The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus [A]
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 + 1 John 4:7-16 + Matthew 11:25-30
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.
Tomorrow the Church honors the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the heart of her who was never touched by any sin, but instead is “full of grace”. Of course, Jesus is sinless also, sharing in the divinity of His Father, so we could speak of the Immaculate Heart of Jesus. But today we are celebrating instead the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus.
To be “sacred” means “to be set aside for a special purpose.” What, then, is the purpose of Jesus’ heart? The heart is obviously a human aspect of who Jesus is. It certainly expresses the love of God the Son, for as Saint John the Beloved Disciple tells us, “God is love”. As God, in his divinity, the Son of course has no physical heart—we can say only that the Godhead possesses a heart in a metaphorical sense—but in His humanity Jesus possesses a physical heart, beating within His Body, pumping His life-blood to all its parts.
What does it mean then to say that Jesus, as human, has a heart? It means that He is capable of suffering. To have a heart means to be able to be broken, to be weak, to be vulnerable. This is “the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love”: that He would carry a Cross and die upon it for us, in order to open the gates of Heaven for the redemption of our darkened, sinful hearts.
This is the special purpose of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the reason for the Incarnation. This is what Jesus’ heart was set aside for: that it would be broken, that it would be pierced. But far be it from us only to give thanks before an image of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart is a person to be imitated.
We do not celebrate the feast of “the Sacred Intellect of Jesus”. Nor do we celebrate the feast of “the Sacred Memory”. We celebrate the “Sacred Heart” because of the importance of the capacity of God and man to will: that is, to choose. God’s will always chooses love, because “God is love”, and because “love consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins.”
The Sacred Heart is a person to be imitated. The heart pumps blood to the entire body, and as Jesus’ members we share in that life-blood: we share in the offering for our sins that Christ sacrificed on the Cross and memorialized sacramentally at His Last Supper. The sacred meal of Holy Mass is “set aside”: its purpose is our sanctification, that our hearts might become more capable of being broken for the salvation of others, and “attain to the fullness of God Himself.”