Redemption for all is focus of devotion to Sacred Heart

NienstedtBlThe Church’s devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be traced back to the early Middle Ages, but it took on a more scholarly understanding in 1928 with Pope Pius XII’s encyclical, “Haurietis Aquas,” which encouraged that more attention be given to the biblical, patristic and liturgical sources of this devotion to the pierced heart of Jesus, from which living waters of grace stream forth upon the Church.

The expression “heart of Jesus” evokes a sense of the innermost core of the God-Man who emptied himself to take on a human heart in order to save humanity from sin. In his Sacred Heart, Jesus knows the same sufferings and sorrows that we know, but also the same joys and affections that we know.

At the same time, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is different from our human hearts because his heart contains the heart of the Father in his divine love for every single human person. It is, therefore, a heart of infinite love.

The feast of the Sacred Heart falls on June 12 this year. In the first reading from the liturgy that day, the prophet Hosea dramatically compares God’s love to the love of a parent for his child. Hosea has been called the prophet of God’s faithful love and pardon for the Jewish nation in exile. Even before the people had fallen into idolatry, God, within his merciful heart, had already decided to pardon and forgive them. Unlike human beings, God is not vindictive or judgmental. He remains loving despite the obstacles and infidelities he experiences. In demonstrating his pardon, God as Father calls every person to be what he wants that person to be.

In the second reading, St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians, implies that there is a cosmic dimension to his preaching about the love of God as found in Jesus Christ, a dimension that extends even beyond the Gentiles to include “the principalities and authorities in the heavens.” In Jesus Christ, a new world order has been established as a “new” humanity, that as a people now know no other mediator than Jesus Christ and no other source of heavenly blessings than that of his Bride, the Church. These verses serve to fulfill the prophecy of Ezekiel 40, who envisions a future eschatological temple. Now through the love of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, the assembly of the Church is built up, with each individual Christian disciple serving as a stone in this edifice whose foundation is solidly established on God’s redeeming love. In this new spiritual temple, St. Paul now bends his knee, just as he would have done in the old temple. Here the universalism of the Church is evident, where no one, neither Gentile nor Jew, nor man nor woman, is excluded, but all are invited to become God’s partners, rooted and grounded in the knowledge of God’s love.

The source of this new world order or new spiritual temple is found in the Gospel for the feast day from St. John, in which the evangelist depicts Christ’s crucifixion. When the soldier thrusts his lance into Jesus’ side, “immediately blood and water flowed out.” Commentators have long seen the symbolism here of the blood representing his profound sacrifice, which continues through time in the holy Eucharist, and water representing the spiritual efficacy of that sacrifice, which continues through time in the sacrament of baptism. Salvation history at that moment passed into the sacramental realm.

Thus, it could be said, and perhaps should be said, that devotion to the Sacred Heart ultimately focuses on Christ’s saving mission of redeeming every human person. It is in this respect that the feast is joined to the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.

G.K. Chesterton wrote, “All the empires and kingdoms have failed, because of this inherent and continual weakness, that they were founded by strong men and upon strong men. But this one thing, the historic Christian Church, was founded on a weak man, and for that reason it is indestructible. For no chain is stronger that its weakest link.” He was writing about St. Peter here, but the truth can be applied to all popes, bishops and priests. We indeed hold the treasure of the Gospel in earthen vessels, and that fact underscores the reality that it is God’s Spirit that carries the Church, with God’s grace shining through human weakness.

We are painfully aware of the damage that is done in the Church when a cleric fails to live a virtuous life. We also know well the tremendous good that moves human hearts when a cleric witnesses to the truth of the Gospel with zeal and fidelity. And so we come to the altar on this feast day to pray for the sanctification of priests. It is a prayer that nourishes the personal relationship that every priest has with Jesus Christ. It is a prayer on which the effectiveness of his pastoral activity depends. So let us pray for happy, holy, faith-filled bishops, priests and deacons. And let us pray that as they grow in holiness, the whole Church will more effectively radiate the love of God, a love that is found in Jesus’ most Sacred Heart.

Please join with Catholics from around the archdiocese at the beautiful Cathedral of St. Paul as we gather in prayer for a renewal within our local Church and for the sanctification of clergy. We will begin with solemn vespers in honor of the Sacred Heart at 7 p.m. June 11 in the main body of the cathedral, followed by solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration will take place throughout the night in the Cana Chapel of the cathedral, and will continue throughout the day on June 12 in the main body of the church. Our time of prayer will conclude at 8 p.m. with a Mass, in which I will preside, in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Bring your families and friends for this important time of prayer. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

God bless you!

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Category: Only Jesus

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