Christ’s Sacred Heart draws us closer to him

NienstedtBlThe feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which we will celebrate this year on Friday, June 27, has its theological origin in sacred Scriptures, not the least of its passages being the powerful scene in the Gospel of St. John, wherein water and blood flow from the pierced heart of Christ (John 19:34). Many of the early Church Fathers spoke powerfully about this vision and its deep ecclesial, eschatological and spiritual meaning.

But with the writings of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French Visitation sister who in the 18th century received visions from the Lord regarding his Sacred Heart, the Church’s reflections on this heart “whose thoughts extend to all generations” took on a decidedly personal and devotional perspective. The pierced heart of Christ became not only a sign of the Church’s birth, but also of the burning love of Jesus Christ for each and every human being, a love which is often rejected and ignored.

It was within these visions of St. Margaret Mary that a clarion call for the establishment of a universal feast of the Sacred Heart may be found. From the writings of the saint recorded in June of 1675, we read the following:

“Behold this Heart, which has loved men so much, that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify to them its love and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges and by the coldness and contempt which they show Me in this sacrament of love. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to Me that treat Me like this. Therefore, I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special Feast to honor my Heart, by receiving Holy Communion on that day and making reparation to it by a solemn act in order to make amends for the indignities which it has received during the time it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that My heart shall expand itself to shed in abundance the influence of its divine love upon those who shall likewise honor it and cause it to be honored.”

In 1856, Pope Pius IX established this feast and gave it to the Universal Church for worldwide celebration and commemoration. Subsequently, in 1889, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Even now, after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, along with its accompanying private devotions, continues to be among the most important of our Church’s celebrations. Indeed, Pius XI went so far to call the Sacred Heart image and devotion “a summary of all our religion, and a guide to a more perfect life” (Miserentissimus Redemptor, paragraph 3).

Thus, devotion to the Sacred Heart has universal appeal and importance. It is not merely one devotion among many. By focusing on the image of Christ’s Sacred Heart, we are reminded of our call to a deeply personal relationship with Jesus. This relationship is the very core of our life as believers. The Catholic religion is not fundamentally a system of rules and rituals, but rather a total response to the personal and passionate love of Jesus, a Jesus who thirsts for our friendship. It is indeed a religion of love that knows, as St. John tells us in his first Epistle, that it is God who has loved us first.

Contemplating the Sacred Heart should motivate us all to live in a way that gives witness to the image we received by virtue of our baptism, that is, the image of Christ reaching out to draw others to his heart, a heart that is the font of living water welling up even unto eternal life.

Mass for religious liberty
Archbishop John Nienstedt will celebrate a special Mass at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 28, at the Cathedral of St. Paul as part of Fortnight for Freedom. A Holy Hour for Religious Liberty will follow.

And here is where we find the complementarity of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and the Universal Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, a day of prayer that takes place every year on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. It is the vocation of the priest to strive every day of his life to unite himself completely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The priest must learn to love with the same love that is revealed by Christ’s pierced heart, which is to say, loving to the point of complete self-gift, of total self-emptying. In this pouring out, the priest, acting in persona Christi, finds the key to his noble calling and therefore to his very life. A priest, inspired, nourished and sustained by the Sacred Heart, manifests his Christ-like love in the way he offers the holy Eucharist, in the manner in which he celebrates the sacrament of reconciliation and by means of his pastoral zeal for souls. The goal of the priest’s life is to incarnate in his ministry the love that Jesus has for all humanity. And that love, like Christ’s, is one that knows suffering and even the embrace of the Cross. For Christ’s Sacred Heart is a wounded heart, having felt the ingratitude, the indifference, and at times even the rejection of others.

For the priests of this Archdiocese, the past eight months have been difficult to the point of being painful. The appalling behavior of a few has reflected badly on the many. Every headline seems to tarnish the reputation of the priesthood.

Yet, the reality is that the vast majority of our priests are good, hard-working, faithful servants of the Gospel and generous ministers of sacramental grace. They are available to their people 24 hours a day without counting the cost. And despite their own human imperfections, they strive to live out the promises they made at their ordination to preach the Gospel and teach the Catholic faith worthily and wisely, to celebrate the mysteries of Christ faithfully and reverently, to implore God’s mercy without ceasing on the people entrusted to their care and to unite themselves more closely every day to Christ the High Priest. In doing so, our priests are indeed a blessing to their parishioners as well as the whole of this local Church.

As we prepare to celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests on Friday, June 27, let us be united in praying for our priests and in thanking them for all that they do, and for all that they are, for us and for the world.

God love you!

 

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Category: Only Jesus

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