Sacred Heart: An Exchange of Hearts

Author: Fr. Michael Thomas, C.S.C.

Sacred Heart of Jesus Stained Glass, St George's College, Chile

Christianity does not blossom from ethical commitments or philosophical convictions: it is the result of an “encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (Deus Caritas Est, par. 1). The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the celebration of that encounter, in which our hearts catch fire with the burning love of the heart of Christ’s own burning heart.

Christ is not an idea, a metaphor, an aspiration, a dream: he is a person, with a heart. It is the desire, joy, suffering, and delight of the heart of Jesus Christ that shapes the contours of our hearts. Christ is the measure. His heart is the sanctuary of his person.

This feast is a celebration of: 1) the heart of Jesus as worthy of praise of itself; 2) our transformation into the person of Christ; 3) the burning love of Christ as the source of all ministerial zeal.

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The first dimension of this feast is celebration, awe, and thanksgiving: the fullness of God is contained and revealed within a human heart! Our reaction upon contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not in the first instance a moral conviction, or a philosophical solution, but a shout, a whooping, a dance of delight, with tears and a stirring of “desire.” Blessed Basile Moreau leads into a celebration of the incarnation: how can you “refuse homage” to this tender and compassionate heart, which “comes from the hands of God,” and is part of the body of Christ in which is contained “all the mysteries of our salvation.” The heart of Christ is love made flesh, beating before our eyes.

But it is not enough to rejoice in this object: the heart of Jesus burns and transforms our own hearts. Moreau offers us the image of an exchange of hearts, an offering of our own, which is brittle, shallow, and weak, to catch flame from the heart which burns with love for humanity. Moreau instructs his religious, “[a]dore him by offering him your own heart which he never scorns, unworthy though it is.” It is a “delight” to be “one in heart with those we love,” and therefore the supreme delight to be of one heart with humankind’s greatest lover, Jesus.

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Finally, we find the source of all ministerial zeal in the heart of Jesus. Moreau places the words of the Psalmist in the mouth of Christ, “My heart has but one longing and one desire: the salvation of men and women.” (Psalm 27:4). And when this longing and desire is poured into our own hearts, we exclaim with Jesus: “You have put into my heart a marvelous love for the faithful who dwell in the land.” (Psalm 16:3). This love, which we have known, is nothing other than our own hearts catching fire with flames of Christ’s heart. To love what he loves as he loves it. To live the life of Jesus in our own life, with our hearts beating in harmony with his. The final product of a heart “plunge[d] […] into this divine fire whose hearth is the Sacred Heart of Jesus” is a “strong, sturdy apostle's heart, overflowing with an immense love for God and for neighbor.”

This reflection for the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Patronal Feast of the Priests of Holy Cross, was written by Fr. Michael Thomas, C.S.C. Mr. Thomas was just ordained a priest on April 27, 2019. He currently lives and works at St. George's College in Santiago, Chile, which is a part of the District of Chile-Peru.

All citations in this reflection from Moreau are taken from the Eighth Day of Week Three of Moreau's Spiritual Exercises.