12).


††††††††††† Wherever true Franciscan fraternity is formed, compassion happens. The spirit that radiated from the early Franciscans continues to show itself wherever we come together in Christís name and take on his yoke in humbleness and gentleness of heart (Mt 11:29).


††††††††††† It is in fraternity that the compassionate Sacred Heart reveals himself.

Carl Schafer OFM

SFO National Spiritual Assistant