We are well into the month of June, and many of us are are celebrating warm weather and clear skies with barbecues, vacations, and time outdoors. But there is another aspect of this month that is often forgotten: Holy Church has dedicated June to the veneration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Sadly, devotion to the Sacred Heart has been all but abandoned in recent decades. It is deemed by many who disdain tradition to be an outmoded devotion—a relic of a distant past that they would rather forget. But devotion to the Sacred Heart is not a devotion specific to one time or place. It is always relevant to us, and now more than ever. I want to give you four reasons to love and honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
1. It is the heart of a real man – It is hard for us to understand just how profound a mystery it is for God to have taken on human flesh. It is the central mystery of our Faith. The Most High God, the Ineffable One, the Lord whom angels worship with veiled faces…became a man. He embraced our weakness and our frailty. He sweat. He bled. He cried. He labored and loved and suffered. He knew the paralyzing grip of fear, he felt anger, and he knew what it meant to be exhausted.
In the Sacred Heart, we see a heart both human and Divine, but most of all a heart of flesh. The Sacred Heart reminds that Christ didn’t just embrace some of our humanity, but all of it. This should bring us comfort, “for we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning” (Heb. 4:15).
2. It is a heart on fire with love – The Sacred Heart is a burning heart. It is a heart consumed with love for humanity—but not an abstract humanity. Christ loves each of us as if we were the only soul he ever created. He would have carried out the entire drama of redemption for you alone. The Sacred Heart is a reminder and a promise that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,” and that “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
In our moments of weakness and failure, it is easy to grow discouraged and to lose hope. It is so easy to believe that God must hate us, that he has rejected us and condemned us to the fires of hell. In such moments, we should gaze upon the Sacred Heart, for there we will not see judgement and anger, but rather we will see the inexhaustible love of our God and Savior who loves us and gave himself for us.
3. It is a wounded heart – Suffering is a part of the human condition. All of us, at some point, will suffer. The Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us that our God knows what it means to suffer. His Sacred Heart is pierced, it is surrounded by thorns. His was a heart that knew the pain of betrayal, of physical suffering, and of being abandoned by all.
Sometimes we are tempted to believe that Christ didn’t really suffer like we did; that perhaps it was all play acting and going through the motions. We assume he possessed some Divine advantage that made his suffering different and somehow less painful. But this is not the case. The only advantage Christ’s Divinity gave him was the ability to suffer more than any other human could have. His suffering was so great that it would have killed you and I.
Never believe for a moment that Christ cannot identify with your pain, however grave it may be. The Sacred Heart is wounded and pierced. It is a suffering and bleeding heart, and it reminds us that “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
4. It is a strong heart – Our society sees in both love and suffering a display of weakness. Accordingly, we fear to suffer and we are afraid of love. But though it is consumed by love and pierced by suffering, the Sacred Heart is not a weak heart. It is the heart of a lion—the Lion of the tribe of Judah. It is a fierce heart, a courageous heart, the heart of a triumphant king. This pierced and bleeding heart? It is the heart of a warrior: “The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name” (Exodus 15:3). “Who is the King of Glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!” (Psalm 24:8).
I believe the weak and sentimental pictures of the Sacred Heart do a great disservice to our Lord. Love and suffering are not equivalent to weakness. Rather, it was the very strength and courage of Christ’s manly and holy heart that enabled him to suffer more than any other human has ever suffered and survive. It is with all the strength of his heart that he loves us. When we gaze on the Sacred Heart, let us never forget that, far from being weak, the heart of Christ is “a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10).
During this month of June, I would encourage you to meditate on the heart of Christ. Ponder his goodness, his mercy, his justice, his courage, and his sufferings. Contemplate what he loves, what he hates, and what he desires. And most of all, consider his self-emptying and self-sacrificing love for you.
Then, ask him humbly to make your heart like his own.