The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as we all know, is an important occasion for Holy Cross, as that marks the patronal feast of our priests. However, besides being particularly important for all Holy Cross members, it is a unique occasion in the life of the Church. As such, every Christian and for that matter every Catholic may ask: Of what relevance is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to us? What does this celebration remind us of and how significant is it in our Christian discipleship today?
The human heart is located in a place in the body that is not visible to the eye. However, it plays a very important role in the functioning and vitality of the body. Biologists and human anatomists hold the conviction that the heart pumps about 100,000 times a day. This pumping action is to keep the blood flowing, thus giving life to the human person. Without the heart, so to speak, there is no life. One can therefore identify the heart with the very self of the human being; the heart is you and you are the heart.
For us as humans, the heart may also be perceived as the seat of our emotions and especially of love. It can be said that the heart is the wellspring of our emotional life and especially of our love. It therefore comes as no surprise that the heart is generally seen as the symbol of life and love. The heart is the center of our being as humans.
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The Sacred Heart of Jesus, therefore, may be seen to express the unconditional, the unquenchable, and the inexhaustible and self-giving love of God that brings life to humankind. Love is the motive for all that Jesus was about -- the sole reason for the incarnation, the ministry, the passion, the death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And this love that flowed from Jesus, the bearer of the Sacred Heart (cf Jn 3:16), enabled Jesus give life to humanity. The lame walked; the blind could see; the dead were raised; and above all the human race attained salvation through the supreme and ultimate sacrifice of Jesus -- a sacrifice borne out of deep love for the world. The love was sacred; the love was pure, the love was genuine, the love was total, the love was visible and real, and that love flowed from the heart of Jesus; the Sacred Heart, the heart devoid of all stain of sin (cf Hebrews. 4:15).
Like the human heart that remains hidden in the body, enclosed in the rib-cage, yet performs very significant and important function in the sustenance and the vitality of the body, so is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The love from the Sacred Heart remains a mystery, yet sustains and gives life to humanity. A love that is scandalous to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks (cf 1Cor. 1:23); because it transcends human understanding and comprehension, for God to empty Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself the form of a servant (cf Phil. 2:6ff), all just for the full and unflinching love and salvation of humanity.
What greater love can one give than to lay down his life for his friends? Even on the cross, the Sacred Heart of Jesus was wounded by piercing with a lance (Jn 19:34). According to Pope Pius XII, this cruel act of piercing was perpetrated on Jesus “so that through the visible wound we may behold the invisible wound of love” (cf. Haurietis aquas, 87).
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How do we, as humans and beneficiaries of this total and self-giving love, respond to the Sacred Heart of Jesus? We cannot but take seriously the commandment of Jesus to “love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34). The Sacred Heart of Jesus therefore is the image and the symbol that expresses the mission of the disciple of Jesus Christ, the beneficiary of this unflinching divine love. The mission of the disciple is therefore to proclaim the infinite and the self-giving love of the Sacred Heart to the world, and to engage in concrete activities that give life and vitality to the world. Having received a share in this infinite, total, unflinching, inexhaustible and self giving love of God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ, the disciple has the binding responsibility to witness this love in words and deeds.
Witnessing to the love as manifested by the Sacred Heart means to bring all peoples, especially the poor, the needy and the disadvantaged, to encounter and have a share in this love. This calls for a deepening in our commitment to Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC). With this mission, we would do well to heed to the exhortation of Pope Francis in the Encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium, that “each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society … it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter” (EG 187-188).
This reflection for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Patronal Feast of the Priests of Holy Cross, was written by Br. Nicholas Arthur, C.S.C. Br. Arthur is a member of the District of West Africa, where he works as a teacher. He is also the Fifth General Assistant of the Congregation of Holy Cross.