Fr Noel's Homilies

Intro: "Have a heart"!
It is a common enough phrase and is used regularly when it is considered that a person is being too hard, too demanding, too unsympathetic. Money-lenders, bankers, land-lords and the like are frequently considered to be heartless, greedy people only concerned with earning a quick profit, and not being sufficiently sympathetic towards people who are having difficulty in meeting their commitments. Well, it may be argued that "in business there is no room for sentiment"; but, in other areas of human relationships, sympathy and consideration must be present. Particularly for those who would call themselves Christian. People who are hurting are invariably comforted when sympathy is extended; wrong-doing is often corrected when a spirit of forgiveness and understanding is encountered; friendships develop and strengthen where consideration and mutual respect exist between between people. "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself"!

Point 1. There are three conditions governing the presence of sympathy in a person's attitude.
a. One needs to be unselfish. The person who does not look beyond himself is incapable of sympathy.
b. In addition to being unselfish, sympathy must stem from knowledge - an understanding of pain and sorrow.
c: Such understanding is best where there has been experience of pain and hurt . People who have been left out in the cold, appreciate what it is to be cold.

Point 2: These three requirements for a truly sympathetic and understanding heart are to be found in Christ whom to-day we honour under the title of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The life story of Jesus as found in the Gospels is a story of a heart full of sympathy. -"And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them because they were distressed and lying like sheep that have no shepherd" (Matt.) How wonderfully he showed his sympathy and understanding towards discouraged sinners; towards the sorrowing widow of Naim; towards the children who flocked to him; his treatment of the woman taken in adultery; the repentant thief; the ashamed Peter; the parable of the Good Shepherd and the Prodigal son. No wonder people listened when he invited them -"Come to me all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest".

Point 3: But sympathy and consideration were also outstanding virtues of Our Blessed Mother. Her sympathetic understanding would have been a source of strength for Joseph as he grappled with what must have been a most extraordinary relationship; then there was the situation at Bethlehem, no accommodation at a critical time; the dangerous flight into Egypt. Her concern for the young couple and their relatives at Cana; her presence on Calvary and with the Apostles in the aftermath of Calvary. Even into our own times when she has appeared to loyal sons and daughters to give encouragement to people to continue their efforts to be faithful disciples of her Son.

Conclusion: Our Christian characters need to show sympathy. The Feast that we celebrated to-day has come to us through the experiences of Saint Margaret Mary Alocoque, the French nun to whom, three hundred years ago, Christ revealed that God's spirit of forgiveness extends to all who seek it. As we read in the Book of Jeremiah "I will make an everlasting covenant with them. I will not cease my efforts for their good, and I will put my respect for me into their hearts, so that they turn from me no more".

As we observe this Feast and call to mind the strength of God's love, let us pray that this love may be reflected in our own attitudes through our sympathy towards and understanding of people who are hurting. Let us be people who have hearts.