The Sacred Heart: Prefer Nothing to the Love of Christ

05-12-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Leonard F. Villa

Importance: Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is intimately associated with the most fundamental teachings of the Gospel: (1) Jesus is the revelation of the Father’s infinite love in Person. (2) As true God and true Man he has a personal interest in every human being. (3)This love was seen from the very outset to be symbolized in Christ’s human heart. The earliest Christians contemplated the crucified Savior with deep veneration and love. They meditated on his wounds with a special emphasis upon the wound in his side. At a later date under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit they came to see in the opened side the wounded Heart of the Lamb of God.

Devotion to the Savior’s Heart is the extraordinary remedy for the extraordinary needs of our time. (Pius XI). It is the perfect practice of the Christian religion and not simply some piety which one can treat as of no consequence or set aside as inferior to others. (Pius XII). It is the most efficacious means to contribute to the spiritual/moral renewal of the world called for by Vatican II. (Paul VI). In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbor. (John Paul II). Moreover, not only does this mystery of God's love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself. (Benedict XVI)

Scripture: A key text in this devotion is John 19:33- 34;36-37: …(B)ut when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear and at once there came out blood and water… For these things took place that the scripture might be fulfilled,… “They shall look on him whom they have pierced. The prophecy from Zechariah to which St. John refers is as follows: And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly over him as one weeps over a first-born. Zech. 12:10 The Lord draws St. Thomas’ hand to his wounded side to draw him to belief in the resurrection.

The Heart in Scripture: In Hebrew thought the heart means the entire interior life of the person. It is the center of the person’s identity and the center of understanding and free will. Tradition: The Fathers and theologians from St. Augustine and St. Cyril of Alexandria down to St. Peter Canisius speak of the fountain of living waters of divine love as taking their source in the side of Christ. By this the Fathers meant that the Holy Spirit was poured forth on mankind because he who possessed the Holy Spirit in all his fullness had sacrificed his own Heart. As a direct result the Church and all that it effects, her sacraments and the life of grace flow out from the Heart of Christ as the work of the Holy Spirit.

St. Margaret Mary/St. Claude: These two saints have a special connection with devotion to the Sacred Heart in our time and the meaning of the First Friday devotion. The revelations of the Lord to St. Margaret brought nothing new into Catholic doctrine. Their importance lay in this, that Christ in showing forth his Heart with flames, a crown of thorns, wished in an extraordinary way to invite Christians to contemplate the depth of God’s love for all people, especially to appeal to lukewarm Catholics to depart from stingy and cold response to such love in their own spiritual lives.

The First Friday: From that revelation the practice of the First Friday was drawn where the Lord promised in the excessive mercy of his Heart that his all-powerful love will grant to all who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance. They shall not die in his disgrace without receiving the sacraments. His Heart will be their refuge. Encyclical Haurietis Aquas: This is a key source and summary of the teaching of the Catholic Church on the Sacred Heart and why it is important written by Pope Pius XII in 1956. Devotion to the Sacred Heart contains in its doctrinal foundation what the popes have reminded us are the seven cardinal mysteries of our Faith, which the world denies but we accept. These seven cardinal mysteries are:

-God created the human race out of love. He did not need to create anything or anyone. Moreover, He elevated the human race to a supernatural destiny, nothing less than the vision of the Holy Trinity for all eternity. All of this not because He had to, but only because He loves.

-God became man out of love for the sinful human race. He became a mortal man to die to prove how much He loves us. He assumed a human will that He might freely suffer. Do all humans suffer? Yes. Do all humans suffer willingly? No. The essence of love is to suffer willingly for the one you claim to love. God became man to suffer with a human will

-Christ, the Son of God who became the Son of Man, suffered and died not just for the predestined elect, but for all mankind.

-God gives everyone enough grace to be saved. Is everyone saved? No. God wants all men to be saved yet gave us a free will with which we can choose either to love Him or love ourselves even to the contempt of God.

-We have a free will by which we can really choose to love God. When we want what God wants then we love Him. Love unites two wills: the will of God, by which He offers us His grace; and our will, by which we correspond with the graces we receive.

-We have a free will that can go beyond the call of duty. We can do more than just cooperate with God's grace to avoid sin. We can also love God more than we have to . . . more than we must. Read the letters of St. Margaret Mary. After twenty pages you will have to brace yourself. This loving God more than we have to means loving the cross. Christ joyfully chose the cross, and invites us to do the same, out of love for Him

-We believe that Jesus Christ gave us Himself in the Holy Eucharist, by which He remains now on earth, in the fullness of his humanity and with his living human Heart. In every Mass, He freely offers Himself to his heavenly Father, and through the Mass confers the graces He won for us on the cross. In Holy Communion, we receive Him with his Heart into our own hearts, to sustain our selfless love of Him by our enduring love for everyone whom He places into our lives.