Dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, it gives me a lot of joy in my heart to be here with you this afternoon in Quiapo Church, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, to celebrate this mass on the feast, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this beautiful celebration of the love of Jesus for each and every one of us. I'm very grateful to Monsignor Hernando "Ding" Coronel for having invited me to celebrate the mass with you this afternoon to join you in offering praise and gratitude to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
When we think about our devotion to Jesus' heart, and we see it beautifully imaged in the statue here in the sanctuary, the heart of Jesus, this symbol of love, our minds go back in history, about 300 years ago, when in Europe, not in the Philippines, but in Europe, there was a heresy that was going around Europe. What is a heresy? A heresy is a false understanding of our Catholic faith, a misunderstanding, a false understanding of the Catholic faith. And that heresy had a name. It was called Jansenism. And what did that heresy propose? What did it say about our faith? It said that God was very far away from us. God is very distant from us. God is very high, and we are very low. It emphasized God as Judge, as a harsh judge who looks at us from a distance and sees all our faults and failings. It emphasizes a God who was extremely demanding, who wanted you to be absolutely perfect. And if you weren't, he would turn away from you. This heresy of Jansenism emphasize how unworthy and sinful human beings are. And the heresy of Jansenism, because of the distance of God and the unworthiness of all of us, discouraged people from receiving Holy Communion very often, saying that you shouldn't receive Communion so much because you are unworthy and sinful. And a high degree of perfection is required for you to receive Jesus in the Eucharist.
This idea was going around Europe. At the same time, 300 years ago, as people were beginning to come here to Quiapo and Manila to pray. And at that same time, God intervened in history. God revealed himself in a very special way to a French nun, a simple sister in her convent in France in the 1670s, during this terrible heresy of Jansenism. Her name was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. And there in her convent, Jesus appeared to her with his heart visible as we see in the beautiful statue. He showed Margaret Mary his heart. And he said, "Look at this heart. Behold this heart which loves humanity so much and which is crucified for love."
So the heart of Jesus was the antidote. It was the answer to this idea that God is so far from us and we are so unworthy. The Sacred Heart of Jesus revealed to St. Margaret Mary said, "No, God is close to us, in the heart, the loving heart of Jesus." This is a symbol of his love, a sign of his closeness. And then this heresy of Jansenism began, thanks be to God, to disappear.
But what Margaret Mary was experiencing when she saw the heart of Jesus in her visions in the convent was nothing other than what the Scriptures teach us. What we heard this afternoon in the letter from St. Paul, when St. Paul writes to us, and we heard these words today - God proves his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. The fact that we are sinners is not alienating us from God. But when we recognize ourselves as sinners in need of God's love, God's closeness, God's mercy, then the beautiful heart of Jesus is open to us. When we understand our need for the Lord, our weakness, then the Lord is close to us. God proves his love for us, that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.
Remember, brothers and sisters, God doesn't love our sins. Why? Because our sins hurt us and hurt other people. Sin is like disease. It's like something that harms us. So God doesn't love our sins, but He loves us even though we are sinners. He loves us even though we are sinners.
And then we heard in the beautiful gospel, in which Jesus tells us there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 perfect people who felt that they didn't need to repent.
What does that mean? It means that if we think that we are self-sufficient, that we don't need God, that we are perfect, that we are righteous, then we don't have access to the Merciful Heart of Jesus because we close our own hearts to his heart by our pride, our self-righteousness, our self-esteem, our consideration that we are perfect. When we realize that yes, we are sinners, yes, that each and every one of us is a lost sheep that has been found by Jesus, Jesus has drawn nearer to us, he has approached us, and he's carrying us on his shoulders. Then we understand the mercy and love of Jesus. Then our small hearts are filled with the love of his big heart, the big heart, the tender, Merciful Heart of Jesus, which embraces us in our sinfulness. Not loving our sins, but loving us, even though we are sinners, and asking us to repent, to change, to turn away from sin because sin is like a disease which is eating away at us and destroying us. But God's love is stronger than sin. God's love overcomes our sinfulness and makes us shine with His love with his grace.
We receive that mercy every time we go to confession. All of us, priests, nuncios, popes. faithful people, all of us need the Sacrament of Confession. All of us need to open our hearts to the love of Jesus and his heart so that our hearts are healed by his heart. That is what happens in the Sacrament of Confession. And then once we are receiving His grace, that grace is then increased and multiplied when we receive him in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Holy Eucharist. When Jesus draws so close to us, and he embraces us, touches us, heals us. That is the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacrament of his Body and Blood.
So the entire life of the church is an experience of the love of Jesus. And that love is what we celebrate today in His Sacred Heart. We also think about another heart, the heart of his mother, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also filled with love for us, guiding us to Jesus, telling us to go to Jesus, to find Jesus, allow Jesus to find us.
So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ here in Quiapo Church, in this wonderful celebration of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, let's remember those important truths: God is close to us in Jesus; God doesn't love our sins, but He loves us when even though we are sinners; and God sends us His mercy through His Sacred Heart so that our small hearts will be embraced by his big heart; and that we will we will receive and experience the love of His Sacred Heart, that love which was made manifest to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, some 300 years ago, and which we celebrate today.
May God bless you and happy feast of the Sacred Heart.