Devotion To The Sacred Heart: A Gesture of Love and Gratitude
While drafting this article, I happened to browse through the pages of USCCB’s (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops) website specifically its daily readings and the liturgical calendar. I found out that the month of June is filled with remarkable feast days about God, starting from the Pentecost Sunday (God the Holy Spirit), followed by the Blessed Trinity (God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), the Corpus Christi (Body and Blood of Jesus Christ), as well as the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The month of June is known as the wedding month but I never thought that it could be such a blessed and holy month. In fact, the whole month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On a personal note, “June” incidentally is my birth month (hmmnn) and I am truly glad that the said important feast days are being commemorated same month as mine! Indeed, what a blessing!
Of the said feast days, it is surprising that the importance of the devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (whose Solemnity falls today, 24th of June) is one topic I haven’t really touched yet even if the feast of the Sacred Heart is relatively popular and is most widely practiced Catholic observance, particularly for Filipino Catholics. Almost Catholics are familiar about the feast of the Sacred Heart. In fact, our family loves the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Some family members are devotees and promoters of the Sacred Heart. My mother (who is now in Heaven) was a fervent devotee of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and she was the reason why all of her children came to know about the said feast day. Apart from being a daily mass goer, the First Friday masses were very most special to her and she would proudly wear the red Scapular of the Sacred Heart whenever she went to mass and received the Holy Communion. She would recite the Novena to the Sacred Heart by heart. Guess what, I learned from her two of my favorite “classic” religious songs: “O Sacred Heart, O Love Divine” and the “Heart of Jesus Meek and Mild”! We used to sing this together when she was still around, those happy yesteryears, ahhh fond memories!
Until this time, the brief prayer of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has been a part of our family’s daily prayer which is often recited at the tail end of our conversation with God: Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us”, followed by the Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Joseph prayers. These short prayers were passed on to us from generation to generation by people who have been responsible in imparting knowledge about God, particularly in catholic schools run by religious nuns and priests.
Some of you may have in your respective homes a statue or a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ, whatever it may be (could be any form of sacramental: a crucifix or any picture perhaps). Has there been an instance where you tried looking at it intently? How was your experience? While these statues and images may only serve as symbols for God’s love for all of us, they also make us more closer to God especially during prayer time. At times, when I gaze upon the image of Jesus, I can’t avoid to get emotional especially during trying times. It seems our Lord God is also gazing down at me listening to what I say. The environment could probably be much gloomier seeing an image wherein Jesus’ Heart is exposed outside His body – with a knife going through it and a crown of thorns surrounding the same. That’s a very harrowing image to look at but at the same time there is a feeling of guilt because of our wrongdoings which led to Jesus’ sufferings and sorrows. This image of the Sacred Heart portrays God’s overflowing love and kindness for mankind saving us all from sin and sharing with us His flaming love that is blazing with joy. This image of the Sacred Heart is similar to that of the Divine Mercy wherein Jesus Heart flowed out blood and water, which according to St. Faustina in her diary, serve as a fountain for mercy and compassion for us all. This is precisely the essence of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. It may not be adequate to look at the picture of the Sacred Heart and to be grateful for His love, but we also have to be motivated to open ourselves to God, to love and honor Him as our God and Savior and to live in obedience to His will. He came down from heaven, laid down His life to save us from damnation, and ultimately His passion and death is a testament of Jesus great love for all of us, regardless of our spiritual life, sinners or saints.
Basically, the feast day of the Sacred Heart is being commemorated every year to remind us and continually honor the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts and to be grateful and glorify Him for what He has done for our sake, and to love Him back with all our hearts, minds, souls and strengths. The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is one way of giving back and glorifying God, as a gesture of love and gratitude for creating and giving us life, for saving us and lifting us up when we fall, and for the blessings and graces He has bestowed on us everyday of our lives. But because God opens his heart to us, He is expecting that we open ours to Him and to our neighbors especially those who are in need of love and care, the marginalized and the destitute. It is our turn to seize the graces that our Lord has given us, His LOVE and His WORD and to share it with everyone.
As mentioned by Cora Evans, a devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, loving the Sacred Heart is like loving Jesus Himself, and that the devotion to the Sacred Heart is “filled with beauty and richness as it carries promises; it draws us deeper into the mystery of the divine love of God”. What is amazing is that there are twelve promises to those who maintained a devotion to the Sacred Heart, as revealed by Jesus to St. Margaret: 1.Necessary graces will be given for their state in life; 2. Peace in their families; 3. Comfort in their trials; 4. Secure refuge during life, and, above all, in death; 5. Abundant blessings on all their undertakings; 6. An infinite ocean of mercy for sinners; 7. Lukewarm souls will become fervent; 8. Fervent souls will rapidly grow in holiness and perfection; 9. Will bless every place where an image of the Sacred Heart shall be exposed and honored; 10. Will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts; 11. The names of those who promote this devotion will be written in Jesus’ Heart, never to be blotted out; and 12. Will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in His disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; His Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in the last moment.
Pope Francis, in one of his past homilies on the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, stated, “It is more difficult to let God love us than to love Him! The best way to love Him in return is to open our hearts and let Him love us.” According to the Holy Father, every time we see these statues we are reminded to open ourselves to the love of Christ and give ourselves completely to him as he does. He lays his heart open before us as an example of how to live our lives. The Holy Father in his message to everyone on the first day of June 2022, encouraged Catholics to look to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as a source of love and to bring Christ’s love “to the ends of the earth.” He further stated that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the “source of love and peace”. As such, we have to open ourselves to this “love and take it to the ends of the earth, witnessing to the goodness and mercy that flow from the Heart of Jesus.”
Loving and generous God, we thank you for giving us life and for lifting us up when we fall. We pray and implore for Your mercy and compassion and grant us the graces to go on with our lives. Kindly fill us dear Lord with a burning desire to ask, seek and knock at Your door each day. Teach us dear Lord to walk in Your presence and guide us to the right path that will lead us to Your Kingdom someday. Amen.