Friday, June 8, 2018

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today, Friday, June 8, we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The human heart has, since antiquity, been associated with love. God is love (1 John 4:8). Jesus Christ's Most Sacred Heart is burning with a love far greater than any of us can ever imagine. Because of his love for us, God created us, became human and chose death on the Cross, and gives us his grace and the opportunity to be with him in heaven. The Sacred Heart of Jesus has been pierced with the Crown of Thorns and nailed to the Cross, and it is constantly hurt by our sins. However, Jesus's love for us is infinite.

Thus, we worship and adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and we pray to God to make our hearts like his Sacred Heart, so that we can love God and one another as he loved us. This was Jesus's commandment to his apostles at the Last Supper (John 13:34). Being the weak and imperfect humans we are, we can never truly love as Jesus loves, but Jesus Christ commands us to always strive for that divine perfection (Matthew 5:48).

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus goes all the way back to the apostles, who had tremendous devotion to God's love for us. Explicit devotion to the Heart of Jesus started in the eleventh century, and it continued to grow in popularity over the ensuing centuries. By the seventeenth century, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus began to be celebrated in some local communities.

This feast became particularly widespread in 1673, when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received visions from our Lord regarding his Sacred Heart. He said to her, “Behold this heart, which, notwithstanding the burning love for man with which it is consumed and exhausted, meets with no other return from the generality of Christians than sacrilege, contempt, indifference, and ingratitude.” Jesus requested in these visions that we receive Holy Communion on the first Friday of each month. He also requested that, on Thursdays, we spend a holy hour in adoration of him in the Blessed Sacrament while meditating on his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, in which he admonished his apostles, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (Matthew 26:40).

These devotions are now widespread in Catholic parishes. Unless there is a major feast, the Mass on the first Friday of each month is the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1856, Pope Pius IX made the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus a universal feast. Finally, in 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated all of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is always celebrated on the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost, and thus it is the final feast whose date is dependent on that of Easter. On the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter, we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit on the apostles and the birth of the Catholic Church. In 2018, His Holiness Pope Francis declared the day after Pentecost (Pentecost Monday) to be the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. On the Sunday following Pentecost, we celebrate the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, which has now been fully revealed. On the following Thursday, we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, celebrating the Holy Eucharist. Finally, on Friday of the following week, we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Thus, in the trail of feasts following Pentecost, we celebrate the various facets of our redemption—our Blessed Mother's patronage of the Church, the revelation of the Holy Trinity, the Body and Blood of Christ made present in the Holy Mass, and finally our Lord's passionate and infinite love for us.

Let us look at some of the propers of the Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and how they unite us better to God and to his Sacred Heart. The Introit at Mass is taken from Psalm 32:11, 19, which is a psalm of praise to God. This verse begins by mentioning the Sacred Heart of Jesus, lauds the good works that God has done for us, and, like many psalms, foreshadows the loving work of our redemption.

Cogitatiónes Cordis eius in generatióne et generatiónem: ut éruat a morte ánimas eórum et alat eos in fame.
Exsultáte, iusti, in Dómino: rectos decet collaudátio.
Glória Patri, et Fílio, et Spirítui Sancto.
Sicut erat in princípio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculórum. Amen
Cogitatiónes Cordis eius in generatióne et generatiónem: ut éruat a morte ánimas eórum et alat eos in fame.
The thoughts of his heart are to all generations: to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
The thoughts of his heart are to all generations: to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.

The Epistle is taken from St. Paul's Letter to the Ephesians (3:8-12, 14-19). St. Paul praises God first for his own conversion and then continues to praise the infinite love of Christ. He prays that Christ may dwell in our hearts so that we may know the charity of God, making our hearts like the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Fratres: Mihi, ómnium sanctórum mínimo, data est grátia hæc, in géntibus evangelizáre investigábiles divítias Christi, et illumináre omnes, quæ sit dispensátio sacraménti abscónditi a saeculis in Deo, qui ómnia creávit: ut innotéscat principátibus et potestátibus in coeléstibus per Ecclésiam multifórmis sapiéntia Dei, secúndum præfinitiónem sæculórum, quam fecit in Christo Iesu, Dómino nostro, in quo habémus fidúciam et accéssum in confidéntia per fidem eius. Huius rei grátia flecto génua mea ad Patrem Dómini nostri Iesu Christi, ex quo omnis patérnitas in coelis ei in terra nominátur, ut det vobis, secúndum divítias glóriæ suæ, virtúte corroborári per Spíritum eius in interiórem hóminem, Christum habitáre per fidem in córdibus vestris: in caritáte radicáti et fundáti, ut póssitis comprehéndere cum ómnibus sanctis, quæ sit latitúdo, et longitúdo, et sublímitas, et profúndum: scire étiam supereminéntem sciéntiæ caritátem Christi, ut impleámini in omnem plenitúdinem Dei. Brethren: To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God, who created all things: that the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church, according to the eternal purpose, which he made, in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him. For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man, that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that being rooted and founded in charity, you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and height, and depth: to know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge, that you may be filled unto all the fulness of God.

The Gradual is taken from Psalm 24:8-9. This psalm, sung in the Divine Office on Tuesday at Prime, has a theme of trusting in the Lord and confiding ourselves in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. These couple verses continue the theme from the Epistle of praising God's love for us. This moves into the Alleluia verse, taken from Matthew 11:29. Jesus invites everyone to follow him and commit themselves to his Sacred Heart.

Dulcis et rectus Dóminus: propter hoc legem dabit delinquéntibus in via. Díriget mansúetos in iudício, docébit mites vias suas.

Allelúia, allelúia. Tóllite iugum meum super vos, et díscite a me, quia mitis sum et húmilis corde, et inveniétis réquiem animábus vestris. Allelúia.
The Lord is sweet and righteous: therefore he will give a law to sinners in the way. He will guide the mild in judgment: he will teach the meek his ways.
Alleluia, alleluia. Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. Alleluia.

This leads into the Gospel, which is taken from St. John's account of the Sacred Heart of Jesus's most perfect act of love for us: his death on the Cross (John 19:31-37). Specifically, we hear about the soldier piercing our Lord's side with the lance. From his side flowed wine and water, which show us his dual nature as God and man. Because of his divine love for us, Jesus endured the worst possible human suffering. Thus, this passage shows us the true, divine, selfless love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In illo témpore: Iudaei quóniam Parascéve erat, ut non remanérent in cruce córpora sábbato, erat enim magnus dies ille sábbati, rogavérunt Pilátum, ut frangeréntur eórum crura, et tolleréntur. Venérunt ergo mílites: et primi quidem fregérunt crura et alteríus, qui crucifíxus est cum eo. Ad Iesum autem cum veníssent, ut vidérunt eum iam mórtuum, non fregérunt eius crura, sed unus mílitum láncea latus eius apéruit, et contínuo exívit sanguis et aqua. Et qui vidit, testimónium perhíbuit: et verum est testimónium eius. Et ille scit quia vera dicit, ut et vos credátis. Facta sunt enim hæc ut Scriptúra implerétur: Os non comminuétis ex eo. Et íterum alia Scriptúra dicit: Vidébunt in quem transfixérunt. Then the Jews, (because it was the parasceve,) that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath day, (for that was a great sabbath day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened his side, and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it, hath given testimony, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true; that you also may believe. For these things were done, that the scripture might be fulfilled: You shall not break a bone of him. And again another scripture saith: They shall look on him whom they pierced.

Finally, the Offertory verse is taken from Psalm 68:21. It laments the offenses and sins committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus, echoing the words that our Lord himself said to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in her vision.

Impropérium exspectávi Cor meum et misériam: et sustínui, qui simul mecum contristarétur, et non fuit: consolántem me quæsívi, et non invéni. My heart hath expected reproach and misery. And I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none: and for one that would comfort me, and I found none.

Since before the beginning of time, the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been burning with a passionate love for us, far greater than we can ever possibly comprehend. Let us strive to respond to this love, not with the sin that has hurt his Sacred Heart so much, but with our own passionate love for Jesus Christ and for each other. Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

(P.S. Under the current canon law, which is binding on all Catholics, there is no obligation of penance or abstinence from meat or today. Under the 1962 discipline, which is not binding on anyone but may be observed as a matter of personal devotion, there is the usual Friday obligation of abstinence from meat.)

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