Preparing for the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Preparing for the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, falling on the Friday following the second Sunday after Pentecost, arrives this year on June 11. Although the solemn celebration is today, an inescapable question comes to mind. Are our hearts prepared for a renewal of devotion to the Heart of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Mary? Could we ever be as bold as King David who declared, “My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast” (Psalm 57, 7)? Shedding light on the meaning of David’s readiness, Sacred Scripture further reveals that the inscrutable desire of God “has sought out a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13, 14).
David was seeking the Heart that was seeking for him, not unlike the bride in the Song of Solomon (Canticle of Canticles) who, as a type of the Mystical Bride of Christ, the Church, confesses, “I looked for the one my heart loves” (Song of Solomon 3, 1); and upon encountering Her Beloved Lord, a type of the Eternal Bridegroom, receives His response, “How beautiful you are . . . You have stolen my heart” (Song of Solomon 4, 1. 9). The immaculate beauty of the bride described throughout the Song of Solomon typifies the soul in a state of grace.
Today, hearts that seek the Lord find Him in the confessional in which He is mystically present in the priest who, in virtue of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in His person as Head of God’s flock (in persona Christi Capitis). The cleansing power of the Sacrament of Penance, because it “washes in innocence” and “sets feet on level ground” (cf. Psalm 26, 6. 12), is a first step in seeking the Sacred Heart of Jesus, for this reconciling gift “consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1468). The intimate friendship is, upon the reception of absolution and the fulfillment of penance, experienced most profoundly in the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Sacrifice of Jesus our Savior and its incomparable fruit, His Body and Blood as the Heavenly Bread of our earthly pilgrimage. In the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist, we experience how the Sacred Heart of Jesus burns inextinguishably with love for us.
The search for His Heart makes progress through frequent reception of the Sacraments, whereupon finally encountering Him, we join our voices once more in the thanksgiving song of King David: “let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!” (1 Chronicles 16, 10; cf. Psalm 105, 3). May this entire month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, be a fruitful time of sacramental grace and intimate union with our Savior. Seek His Heart!
Sacred Heart of Jesus, of Whose fullness we have all received, have mercy on us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of Divine Grace, pray for us.
Purest Heart of Saint Joseph, Protector of holy Church, pray for us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
– Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke
Uniting the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts
God is the best of teachers. He knows His students—you and me—very well, and so He chooses carefully His words and the imagery they convey. The word fire is the one He has chosen to express, in human terms, His divine love for us. For instance, in the Old Testament, Moses describes God as a “devouring fire.” (Deut 4:24) In the New Testament, we are familiar with the “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3) that come down upon Our Lady and the Apostles at Pentecost. You recall the story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, as they describe their encounter with the Risen Christ, “Did not our hearts burn within us…” (Lk 24:32)
Christian artists typically depict the Sacred Heart with flames reaching outward, to convey in simple, clear human imagery a profound divine truth: that the love of God burns intensely for His beloved sons and daughters.
Human experience shows our double relationship with fire. On the one hand, we are drawn to it, as a source of comfort, something essential to health and well-being, something romantic. On the other hand, we have a proper respect for it: it can be dangerous, something from which we step back. In either case, it can change lives.
Why did God come into the world and live among us? As Christians, we believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. This is a one-line summary of the Catholic faith. It contains our belief that Jesus is the Son of God; that He is God; and that He is our Redeemer who saved us by dying on the Cross and rising from the dead.
Jesus Christ also came to teach us how to love. To read Sacred Scripture, even if only as a significant piece of literature, is to gain the sense that it is a love story, filled with nuptial imagery: a story of hearts that were once united, then estranged, and then, after much suffering and pain, reunited in joy and peace. What Christians call “salvation history” is the story of God’s love affair with us. In order to teach us how to love, God brought the fire of divine charity into the closest proximity possible to our human nature—in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ—to change our hearts and so to change our lives.
A good teacher knows his or her students, their strengths and weaknesses, their nobility and their failures, the tools and the help they need not just to succeed, but to fulfill their deepest aspirations. “God is love,” as the Beloved Apostle St John writes (I Jn 4:8). God is the subject of the instruction, as well as the instructor, and His love is His gift to His students. God the Father sent the best of teachers—does not Jesus call Himself our teacher (Mt 23:8)—to show us the way to the fulfillment of the human heart. Through the Sermon on the Mount, the parables, the miracles, and finally and fully in His passion (a word is well-suited to a love story), Jesus teaches by word and example what love looks like: self-forgetful; self-giving; sacrificial…always beginning with the good of the other. This is the way to joy.
“More tortuous than anything is the human heart,” laments the Prophet Jeremiah, “beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (17:9) Beyond remedy for man, yes, but not for the God-Man, whose Heart burns with charity for us “poor, banished children of Eve.” We are God’s children and we are His students in the school of divine romance. Thus, we need not be afraid to draw near to the fire of the Sacred Heart, as the Beloved Apostle St John was unafraid, indeed bold, in laying his head close to its flame within the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper. The flame of the Sacred Heart may ask much from us, but it will never harm us, even as the burning bush that Moses observed was consumed but not destroyed by the fire.
The Feast of Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart follows immediately in the liturgical calendar after the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. That reminds us of what we know: that the hearts of Jesus and Mary are united. Our Lady will guide us, by her own personal and maternal love, more deeply into the mystery and fire of God’s love for all.
– Father Paul N. Check, Executive Director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe