Falling in Love: Knowing the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an act of love. 

It is a love that we express through our thoughts, words, or actions to our good God, Who makes His divine love known to us through His Son and through the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the manifestation of human and divine love in Jesus Christ, True Man and True God, Redeemer and King.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals the depths of God’s love for us.

When we speak of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we speak in a single, simple expression of the sensible human love of Jesus.  We speak at the same time of a human love that was infused with a divine love in His soul and His will.  Finally, we speak of a divine love which Jesus shares with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  When we speak of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we are reflecting and discussing fundamentally this: the love of and mercy of Jesus Christ.

“The heart” is the inner-most life of any man, woman, or child.

“The heart of Jesus” is His inner life, which was always radiated truth, goodness, and beauty.

“The Sacred Heart of Jesus” is both His heart of flesh, but also His mercy and love—both as a man and as God.

Such love surpasses human understanding.  Such love led God to become man and face the agonizing death of the Cross—this love demonstrates God’s desire for our redemption and our love.

Devotion is any action in which we freely show ourselves willing to serve God.  Through devotion we offer our talents for His use; we offer of thoughts, actions, and sufferings to Him.  We offer all these things—although God does not need them—for His service and the service of His Church.  All true devotion is offered out of love.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the honor that we show and the service we wish to render for the love of God.  It is love returned for love.  It is a firm response to the action of God in our lives.  It is more than simple honor—the kind that we would show men.  It is the loving worship of the Divine Love by which we were loved first.  God loved us in Jesus and through the Holy Spirit.  Through this Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we love God in return.

Through the devotion of the Sacred Heart, the Church reminds us that love is not something soft, occasional, and sentimental, but strong, enduring and sacrificial.  This understanding of love is the basis for true friendship—human and divine.

The Church teaches that in the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is found the summary of our entire Faith.  Without honor, veneration and love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus only an imperfect understanding of God’s love and mercy will be found.

Love for the Sacred Heart is love shown back for love—

  • The love of God the Creator, Who brought into existence the world and the human race out of sheer love and goodness.
  • The love of God for having chosen to live among men and be their God.
  • The love and mercy of God the Son, Who took on our humanity so that He might freely suffer and die for our redemption.
  • The love of Christ the Teacher who calls us to imitate Him and follow this command: “Love one another as I have loved you.”
  • The love of God the Holy Spirit, who makes Christ known to us and through Whom the love of God is poured into our hearts.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion shown directly to Jesus Christ—

  • Who through the Incarnation guarantees that He understands all that it means to be a human—in its joys and in its hardest trials.
  • Who through the Passion demonstrated the depths of love.
  • Who allowed His Heart to be opened wide on the Cross so that the Church might be born and the whole world would see the depth of His mercy.
  • Who through the Eucharist makes it possible for us to experience the love of His Heart and to be nourished by that love.
  • Who points to His wounded Heart as a pledge of His mercy for us and for all people who turn to him as true God—the incarnate Son of the Father, Who is both fully man and fully divine and Who is the way, truth, and the life for all mankind.

The specific acts of our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, thus, are two: love and reparation.

Our loving Jesus, allows Him to enter our hearts and enlarge their capacity to love—to love God and to love our fellow man.  “Allows Him to enter?”—how is this, some will ask.  God upholds our freedom. He loves us first, but for our lives to bear fruit in this world and lead to salvation in the next, we must unite our hearts with His Heart, our love with His love. We increase in living a virtuous Christian life only to the degree that we seek His grace.  His Sacred Heart is the school of grace.   The will of God the Father is accomplished when are hearts act in union with the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Reparation is any act by which we seek to recognize our sins and reunite ourselves spiritually with God.  Through acts of reparation we work with God to restore the bonds we share with Him and with others.  Acts of reparation are both individual and for the sake of other men and women, even those who we do not know.  Through acts of reparation we participate in healing the wounds caused by sin.

