The Friday following the Second Sunday after Pentecost, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For our Congregation of Holy Cross, it is one of the titular feasts, thanks to a papal indult received by Blessed Basile Moreau in 1854.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been around since the early days of the Church as the Church meditated on open side and heart of Jesus from which flowed blood and water (John 19:34). But in modern times, there has been new development in this devotion especially with the revelations given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (+1690), to whom the Lord repeatedly showed the riches of His heart; and to St. John Eudes (+ 1680), who promoted the liturgical worship of the Sacred Heart. In 1856, the Feast of the Sacred Heart was extended to the Universal Church. France was consecrated to the Sacred Heart in 1871.
From this context, we can understand the reasoning behind the devotion that our founder, Father Moreau, had to the Sacred Heart, and, from there, one of the emphases in his and our spirituality – namely, the imitatio Christi or the imitation of Christ. We see this reflected in his writings, especially in his 1833 sermon explaining why we should adopt this devotion. One of the main reasons is that this devotion offers us "a model to imitate.” Our duty is to conform our own heart to that of Our Lord Jesus, in such a way that we come to have the mind of Christ (Phil 2: 5).
Personally, upon meditating on what Father Moreau offers us his sermon dedicated to the Sacred Heart, one of the points that has had a great impact on me and that I think applies to our lives as religious at all times is his reflection Moreau makes on Matthew 15: 8 – "This people honors me with their lips but their hearts are far from me." Regarding this, Fr. Moreau asks the question: Is there perhaps some of us to whom our Lord could say this humiliating rebuke? He continues saying that it is not unusual to find even in religious life hearts whose disposition is totally opposite to the heart of Jesus.
How is this opposition manifested according to Father Moreau? He says, "There are hearts that are irritated by the slightest affront, hearts not interested in the unfortunate, spoiled hearts that wallow in the mud of the shameful pleasures, whose chains cannot be broken. There are hearts full of anger and bitterness, that abuse the patience of others with the extravagances of their disposition, the transports of their anger, the harshness of their hatred, and the scandalous uproar of their fights. There are lazy, lukewarm hearts, with energy for nothing, in which the faith shows forth only week and dying.”
When we read these words of Fr. Moreau, they appear hard to us and we wonder if it is possible that in religious life there is place for such hearts. The truth is that we must be vigilant and not let our hearts harden and be conformed to the things of this world rather than being conformed to Christ. Recently Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium warns of three evils affecting agents of evangelization and even consecrated persons. He says that even though they pray, there is “a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity, and a cooling of fervor. These are three evils which fuel one another” (EG 78).
The danger is always there; our hearts can easily be misled by the heightened concern of our personal spaces, think only of ourselves, thus falling into individualism; by a heart distracted aimlessly to the danger point of not having a clear identity of who we are; by a lukewarm heart, without any energy at all, without any zeal to announce the good news, thus falling into the loss of the fervor in our commitment to Christ.
One of the devotions to the Sacred Heart is to make an act of reparation. Thus trusting in His heart that pours out mercy, let us make an act of reparation for our coldness, for our lack of zeal, for our laziness to announce His infinite love. Let us follow the recommendation of our holy founder:
"Let us enter into this heart forever loving and so prolific in good deeds, especially those of us honored to be priests and charged with bringing others into His heart. Let us celebrate the holy mysteries within the heart of Jesus; let us recite our office there, let us hear the confessions of our penitents there, and let us proclaim God’s word there; in a word, let us fulfill all our duties there and he will permeate the work of our ministry with the most abundant blessings."
This reflection was written for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Fr. Alfredo Olvera Ledezma, C.S.C. Origially from Mexico, Fr. Alfredo is currently studying spirituality at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy.