Readings: Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8-9; Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19; John 19:31-37
The dictionary defines “sacrilege” as the profanation of the sacred. And thus for the Christian there is a sense in which all sin can be said to be a form of sacrilege in which the sacred temple that each one of us is, is defiled and profaned. Understood this way, holiness becomes sacrilege’s opposite and, indeed, holiness is often viewed as a prerequisite for approaching the divine. In this regard we recall the words addressed to Moses at the burning bush: Do not come near! Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground. So too, in speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem, the Book of Revelation asserts that nothing unclean will enter it.
This exclusion from the divine presence that sin is claimed to bring about suggests that approaching the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our present sinful state would be a defilement of its sacredness and thereby constitute a sacrilege. And this might be true were the Sacred Heart of Jesus simply a whole and unwounded heart. Instead, it is a pierced and wounded heart whose very profanation has paradoxically brought about our salvation. For, as Saint Bernard reminds us, it is with the piercing of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that the floodgates of grace were opened. But not only that: for it is also through the same open wound that the sinner gains access into the heart of Christ, finding refuge in the cleft in the rock–as some of our Cistercian Fathers spoke of the wounds of Christ.
However, entry through this narrow wounded side of Christ is only possible to one made small enough through the gift of humility and a deep knowledge of his or her sinfulness. Accordingly, anyone swollen with pride and puffed up by self-righteousness will strive in vain to fit through this narrow gate that leads into life. Indeed, the proud and self-righteous person’s approach to the Sacred Heart is a profanation and a sacrilege, whereas the approach of the sinful but humble person becomes, by the mercy of God, an act of unbounded trust which, in turn, becomes a sacrifice of praise and worship.
Therefore, in the painful and often discouraging experience of our deep-seated and resistant sinfulness let us never despair but always recall the great mystery contained in today’s feast and the unbounded mercy it offers to us. In a spirit of gratitude and praise let us join Blessed Guerric of Igny in exclaiming: Blessed is he who, in order that I might be able to build a nest in the clefts of the rock, allowed his hands, feet and side to be pierced and opened himself to me wholly that I might enter the place of his wonderful tent and be protected in its recesses. These clefts, so many open wounds all over his body, offer pardon to the guilty and bestow grace on the just. Indeed it is a safe dwelling-place, my brethren, and a tower of strength in the face of the enemy, to linger [always] in the wounds of Christ.