Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. June 19, 2009
The readings: Hos. 11:1-4, 8-9; Eph. 3:8-19; Jn. 19:31-7]
June is the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart and today is the day on which we commemorate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This Feast has been a Solemnity in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar since 1856, and is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost. As Pentecost is always celebrated on Sunday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart always falls on a Friday. Some places however, it is celebrated on Sunday. Even though there has been the devotion to the sacred Heart from the early days of the church we have from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the first unmistakable indications of devotions to the Sacred Heart in the Benedictine or Cistercian monasteries.
The most significant source for the devotion to the Sacred Heart in the form it is known today was revelation to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), who claimed to have received visions of Jesus Christ. There is nothing to indicate that she had known the devotion prior to the revelations, or at least that she had paid any attention to it. The revelations were numerous, and the church has accepted these to be real and deeply spiritual. In one of the apparitions, Jesus allowed Margaret Mary to rest her head upon His Heart during which time He revealed to her the wonders of His love, telling her that He desired to make them known to all mankind and to diffuse the treasures of His goodness, and that He had chosen her for this work. On June 16, a vision known as the “great apparition” reportedly took place, where Jesus said, “Behold the Heart that has so loved men … instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part of mankind only ingratitude …”, and asked Margaret Mary for a feast of reparation of the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi, bidding her consult Bl. Claude de la Colombière, superior of the small Jesuit house at Paray.
A few days after the “great apparition”, Margaret Mary reported everything she saw to Father de la Colombière, and he, acknowledging the vision as an action of the Spirit of God, consecrated himself to the Sacred Heart and directed her to write an account of the apparition. He also made use of every available opportunity to circulate this account, discreetly, through France and England. Upon his death on February 15, 1682, there was found in his journal of spiritual retreats a copy in his own handwriting of the account that he had requested of Margaret Mary, together with a few reflections on the usefulness of the devotion. It was on June 11, 1899, by order of Leo XIII, and with the formula prescribed by him, that all mankind was solemnly consecrated to the Sacred Heart. In his 1928 encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor Pope Pius XI approved the devotion to the Sacred Heart. Today, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is cantered around the heart of Jesus as the emblem of Divine love. By this characteristic, the devotion to the Sacred Heart is naturally defined. Divine love is the highest of three levels of loves; Divine love, spiritual love and physical love. In summary of what has been said, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion to “The Heart that has so loved men,” this having been revealed by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary.
Christ, in his appearances to Margaret Mary, has promised many blessings to those who practice devotion to his Sacred Heart. Accordingly Jesus promises all the graces necessary for their state of life; peace in their families; consolation in all their troubles; their refuge in life and especially in death; abundantly bless all their undertakings; he will be infinite ocean of mercy. He promised to bless those places wherein the image of the Sacred Heart will be exposed and venerated and will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts. Finally the promise that his all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die without receiving the sacraments; and the Sacred Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.
The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a special devotion of the church. Based on the “Heart of Jesus” as a symbol of love, the Holy Catholic Church has always had a devotion to the love of God. This proof is found in the biblical writings of St. John and St. Paul. St John says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believe in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.” [Jn. 3:16] But this in itself is not a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus because it does not pay homage to the Heart of Jesus as the symbol of His love for us.
The word “heart” in the Old and New Testaments, has special meaning. Bible uses this constantly, in the psalms, “The law of their God is in their hearts…” [Ps. 37:31], in the Gospels, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” [Mt. 12:34] “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” [Lk. 2:19] Speaking to His disciples, Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” [Jn. 14:1]. In each of these Bible passages, it is a reference to the actions of the mind. The laws of God are written on the minds of His children. What comes out of the mouth is a reflection of what is on one’s mind. Mary pondered upon what had been told to her through her mind. When the disciples of Jesus were troubled, the anxieties were on their minds. The word “heart” is synonym to “mind” in the Holy Scriptures. As such, the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be perceived as the Divine Mind of Jesus, God manifested in human nature.
In the Old Testament, God promised to make a New Covenant through which He would replace the heart of stone with a new “heart”, a new (human) “spirit” and place within man His “Holy Spirit.” When reviewing St. Paul’s inspired writing in the New Testament, his references are always to the necessity of embracing the spiritual mind (of the human spirit) of the new creation that was received through the Blood of Christ. This is the new creation of the godly seed that was received through the Sacrament of Baptism through water and Spirit. From the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament, we read, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds…”
The first reading from the Book of Hosea tells us about the love of God and he takes care of all as the Father will care for the child and call each one his sons and daughters. The second reading from the letter to the Ephesians tells about the love of Jesus and calls all Christians to comprehend the length and breadth, heights and depths of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge to fill each with the fullness of God. Paul prays that God may strengthen them in the Spirit with power so that Christ may dwell in their hearts. The Gospel tells us that the heart of Jesus was pierced by the soldier and out came blood and water. This indicates the total giving of Jesus of himself including his last drop of blood and water. In faith we look upon the one who is pierced for it is the manifestation of his love.
To conclude, in the “Sacred Heart” is revealed the mystery of the “Divine Mind” of Jesus as God. The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus affirms that the Lord Jesus was God, one of the Three Divine Presences of the Holy Trinity. While the symbolic picture of the human heart echoes a Heart of Flesh of the human nature, the “Divine Mind” that is synonym to “Sacred Heart,” echoes the Divine nature. As the Holy Catholic Church teaches, in Christ, God manifested as man, the Divine nature cannot be separated from the human nature. Today, when many doubt the divinity of the Lord Jesus, is made known the mystery of the Sacred Heart that affirms that through Jesus, God incarnated on earth, was manifested Divine love through His human nature. While Jesus had a human nature, begotten by the Father through the womb of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, His mind that proceeded from the Divine Soul of God was Divine in nature.