Juneteenth and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
June 18, 2020 COVID-19 Faith Reflection—Juneteenth and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Friday the 19th of June is the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth. Juneteenth.com tells us that on June 19th, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the Civil War had ended.
Granger’s General Order Number 3 read, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”
The Proclamation he had referred to was the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. Effective January 1, 1863, the slaves of Texas first heard of it two-and-a-half years after its decree and two months after the Civil War had ended.
The TV show Black-ish
, on ABC,
has an episode from 2017 called, “Juneteenth: The Musical.” Inspired by
the episode tells the story of Juneteenth in song from the perspective of the slaves
The unofficial celebration of Juneteenth commemorates for many the ending of chattel slavery in the United States. It takes on new meaning in light of the killing of George Floyd and deeply rooted and pervasive racial injustice. Archbishop Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, says that protests reflect the justified frustration and anger of millions of our brothers and sisters who even today experience humiliation, indignity, and unequal opportunity only because of their race or the color of their skin. “It should not be this way in America”
Friday is not only Juneteenth. It is also the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Devotion to the heart pierced on Calvary is nearly as old as Christianity, but it has undergone many changes over the centuries. Patristic writers saw in the blood and water from the side of Christ the source of the Eucharist and baptism. From the blood and water flows the Spirit upon the Church.
In the 17th century, Jansenism was a strong movement in France. Like a Catholic form of Calvinism, Jansenism believed that good works and strict devotions showed one was saved by Christ. About this time, St. Mary Margaret Alacoque received visions of the Lord exposing his heart and urging public devotion. Pope Pius VI saw that the devotion to the Sacred Heart refuted the Jansenist idea that Christ had not died for all. The devotion to the Sacred Heart emphasized Christ's unconditional saving love for all people. It reveals the power of God’s love to save us from sin including the sin of racism.
In thinking about racism, Juneteenth, and the Sacred Heart, a quote from the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., comes to mind. “Now, we've got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”
Power without love, on the one hand, is brutality. We’ve seen it in the police killing of George Floyd and many others. An investigation by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune found that black people consistently get harsher punishments than whites — 68% more time for first-degree crimes even when defendants had similar track records
. Our bishops write, “In our prisons, the number of inmates of color, notably those who are brown and black, is grossly disproportionate”
Love without power, on the other hand, is sentimentality. Hallmark cards and e-cards are nice. They express thoughts and prayers that warm the heart. Yet other than a few minutes and postage, they don’t cost anything. They don’t change anything.
The love of God revealed in the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus has power. His powerful love delivered the Hebrews from Pharaoh and set them free from slavery (Deuteronomy 7:6-11). His powerful love has freed us from sin and death (1 John 4:7-16). His powerful love makes our burden light, for when you are in love, all things are possible (Matthew 11:25-30)
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is depicted as a heart bleeding from its crown of thorns.
The measure of love is its willingness to suffer for one another. While we might use power to protect ourselves from suffering, Christ’s powerful love for our sake willingly entered his Passion.
During my holy hour last Friday morning while reading the US bishops’ pastoral letter against racism,
Open Wide Our Hearts
, I asked what we might do as a parish about racism. The fruit of that reflection is a Holy Hour for Healing and Racial Justice. It is this Friday, June 19th, from 7-8 pm at Nativity. Please join me for prayer and reflection that God’s powerful love open wide our hearts.
The Easter Vigil is normally the special time when people are baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church. Because the church was closed on Easter due to the pandemic, we are initiating seven new members at the 6:30 p.m. Saturday Vigil Mass this weekend. Please pray for the new faith of
Ditto for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Please pray for the 44 young men and women receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation this Friday June 26, Friday July 24, or the recent Saturday June 6. May they bear witness to the powerful love of the Holy Spirit!
Returning to Church
Nativity Longwood .
on Thursday, June 18 at 3:33PM