Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. ~ Ezekiel 36:26~
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, a recognition of the humanity and divinity of Christ. Christ has promised that much will be bestowed upon those who have a devotion to his Sacred Heart.
St. Gertrude the Great had a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart; she lived in medieval time, during the height of Scholasticism, in the 13th Century. While great advances were being made theologically, scientifically, and philosophically; some would argue that the world was becoming cold: too focused on the judgment of God, too forgetful of his mercy. One night, St. John, the beloved disciple who had laid his head on the heart of Jesus at the Last Supper, appeared to St. Gertrude. She asked St. John why he had not written about the experience of resting his head on Jesus’ Sacred Heart. He responded that his mission at that time was to present to the Church the truth of the Word made flesh, but that the Sacred Heart was “reserved for the last age in order that the world, grown cold and torpid, may be set on fire with the love of God.”
A world grown cold and torpid.
Our world, our country, is hurting right now; wrought with illness, racism, violence, discord, anger, confusion, ignorance, division, coldness, and torpidness. It seems fitting that the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus falls at this time. It is as if God is prompting us to once more embrace his heart, to recall his mercy and love, and to remind us that he is not apathetic about the suffering in today’s world.
Lately, my heart has been aching, primarily because I know the Body of Christ – of which every single person is a part- is deeply wounded. The current state of our world, our country, has led me to reflect upon my own actions, and perhaps more importantly, my inactions. It is my fear that, in an attempt to quell my own anxieties, I inadvertently become indifferent. And so, as I gaze upon the image of the Sacred Heart, these words of the prophet of Ezekiel become my own prayer: take my stony heart Lord, give me one that beats for you, break my heart for what breaks yours.
But none of this can be done without love. In today’s second reading, we read from the First Letter of St. John (of whom St. Gertrude had a vision of), in which he writes: “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. . . No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”
In order to love with the heart of Christ, I must know his heart — a heart that was vulnerable, a heart that was wrung and broken. Love is not a fleeting emotion, it is a choice . . . at times it is a difficult, uncomfortable choice. For the love to which I am called, begs me to love with his heart — to forgive, to show mercy, to fight for justice, to speak and seek truth. And that requires vulnerability. But “to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one . . . lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable” (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves).
I would rather risk having my heart be broken than risk it becoming unbreakable and irredeemable, but I need the grace of God to do that. Thus, a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus allows us to encounter him more fully and emulate his love.
St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (who made this devotion widely known) was able to emulate Jesus’ love in part because of her devotion to his Sacred Heart. In an apparition to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus not only revealed to her that through devotion to the Sacred Heart we receive his love, but also that through living a life rooted in prayer and the Sacraments, we can bring comfort and consolation to his Sacred Heart. Thus, in some way, we keep our Lord company in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, the agony brought about by sin.
In a time when the Body of Christ is noticeably hurting, it is crucial that we examine our lives. Do we live the joy and truth of the Gospel message? Do we honor and recognize each person’s dignity and worth as a beloved son/daughter of God? When faced with conflict, do we strive to restore unity and peace? When we see hatred, do we respond with love?
May we have the courage to approach the Lord, to ask him to break our hearts of stone, knowing that he will give us hearts of flesh and grace to love in a divine way; and in so doing, we will certainly be consoling the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us and on the whole world.
This piece was originally written for Bishop Guertin High School’s Reflections.