Our Lord has made it known that He thirsts for love.  He has loved man and man returns His love with ingratitude, laziness, and even hatred.  Reparation is one of the most basic lessons learned in the school of charity.

Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can offered through any penance or mortification, but the essence of reparation is the essence of the devotion itself: love.  So, all must be done in a spirit of love.

Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is—like love—displayed and proved most often in actions.

Honoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus has traditionally been made manifest in the following ways:

  1. Offering all your thoughts, words, actions, joys and sufferings to the Sacred Heart—looking to Him to purify and guide these in His grace.
  2. Participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to the greatest extent possible—in our daily lives this may mean mentally uniting ourselves with the priest and faithful at Mass, but if possible we should seek to attend Mass ourselves and worthily receive Communion each day.
  3. Making a formal act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  4. Offering daily prayers and short invocations explicitly to the Sacred Heart.
  5. Formally enthroning the Sacred Heart of Jesus in our homes and places of work and education so as to publicly witness our belief that Jesus Christ is sovereign king over all aspects of our lives.
  6. Placing images of the Sacred Heart in our homes and places of work.
  7. Encouraging others to know, love, and serve the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
  8. Placing ourselves in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament for an hour (the Holy Hour) once per month—if possible this should be done the Thursday night before the First Friday of each month in fulfillment of a request made by Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
  9. Participating in Holy Mass each First Friday of the Month—again in fulfillment of Our Lord’s request to St. Margaret Mary.
  10. Living our entire lives under the influence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus—especially by cultivating a spirit of reparation, contemplating God’s love and mercy, and bringing that love and mercy to the world.
  11. Revering Mary the Mother of God under the title the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  It was through the Immaculate Heart of Mary that God entered the world and took His own human heart.  The Church teaches that devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is closely joined to that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Consecration is a formal act by which we make something common become something holy.  Through an act of consecration we unite something or someone to God and pledge it to His use, honor, and greater glory.

Throughout history the People of God and the Catholic Church have consecrated persons, tools, buildings, stones (altars), food, and time itself (the liturgical year).

Even simple acts of consecration should involve a formal recognition that something has changed.  What was once ordinary is now separated from normal use: we purify it, bless it, and place it at God’s service.

When we speak of “Consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” this normally means the formal act or prayers said to indicate that we desire to offer our lives or an institution (such as a school) to God’s service.  In particular, we offer it pledging that we will pursue regular devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  In short, we are promising God that we will lead holy lives by uniting ourselves with the Sacred Heart and imitating the life of Christ.

Enthronement has a greater public or social character than consecration.   Enthronement, of course, literally means to place someone on the throne or to recognize the sovereignty of someone in our lives.  Enthronement typically occurs in a specific place and thus elevates the status of that place as entirely offered up to the sovereign.

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the formal act by which we signify that we are making Jesus Christ our sovereign king.  We link our family or our work place or our school to our parish and to the Universal Church.  In essence, we are declaring our dependence on Christ and pledging our allegiance to His love, His Laws, and His Church.

Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus makes manifest and visible what otherwise is invisible or hard to perceive: our desire to love, to obey, and to serve Jesus Christ.

Enthronement obviously requires an Act of Consecration.  It is “para-liturgical”—a companion to the liturgy of the Church.  In a way, the act of Enthronement creates in the home, work place, or school something akin to an altar or shrine, which may serve as the center of piety, contemplation, and allegiance.

The act of enthronement embarks the Christian into a rich way of living out his faith.  It requires some preparation and, finally, a public ceremony.

The preparation comes chiefly in the form of prayer and study.

One can only loves what one knows.

If only we make a beginning to our learning about the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with his grace we will fall deeply into divine love.

The Heart of Jesus calls.  Know Him.  Love Him.  Serve Him.

You have already started the journey.  Continue in His love.

image: Nancy Bauer / Shutterstock.com

William Fahey

By

Dr. William Edmund Fahey is President of the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

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