Homily for Votive Mass of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus + Foundation School Mass for Sacred Heart Catholic Primary, Matraville

15 Feb 2023

St Agnes’ War Memorial Catholic Church, Matraville 14 February 2023

The heart is an amazing organ. Although hardly bigger than a closed fist, it beats more than 100,000 times a day without us even having to think about it. It pumps about 7,000 litres of blood around the body each day—the equivalent of a large household rainwater tank. It has its own in-built electrical system that’s able to operate even when outside the body. And it supplies oxygenated and nutritious blood to every corner of our body through a network of veins, arteries and blood vessels that, if stretched out in a line would go around the world twice over.

Because of these mind-boggling mechanics, the heart serves as one of our ‘vital organs’, its functioning the difference between life and death. But we also associate it with emotions. From the

Bible we get phrases such as “take heart” and “take to heart”, “stealing” someone’s heart or “breaking” it, getting “your heart’s desire” or being “cut to the heart”, having a heart “ready to burst” and being “of one heart”. The Bible speaks of hearts that are reverent and believing, or disobedient and fickle; true and upright, or false and bent; of hearts generous or grudging, loving or hateful, brave or faint, proud or humble, faithful or astray, wholehearted or divided, glad or sinking. It praises truthful, grateful, resolute hearts; condemns lying, closed or selfish ones.

In today’s first reading (Dt 7:6-11), Moses reminds Israel that what’s special about them is not that they are the largest tribe or the richest, but simply because God had “set his heart on” them, fallen in love with them. This love was powerfully expressed when He rescued them out of slavery in Egypt. And it is to Him that they are called to consecrate their own hearts.

So when Jesus spoke of the heart, He presumed a long tradition about the heart as the seat of good and bad feelings, thoughts and deeds. Our hearts are where our treasure is: the things we value most highly will frame our temptations and actions (Mt 6:21).[1] God probes our hearts and, if we let Him, refashions them after His own (Lk 16:15).[2] And so Jesus praised those with pure, humble, wise, forgiving or persevering hearts; but criticised the dull, lustful, hard or doubting heart, those with “hearts weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and anxiety”, those whose hearts were far from God.[3] He came to bind up broken hearts, convert hearts, renew hearts. He was, in the flesh, the God who has set His heart on us, whose heart beats and bleeds for us. In Him eternal divine love beats in an ordinary human heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. So heartfelt is that love that He says He would willingly lay down His life for His lover, the Church, each one of us (Jn 10:11-18 etc.).

Moses and Jesus make it clear that God’s love for us and ours for God is about more than feelings: it has its consequences for who we are and how we live. For who we are, as God’s beloved children, Jesus’ siblings, heartfelt friends and family to each other. For what we do, for God’s beloved listen to His voice and respond to their calling and His commands.

When Jesus was still a baby, His mother Mary, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, was warned that He was destined to be opposed and it would pierce her heart (Lk 2:34-5). On Good Friday this came to its climax, as His troubled, throbbing, melting heart, now filled with every human anguish, was broken altogether and run through with a lance (Jn 19:34; cf. Rev 1:5-8). All this, He suffered, so we might receive spiritual heart transplants, hearts of flesh for hearts of stone, hearts near to God rather than astray, hearts after that Good Shepherd gentle and humble in heart.

And so we found this new school which brings together two communities like the left and right chambers of the heart, uniting them as one. This new school community takes its name from a religious order active in Sydney since 1885, the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. When Fr Jules Chevalier (1824-1907) founded the Order 150 years ago, he wished to make the Sacred Heart of Jesus everywhere adored. From this heartfelt spirituality we take our new school’s motto: “To be the heart of Jesus”. 

Love, my young friends, families, teachers and staff, love with hearts like Jesus’ and Mary’s, loving especially those who are hurting, forgiving especially those who hurt you, giving generously, especially to those most in need of your care. Be ready to feed the sheep and lead the lambs, the young and the old, gathering them into one flock, leading them home to safe pasture. Achieve excellence yourself academically and encourage it in others; transmit faith in Christ to your families, parishes, school and community; sacrifice yourselves for each other and for the great adventure that is Catholic education in this 21st century. As we have responded to changing needs and parent demands at this time in our history by forming this new school, respond to each other’s needs and those of Church and society in the decades ahead. Be the Heart of Jesus to each other.

May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be everywhere loved!

God Bless Sacred Heart Primary School!

[1]      Also Mt 9:4; 12:34; 15:18-9; Mk 7:21; Lk 6:45; 12:34; Jn 7:38; Acts 5:3-4; 8:22.

[2]     Also Acts 15:8; Rom 8:27; 1Cor 4:5; 14:25; 1Thes 2:4; Heb 4:12; Rev 2:23. 

[3]     Mt 5:8; 11:29; 13:15; 15:8; 18:35; 19:8; Mk 2:6; Lk 5:22; 18:1; 21:34; 24:25; Jn 12:40 etc.

Introduction for Votive Mass of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus + Foundation School Mass for Sacred Heart Catholic Primary, Matraville | St Agnes’ War Memorial Catholic Church, Matraville, 14 February 2023

Welcome to St Agnes’ Church Matraville for today’s celebration of the Eucharist. It’s wonderful to be with you all on this historic occasion to mark the foundation of Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, that brings together the families, school and parish communities of Our Lady of the Annunciation Pagewood and St Agnes’ Matraville. To honour and celebrate our history, one that goes all the way back to 1907, this new community will take the name and embody the charism of the order that founded both schools: the Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. I am delighted to welcome several of those daughters today: Sisters Ancilla, Bernadette, Brenda, Carmel, Helen, Kate and Lorraine.

Amongst our civic leaders I welcome Mr Michael Daley MP, the Shadow Attorney General and State Member for Maroubra, Councillor Dylan Parker, Mayor of Randwick, and others. Amongst our education leaders, I acknowledge Mr Tony Farley, Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools, Mr Glenn McLachlan, Director of Finance and Properties, Mr Philip Tax, Principal of St Andrew’s Primary School Malabar, Mr Craig Mooney, Principal of Corpus Christi College Maroubra, and others.

Concelebrating with me today are Very Rev. Bernie Thomas OFM, Dean of this deanery, Fr Daney Irudayadoss, Administrator of Pagewood Parish, and our Parish Priest Fr John Knight. Assisting me is Deacon Ronny Decruz.

Above all, I salute foundation Principal of our new Sacred Heart Primary School, Mrs Rose Andre, all the staff, parents, and most importantly, all the students. A very warm welcome to you all!