“Our Lord Jesus Christ desires that we should, for sanctifying ourselves, glorify his all loving heart; for it was his heart that suffered the most in his sacred humanity.” ~ Saint Margaret Alacoque
With the arrival of the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was Pope Pius IX who extended the feast of the Sacred Heart to the universal Church in 1856. The origins of this solemnity however date back to the 17th century when Jesus appeared in a vision to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, whose quote kicks off today’s reflection, asking her to request that this feast be celebrated in honor of his Sacred Heart, specifically as an act of reparation for the ingratitude of mankind toward the sacrifice of his love on the Cross.
The imagery of Christ pointing to His heart, ablaze with love, signifies His immense and infinite love for humanity, a love which compelled Him to die for our sins so that we might achieve salvation and eternal life in the Heavenly Kingdom. The Sacred Heart of Jesus desires that all mankind draw close to Him in love and trust. In actuality, the entire month of June is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and for good reason. This devotion gets to the very core of the mystery of our redemption. The overflowing of God’s love through the humanity of Jesus Christ, represented by the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is a mystery ~ which by mere definition means it is a reality that exceeds our ability to explain or fully comprehend ~ but a mystery that shines ever so brightly as a cornerstone of our Catholic Faith.
“We the Christians are the true Israel which springs from Christ,” said Saint Justin Martyr, “for we are carved out of his heart as from a rock.” In today’s 1st Reading (Deuteronomy 7:6-11), Moses takes a similar tact with the Israelites as he delves into the depths of God’s love for them. “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you,“ he tells them. As we continue to plum the depths of this passage more deeply, we see that it was instead because of the Lord‘s love for them divinely coupled with His fidelity to the oath He had sworn to their fathers, an oath rooted in freedom. God brought them from the place of slavery and ransomed them from the hand of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, as outlined in the 14th Chapter of Exodus. It is this same love that pours forth from the Sacred Heart of Jesus that frees us from the bonds of sin, of death. . . of hell.
When God the Father sent his Son Jesus, He did so not as an omnipotent deity but instead as a suffering servant. One who temporarily relinquished his dwelling place in the Kingdom of Heaven so as to show us the way. In his encyclical Haurietis Aquas, Pope Pius XII points out that “it is altogether impossible to enumerate the Heavenly Gifts which devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has poured out upon the souls of the faithful. Purifying them. Offering them heavenly strength. Rousing them to the attainment of all virtues.
I leave you with a prayer that is in fact part of a larger prayer, one known as the “Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Devotees of the legendary Saint Padre Pio might recognize this prayer, as it was one that he offered every day for those who asked for his prayers. I have added it to my daily prayer life and I invite you to do so as well.
“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, for whom it is impossible not to have compassion on the afflicted, have pity on us sinners, and grant us the graces which we ask of You, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Your tender Mother and ours.”
. . . more on the Immaculate Heart of Mary tomorrow.
“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.”