Sacred Heart of Jesus
Friday following the Second Sunday after Pentecost
Liturgical Color: White
Behold the heart which drips red for love of man
It’s always the tissue of male heart muscle when the molecular structure of a Eucharistic miracle is examined under a microscope. Jesus had “heart” but, more importantly, He had a heart. The word “heart” is synonymous with grit, soul, intuition, love, strength, generosity, and, in its most total sense, the very center of man. Today’s feast embraces all of those meanings. Christ’s Sacred Heart teaches us that God loves us as a friend loves a friend, as a parent loves a child, or as a sibling loves his closest brother or sister. That is, Christ loves us in the same way as a person loves us, only more intensely. Our God doesn’t shift the planetary order, redirect the rays of the sun, or create a parallel gravitational field to magnetize His love for mankind. Science fiction requires a fluid imagination. Understanding God’s love should not, and does not, demand such mental contortionism. Understanding God’s love should be as simple as recalling your little hand in your father’s big hand as you walked next to him at night as a little girl. It requires remembering running into your mother’s soft embrace, cheek to cheek, after skinning your knee. Jesus Christ’s love for man is as human and as clear as a beating heart. Simply put, Jesus loves us from just above His solar plexus, where His heart pulsates with emotion for every sacred creature who harbors a human soul.
The widely loved devotion to the Sacred Heart is not rooted in a feast of ancient pedigree similar to those of Holy Week. No Christian of the first millenium ever gazed into the haunting eyes of Christ as He stared out from a Sacred Heart image enthroned on the family-room wall. It was only in 1856 that Pope Pius IX placed this feast on the Church’s universal calendar. The Pope acted after almost two centuries of devotion to the Sacred Heart, which had grown out of the thinking, preaching, and prayer of the indefatigable Saint John Eudes and out of the visions of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Both of these saints were indebted, in turn, to the medieval revelations of the Sacred Heart granted to Saint Gertrude the Great.
We love the Heart of Christ because His heart loved us first. We adore the adorer, love the lover, and worship the worshiper. Because God comes first, all of our love for Him is the repayment of a debt. We are not doing God a favor by loving him any more than a hammer does a carpenter a favor by slamming nails into wood. Religion is about raw justice, not doing God favors. That God loves us is not readily apparent from creation itself or from the history of mankind. The gods were many things to many races throughout the ages, but love was not one of them. Christianity had to tell the world that God was love. And Jesus had to attach His arms to a cross and die for that message to be convincing. The visions of Saint Margaret Mary made God’s love concrete and comprehensible, while the visions of Saint Faustina Kowolska deepened the meaning of this feast still more. In these challenging visions, Christ rips open His heart to Sister Faustina and shows her a calm and deep ocean of mercy waiting to bathe repentant sinners in its saving waters. Three strands—the Sacred Heart, love, and mercy—are now braided in a tight belt of spiritual truth.
True heart is not proven by waving to the crowds from a car in a victory parade or by luxuriating on the beach with friends. Real heart is in the last stretch of the neck over the finish line, in climbing the stage to receive a diploma after years of academic struggle, or in pulling yourself out of bed to go to nocturnal adoration. True heart is synonymous with long suffering, perseverance, and conquering through adversity. True heart is dying on the cross when you didn’t deserve it. A true heart is a Sacred Heart. That’s the heart of our God. No athlete goes to the Olympics to compete for the silver. Jesus reached for the gold from the dais of the cross, slick with his own blood. There’s no need for us to keep on searching for a heart of gold in this world. We know in exactly whose body that heart beats. It’s all gold, it’s all sacredness, and it loves us like Himself.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, You told us to ask and we shall receive, to seek and we shall find, to knock and the door shall be opened. Today, we ask, we seek, and we knock, in the sure and certain hope that you will hear us and answer us. Amen.