Fr Billy Swan
Friday 11th June, is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Many of us would have grown up with a picture of the Sacred Heart in our kitchens. Many of them had a red lamp lighting in front of the Sacred Heart that symbolised the constancy of God’s love in our homes (although it was also the first thing you looked at to check to see if there was a power cut!). But what does the feast day mean to us now?
The feast of the Sacred Heart is about the heart of Jesus filled with love for humanity that always seeks to reach out in solidarity and love. This is where we begin and the truth that gives us hope – ‘God loved us first’. Here is the great love that we proclaim first, at all times and in all circumstances - that God has a place in his heart for people like you and me and a place in his plans for all of us. On the cross, the loving heart of Jesus was pierced and wounded to show how much God’s love was prepared to endure. God’s heart suffers for the ones he loves. The gushing forth of blood and water from his heart represents the sacraments of Eucharist in baptism where God comes to meet us and renews us in his love time and time again. As water and blood poured out of his heart so his love and mercy pours out from the sacraments to offer us his divine life and healing.
But this feast is also about our hearts. It is about the love of God’s heart reaching and moving ours. What does that mean? The late Blessed Cardinal Henry Newman’s motto was ‘heart speaks to heart’: the human love of Christ speaks to or engages with the human heart and every aspect of our humanity: our past, present and future; our emotions, our memory, anxiety, hopes, imagination, sins, wounds, sexuality, need to love and be loved, talents, creativity, physical health and finally our deaths (the full list of the components of our humanity is much longer). Christianity is a religion of the heart. It speaks to the heart and lifts up the heart to new heights and horizons. As the philosopher Aristotle once said ‘educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all’. This is why St Paul could pray for fellow believers that ‘the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you might know the hope to which he has called you’ (Eph. 1:18). Before the Feast of the Sacred Heart ends today, may the merciful love of the heart of Jesus warm our hearts so that we may have a heart ever more like His.
I conclude with a beautiful quote from a poem by the Irish writer Tadhg Gaelach Ó Súilleabháin who reflects here on the life of Christ:
‘Though you strayed away from heaven, O dearest King,
To torment here in ways beyond conception,
The sword that gutted your side, O Loving Christ,
Made a home in your heart to refuge the world wide’ (Poem of the Heart of Jesus).