Friday, June 7, 2024

Love to the End


In his book, Mercy: The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life, Walter Cardinal Kasper, considered the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which the Church celebrates today. "In many centuries," Kasper wrote, "veneration of the sacred heart of Jesus functioned as a special expression of faith in God's love and mercy." In Jesus' heart, "we recognize that God himself has a heart for us, who are poor, in the broadest sense of the word, and that he is, therefore, merciful. In this way, the heart of Jesus is an emblem of God's love, which became incarnate in Jesus Christ."


Historically, the devotion to the Sacred Heart has been strongly associated with the Jesuits, who have promoted it vigorously over the centuries.


John’s Gospel’s account of the death of Jesus on the Cross highlights the blood and water which flowed from the dead Christ’s side, traditionally seen as a symbolic birth of the Church through the sacraments of baptism and eucharist. Thus, according to the 13th-century Franciscan, Saint Bonaventure, Jesus’ side was pierced so that the Church might be formed from his side as he slept on the Cross, and, when the blood and water gushed forth, the price of our salvation might be poured out as if issuing from the hidden fountain of his Heart and might give power to the sacraments of the Church to bestow the life of grace. In the same place, Saint Bonaventure addressed Christ in these words: “to this end was your side pierced, that an entry might be open to us. To this end was your heart wounded, that in it we might be able to dwell secure from alarms from without.”


The recognition of the love of God for us expressed in the heart of his Son took on a special importance in a period in the Church’s history when devotion seemed to have cooled and God’s love had become an abstraction. Now again, on this annual solemnity of the Sacred Heart, this message of God’s overwhelming love and mercy may be important to recall now and to meditate upon on now in this cold-hearted and troubled time. 


Homily for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, June 7, 2024.

Photo: Altar of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, on wich are inscribed the words Dilexit nos in finem ("He loved us to the end"). Above the German-carved statue of Jesus inviting all to take refuge in his Sacred Heart is a painting of the Blessed Sacrament in a Monstrance, adored by Angels, with above it the Holy Spirit portrayed as a Dove.

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