Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This past Friday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart is not one more among the many that exist in the rich diversity of the Church. It is neither one among many expressions of popular piety. It holds a special place in the life of the Church and every Christian. Even the rosary, an indispensable devotion in our spiritual life, with all its richness and all its power, does not compare to this devotion.
We must remember that in Biblical language, the heart of a person does not refer to the organ in the circulatory system of the human body with two auricles and two ventricles; but is an allegorical reference to the nucleus of being, the center of one’s existence. It is the place where conscience is formed, where human reason, emotions and senses come together, the meeting point of body and soul. Unlike the use in contemporary ordinary speech, Biblical references to the heart are not simply a metaphor used to describe emotions and feelings. We could state that the heart is something akin to the point of accumulation of the totality of a being. In the Old Testament we even find multiple references to the heart of God. Thus, for example, in chapter 11 in the book of the prophet Hosea, a chapter that stands out for its poetic beauty and for the power of its message, in the face of the infidelity of his people, God says: “How can I give you up…? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger… for I am God and no mortal, the Holy One in your midst and I will not come in wrath.”
That is why devotion to the Sacred Heart stands out way above any other expression of popular piety and has been enthusiastically promoted by popes. It has nothing to do with sentimentality, much less with 19th century romanticism. It is about contemplating and proclaiming one of the central mysteries of our beautiful Catholic faith, the Incarnation of the Eternal Word of God, the person of Jesus Christ, his two natures, human and divine; which as the Council of Chalcedon taught in 451 are present in his person neither confused nor divided.
To honor, contemplate, enthrone, venerate, adore the heart of Christ, are actions directed to the core of his being, where we find the union of his two natures, human and divine. To go deeper into the mystery of Christ, his person, his being is to delve into the mystery of the love of God and his mercy. It is also, of course, to prod the mystery of God himself, his intra-Trinitarian life. Jesus Christ is love incarnate. His person is the most wonderful manifestation of the mercy of God. Therefore, to contemplate his heart, the core of his personhood is to ponder this revealed truth at the deepest possible level.
Additionally, to contemplate the heart of Christ is to contemplate his humanity which is our humanity. It is evident that in Him, human nature shines in all its beauty, in its most pure form, just as God imagined it, free from sin and corruption. That is why looking at Him, honoring, venerating, deepening our knowledge of his personhood, leads to great self-knowledge too. In Him we understand better what it means to be human, what our origin is and what is our destiny, why we exist and what we exist for.
Thus, we realize that God had desired to share human nature with each one of us and with every other human being that ever was, is or will be, regardless of any other consideration. Each human being has an incomparable value far above any other creature. The words of the Lord in the Gospel passage for this Sunday are about all of us, absolutely all of us, without exceptions of any kind. They speak to us of the deep meaning of our human nature of our dignity as children of God and the universal fraternity that ought to exist among all of us. There is a diversity of persons but only one human nature. Our dignity is inherent to our human condition. The contemplation of the person of Jesus Christ reveals to us that God has become our sibling, without distinction, even with those who were his enemies. As St. Paul points out in the second reading, in Christ, grace overflows.
This year the celebration of the Sacred Heart finds us in the midst of a pandemic and social conflict within the greater context of a generalized confusion about the meaning of our humanity, its destiny, the meaning of our bodies and the supremacy of the human person over technology and material goods. The presence of the menacing virus reminds us also of the fragility and vulnerability inherent to our shared humanity. As Pope Francis pointed out, the events these days show us that nobody can save themselves on their own, we are part of a larger community and we cannot remain indifferent in the face of exclusion of persons and threats to human life wherever they may come from.
Today more than ever we need to listen attentively to the exhortation not to be afraid, to live in truth, walk in the light and proclaim with our entire lives the love incarnate we have found in the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man. He is alive, risen from the dead. He walks together with us, guiding human history towards its consummation in God, guiding us with his life and his presence to a definitive encounter with the Father.
At the beginning of the Confessions, St. Augustine says that our hearts are restless until they rest in the heart of God. In these days of tribulation, conflict and restlessness, we need to lean on the Sacred Heart of Jesus to find comfort, renewed force, serene joy, all we need to overcome any fear we may experience and walk resolutely in the truth, proclaiming the mercy of God with our lives so that the Kingdom of God may advance in the world.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid