Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Across the centuries writers of prose and poetry have taken such liberties with the word ‘heart’, so much so that in the English language we are swamped by the use of ‘heart’ to describe so many varied situations. One can be ‘heart-broken’, emotions can be heart-felt, one can love with all one’s heart, a cruel person can be cold-hearted and a kind person warm hearted, secrets or another person can be held in one’s heart, compassion seems to flow from the heart or when we want to speak at our deepest, most vulnerable level we speak ‘from the heart’.
Perhaps because a heartbeat is the first sound a baby ever hears (that is, the beating of a mother’s heart is very loud within the womb), we tend to unconsciously associate the heart with the reality of love, protection and belonging as well.
Of course, and this seems true across all cultures, the heart represents the life force or essence of a person. And why not, for from the moment of its formation in our developing body within the womb till our dying breath, this muscle beats unendingly and faithfully keeping our body alive and well.
Today’s’ scriptures utilise the image of heart in similar ways. Hosea speaks of God’s heart being full of love and of God as the one who lifts an infant to his very cheek in an embrace. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians speaks of Christ dwelling in our hearts. And in our gospel text John speaks of blood and water rushing from the side of Jesus which in itself bears witness to the physical pain he bore and the heart’s role in keeping him alive till it was overwhelmed and he had breathed his last.
Today’s Feast – that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – places our prayers within a similar, symbolic setting. The Feast celebrates the fact that all through the gospel passages we see Jesus’ ‘heart’ revealed to us in a myriad of ways which one might best interpret not necessarily as theologians, but through the lens of a poet. Jesus feels peoples pain and is moved to reach out to them from his very heart, he constantly interprets the law and life itself through the lens of a compassion that we associated with heart-felt love of others. He is particularly attuned to the situations of women and children, the poor and dispossessed, the outcastes and sinner – all of this awareness flows from a heart full of love. His heart is our safe haven, let us welcome him into our hearts in turn.
O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. (from the prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus).
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia. He currently serves on the General Council and is stationed in Rome.