The Sacred Heart
Friday is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion which has resulted in some of the most hideous statues in the Catholic religion (with the possible exception of the Holy Infant of Prague!) You have all seen the kind that show Jesus holding his heart, with a little flame coming out of the top. This particular form of the devotion spawned the child’s question” “Mommy, who’s the lady with the tomato?”
But behind all the sugary kitsch, there is a solid truth of our Faith, namely that “God so loved the world that he sent his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him may have everlasting life”. This love of God was demonstrated most fully when Jesus went to the Cross and died for love of mankind. The doctrine of the Sacred Heart is just a version of the devotion which has always existed to our Lord’s saving death.
The soldier’s spear pierced his side and entered his heart and “forthwith came there our blood and water”, an effect, I am told, which is medically exact, but which the Church has always taken as a foreshadowing of the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. Thus, the heart of Jesus, the organ that pumps the life-giving blood round our bodies, the seat (it was believed) of the emotions (hence the St Valentine’s Day cards), was pierced by the spear, and is still pierced and wounded by every sin we commit.
The images of the Sacred Heart may be tasteless, but so was the Crucifixion. The doctrine of the Sacred Heart may have been overlaid with sugary sentimentality, but at its core it restates the wonderful fact that, no matter how sinful we are, God still loves us and longs for us to share his eternal life.
At the centre of the Universe, the Christian Gospel proclaims, is a Heart of Love, burning with a strength greater than a billion galaxies, a Heart that will never be satisfied till we have all been filled to capacity with the same love. Then real life will truly begin, all selfishness and pride having been burned away in that divine furnace. The pain of the fire of God, lighting up and burning away our sins, will be transformed into the warmth of the fire of God, the love of God, fueling our eternal life.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy upon us!