The Sacred Heart of Jesus
In Catholic churches and homes, one of the most popular images of Jesus is the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is the image of God’s love revealed in the pierced heart of His Son. It is the symbol of a love that conquers sin and transcends death, the symbol of the One who loved us to the end.
Love has always been associated with the heart, so it was only natural that the love of God became represented by a heart, the heart of his Son Jesus. In him, God the Father revealed his infinite love for us. On the Friday after the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The Church was born from the pierced heart of Jesus on the cross. In the first creation, Eve was born from the side of Adam. In the new creation, the Church was born from the side of Jesus. The Bride from the Heart of the Bridegroom! When the soldier thrust his lance into Jesus’ side, immediately blood and water flowed out. Saint John Chrysostom had this to say about this passage: Beloved, do not pass over this mystery without thought; it has yet another hidden meaning, which I will explain to you. I said that water and blood symbolized baptism and the holy eucharist. From these two sacraments the Church is born: from baptism, the cleansing water that gives rebirth and renewal through the Holy Spirit, and from the holy eucharist. Since the symbols of baptism and the eucharist flowed from his side, it was from his side that Christ fashioned the Church, as he had fashioned Eve from the side of Adam … As God took a rib from Adam’s side to fashion a woman, so Christ has given us blood and water from his side to fashion the Church. God took the rib when Adam was in a deep sleep, and in the same way Christ gave us the blood and the water after his own death.
Since the Church was born from the pierced side of Christ, from his Sacred Heart, this should have great meaning for us. In prayer, we contemplate the pierced Heart of our Savior. We contemplate his incredible love. We reflect on the mercy, compassion and love that God has bestowed upon us. We become enthralled by Christ, like Saint Paul, who prayed that Christ might dwell in the hearts of the Ephesian Christians through faith and that they might know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. When Christ dwells in our hearts, when we know his love deeply, in our minds and hearts, we are moved to live the great commandments of love of God and neighbor. We are motivated by the Sacred Heart of Jesus to open our hearts to him so that they are filled with love for our brothers and sisters. In this way, we learn to live Jesus’ commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.
The Church, born from the pierced heart of Jesus, has a mission in the world to proclaim the redeeming love of God in Christ. This is a great mission. There are many systems of thought and action which seek to construct the human world on the basis of wealth, power, force, science or pleasure. But that’s not the Christian system. Our mission, our work, is to proclaim love, salvation, redemption, eternal life. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is precisely the image that expresses our mission. It is the image of the infinite and merciful love which the heavenly Father has poured out upon the world through his Son. The goal of all we do in the Church should be to lead people to encounter this love. Only this love, the love of the Heart of Christ, can transform the human heart and bring true peace to the world.
In our lives and in our work in the Church, we must place all our hope in the One who said Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. This is one of the most beautiful scriptural references to the heart of Jesus. His heart, the symbol of his redeeming love, is also a symbol of his meekness and humility. Jesus invites us to learn from his heart and to imitate his love, his meekness, and his humility. This aspect of devotion to the Sacred Heart is evident in the common prayer or invocation: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.
I invite you to cultivate a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The month of June is a month when this devotion is practiced more intensely. Some wonderful practices include praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, making a consecration to the Sacred Heart or having the image of the Sacred Heart enthroned in your home. These devotions are not just some relics of the past. They have continued relevance today. When we draw close to Christ in the mystery of his heart, this enables us to dwell on the great mystery of our faith, that God is love. This also strengthens us and inspires us to imitate his love and to help build the civilization of love. From the Sacred Heart of Jesus, our hearts learn meekness, humility, mercy, and love.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is profoundly Eucharistic. It finds its summit at Mass where we lift up our hearts to the Lord. We unite our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. At Mass, we are nourished at the Paschal banquet of our Redeemer’s Body and Blood. The Eucharist is the sacrament of charity. It is a school of love where we are educated by Jesus. We pray in the prayer after Communion on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart: May this sacrament of charity, O Lord, make us fervent with the fire of holy love, so that, drawn always to your Son, we may learn to see him in our neighbor. The Eucharist has been called “the outstanding gift of the Heart of Jesus”, the Heart that gives life to the Church and to all of us, her members.