06 June 2024

Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sunday Reflections, 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B


The Sanctuary of Christ the King in Almada, Portugal, a monument dedicated to the Sacred Heart

June is the month of the

Sacred Heart of Jesus

Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light (Matthew 11:29-30, Knox).

Young Jew as Christ
Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland)

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Gospel  Mark 3:20-35  (English Standard Version, Anglicised)

Then Jesus went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Léachtaí i nGaeilge

Beggar Resting
Giacomo Ceruti [Web Gallery of Art]

The note that goes with this painting on Web Gallery of Art - a wonderful website - says: The stick of the sitting figure of about seventy years of age, the knapsack on his shoulders, and the wicker basket all identify him as a pilgrim rather than as a beggar seeking alms.

Pilgrims often are beggars in the sense that some depend entirely on the goodness of others for food and lodging along their way. The Columban seminarians in the Philippines used to go on such a pilgrimage as part of their spiritual formation as Kurt Zion Pala, now ordained and serving in Myanmar, describes in The Road to Agoo. (I'm not sure if our seminarians still do that).

But sometimes we can see individuals simply as beggars and, in a sense, dismiss them from our thoughts, never knowing their stories, never knowing their humanity. That has been my experience a number of times down the years.

One such experience was during my seminary years, in the summer of 1964, while working for two weeks at The Morning Star Hostel, run by the Legion of Mary, less than a 15-minute walk from where I lived in Dublin. It was a place of refuge for 'down and out' men. It was far from being a luxury hotel but was a place where every man, whether short-term or long-term, was respected. The facilities have improved since then. 

While at the Morning Star I had a couple of long chats with a man I knew by sight. I'll call him Michael, a man aged 40 or thereabouts. He was a street singer, going around different parts of the city singing popular songs and hoping that people would give him a few pennies. Anytime I saw him he was just another beggar to me. 

But in our conversations I met in Michael a man who had a spirituality that in a real sense was beyond me. He was highly intelligent and reflected on life. He wasn't from Dublin and didn't tell me how he had ended up in the Morning Star. But I got a sense of a person for whom God was very real. I wondered if he was somewhat out of his mind or if he was some kind of mystic. I felt blessed by knowing him and figured that more likely he was a mystic, certainly a man close to God. And I saw his dignity as a person made in the image of God, the serene dignity of the beggar/pilgrim that Giacomo Ceruti captured in his painting, the serene dignity of the young Jew expelled from his native country captured by Rembrandt.

When his family heard it, they went out to seize him,  for  they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’ These words in today's Gospel remind me of Michael. It is clear that the perception of some of those who knew Jesus was that he was somewhat 'off-centre'. Jesus is here identifying himself with every person who is, in some way, 'off-centre' or perceived to be such. Such persons are not always taken seriously by the rest of us. They are on the margins.

The note that goes with Rembrandt's Young Jew as Christ says, The sitter of the painting is a young Jew evicted from Spain and settled in Amsterdam in the neighbourhood of Rembrandt. Another person on the margins, evicted by followers of Jesus from his native country because he was ethnically the same as Jesus and his mother. 

I once showed a very poor black and white copy of this painting during a Sunday homily at a Mass in a home for girls in the Philippines where most of the girls had been sexually abused. One, aged 14 or 15, asked if she could keep the copy. I later had a proper print made and framed and gave it to her. I asked her what had drawn her in Rembrandt's painting. She replied, 'He looks so human'.

In today's gospel we see the utter humanity of Jesus, God who became Man. We see his utter vulnerability, allowing himself to be dismissed by some as one who has gone out of his mind.

And then the extraordinary statement by Jesus: Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

Whatever our nationality, our ethnic origins, our social standing, our level of education, our intellectual or physical abilities, our language, Jesus calls us his brother and sister and mother. His own Mother is the only one, apart from Jesus himself, who carried out God's will perfectly. Nevertheless he considers all who desire, with God's grace, to carry out the Father's will his brother and sister and mother

Jesus showed himself to me 60 years ago through Michael, whom I had seen only as a beggar before I met him. He shows himself to me through Ceruti's Beggar Resting, through Rembrandt's Young Jew as Christ. And Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, showed his humanity through a very poor print of Rembrandt's painting to my young friend in the Philippines who had been so badly treated!

May the words of Jesus and his presence among us in so many ways fill us with courage and hope!

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Friday 7 June 2024

Readings (New American Bible)

Sweet Heart of Jesus
Sung by Regina Nathan

Traditional Latin Mass

Third Sunday after Pentecost

The Complete Mass in Latin and English is here. (Adjust the date at the top of that page to 06-09-2024 if necessary).

Epistle1 Peter 5:6-11. Gospel: Luke 15:1-10.

Parable of the Lost Drachma
Domenico Fetti [Web Gallery of Art]

Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost (Luke 15:9; Gospel)..


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Father Seán,
Regina Natham has an almost angelic voice...
Rembrandt did an excellent job in depicting a young Jew as Christ!
Your encounter with Michael in Dublin tells a story about lots of human beings being 'labelled' by society as being out of his/her mind. That is a lack of understanding and it also proves that seldom people listen to their human brothers/sisters.
To that abused girl in the Philippines the human image of Jesus spoke to her soul and gave her comfort.

Fr Seán Coyle said...

Thank you, Mariette.

Yes, what you say about Regina Nathan's voice is true. And her diction is perfect. Sometimes when I listen to a soprano I don't catch the words so clearly, because of the high pitch of the voice. Regina was born in Kuala Lumpur but raised in Dublin, Ireland, the 'real Dublin'!

I have used that Rembrandt painting quite a few times. The model was a young Jewish man who had been expelled from Spain and found his way to the Netherlands. May he and Rembrandt enjoy the fulness of eternal life. (We often forget to pray for such as these!)

I hope that you are well as you continue to grieve for Pieter. Perhaps he has already met up with Rembrandt and the model in the painting!

Thank you for your weekly comments.

God bless you

Father Seán