On this Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we celebrate in a special way the love God has for us, especially as expressed through the life, sufferings, and death of Jesus. In earlier times, especially in the Middle Ages, Catholic devotion on this day was centered on “the wound” in the side of Christ, a feature of His death which appears in the Gospel of St. John (19,31-37). In later times, especially arising from the visions of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, the devotional emphasis shifted more to the Heart of Jesus, as a symbol of His love and hence the love of God the Father for us.
For St. John, the Cross is Jesus’ moment of glory – encompassing His death, His rising to new life, His reunion with His Father, and even the breathing out of His Spirit on His followers. So, just before the Last Supper, Jesus tells his disciples: “When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” This “lifting up” includes not just His being lifted up on the Cross, but His being raised to glory by His Father. St. John considers all of this one, continuous movement and act of grace on the part of God. Hence, it is understood that the Church can be said to have been “born” from the wounded side of Christ.
So, today we celebrate the extraordinary love God has for us, manifested in such an extraordinary way by the suffering, death, and rising of Jesus Christ. We are encouraged to reflect today on the many ways in which that love has been made known in our lives and continues to be made known. But let us not stop there. If we are fully to receive His Love and if it is to be truly effective in our lives, then it must be passed on to every person we meet. “By this will all know that you are my followers, that you show love for one another.” And this love is to have no limits, no exceptions. It is to be extended to everyone; our love must be a love of forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and compassion.
Let us pray. “Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who glory in the Heart of your beloved Son and recall the wonders of His love for us, may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from your fount of heavenly gifts. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”