June 28, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

Sacred Heart of Jesus comforts, heals and protects

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.” (Prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus)

The publication date for this column is Friday, June 28, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart first became popular in France, then spread to Poland and other countries, including, at a later period, the United States. The month of June is appointed for this devotion, and since 1929 the feast has been one of the highest rank and is celebrated on the Friday after the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Devotion to our Lord under the auspices of his “most holy heart” was strongly promoted by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th-century French member of the Visitation Order. The devotion to the Sacred Heart was officially recognized 75 years after St. Margaret Mary’s death in 1690. In his encyclical “Miserentissimus Redemptor,” Pope Pius XI stated that our Lord had “manifested himself” to St. Margaret Mary and referred to the conversation between Jesus and this saintly woman several times.

According to St. Margaret Mary, Jesus assured her that “sinners shall find in my heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.” The heart is a physical symbol of human love. God’s divine love and forgiveness, which are as boundless as the ocean, are made manifest in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, an icon or image of divine mercy incarnate.

Mercy has been a consistent theme of recent popes—including St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis—because forgiveness is an absolute prerequisite in the pursuit of peace. Without mercy, warring factions cannot be reconciled. Without an open heart, differences in ideas, beliefs and customs among individuals and groups cannot be resolved in positive ways. Without love, which demands mercy, hatred festers and then explodes into violent words and actions that further divide us from one another.

We Christians believe that the holy heart of Jesus offers comfort, healing and hope to all who turn to him. As St. Margaret Mary writes, the Sacred Heart “will make up for what is wanting in your imperfect actions and sanctify your good ones if only you conform yourself to everything in his holy will.” When we are hurting, afraid or ashamed of our sinfulness, we have only to gaze on the image of Jesus Christ, with his heart open and vulnerable to all, including his enemies, and offer him “this poor heart of mine.”

Jesus welcomes us in spite of our unworthiness. He opens his heart to us—not to condescend to us or punish us for our sins, but to forgive us and show us a better way to live. That’s why we pray: Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. The holy heart of Jesus overflows with life-giving grace to guide us, protect us from all evil and open for us the gates of heaven. What’s required of us is openness to God’s will, and the readiness to accept the gifts of divine mercy and tenderness that Jesus offers us unconditionally.

God’s boundless mercy does not condemn us, but it does make demands on us. It requires us to change our minds and hearts and to strive to follow Jesus without counting the cost. None of us is perfect in our discipleship, but devotion to the Sacred Heart can encourage us to encounter the person of Jesus Christ and grow spiritually in our baptismal vocation to know, love and serve God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should not be just a superficial or sentimental expression of piety. It should be a genuine openness to the Lord’s tender mercy and a commitment to changing our minds and hearts in conformity to God’s will.

Let’s pray for the grace to meet Jesus where we are—in need of his love and forgiveness, and confident in his boundless mercy. †

Local site Links: