On Friday, the Church celebrates the great Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which sets the devotional tone for the month of June, which is dedicated to His Heart. This feast connects nicely with the feasts of the Blessed Trinity and Holy Eucharist, revealing in human terms the profound Love at the root of reality and salvation. The Heart of Jesus also leads us forward to celebrate well the coming feasts at the end of this month, the Birth of John the Baptist and the glorious Princes of the Apostles, Peter and Paul. Both the Precursor and the chosen Apostles are true witnesses to and extensions of Jesus’s Heart, especially in their laying down their lives for Him in martyrdom.
The mystery of the Sacred Heart places before us the truth of the accessibility of salvation. It was prophesied to St. Gertrude the Great, who is the foundress of this devotion, that devotion to Our Lord’s Heart would only be given to the universal Church when her love had grown cold. This coldness of love was especially brought about by the heresies of Protestantism and Jansenism, which both deny, in their own way, the possibility of real holiness. The revelation of Divine Love in the human Heart of Jesus is a kind of catalyst for us to trust in Him, to rely only upon His grace, which flows entirely to us from the Blessed Trinity through the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ.
One is struck, in the light of this feast, by the importance of orthodox doctrine concerning the mystery of Jesus Christ, especially as regards His Sacred Humanity. St. John teaches us in the Gospel that “the Law came through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ,” and also that “from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus depends upon the doctrine that His humanity is full of all the treasures of salvation. In the Litany of the Sacred Heart, we invoke Him as full of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, from whose fullness we have all received. This piety and devotion is based on sound doctrine: from the first moment of His conception in the womb of Blessed Mary, Jesus Christ is all-holy, anointed perfectly in His humanity by the Beatific Vision of God and the fullness of saving grace. All that we hope for, all the treasures of salvation, are contained in His Sacred Humanity. Even His Resurrection, in which we hope to share, was contained in seed-form in the glory (since it is nothing other than the overflow of glory into His body) enjoyed by His soul from that first moment of its existence.
This feast of the Sacred Heart, then, is an opportunity for us to engage in a kind of Christological purification of an intellectual sort. We ought to take seriously the task of learning Who Jesus is and what He is like. We ought to study deeply, guided by the tradition of the Church, His identity and mission, how His divine and human natures interact, how His humanity is really human and truly salvific. The feast of the Sacred Heart, then, is a kind of feast of Jesus’s true identity as Savior and Place of Salvation. Let us rejoice to enter deeply into this mystery, drinking from the water and blood which flow from His side opened for us!
Reverend Father Joseph Previtali