"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Friday, May 30, 2008

Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

Today, the Friday after the second Sunday after Pentecost, is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What is the passion of Christ's Sacred Heart? Pope Benedict, in his book Behold the Pierced One, writes:

"We see who Jesus is if we see him at prayer. The Christian confession of faith comes from participating in the prayer of Jesus, from being drawn into his prayer and being privileged to behold it; it interprets the experience of Jesus' prayer, and its interpretation of Jesus is correct because it springs from a sharing in what is most personal and intimate to him".

One of Jesus' most personal and intimate moments with us, when He openly discloses His Sacred Heart to us, is described in John 17 when Jesus prays to His Father. As we 'listen in' on Jesus' prayer to the Father, we are hearing one Person of the Trinity talk to another Person of the Trinity. We are even hearing the heart of the Father, for as St. John tells us, Jesus, "the only begotten God who is in the bosom [κόλπον] of the Father, has revealed [ἐξηγήσατο] the Father." (St. John 1:18)

This is an amazing privilege. When a friend opens his or her heart to another friend, this is an invaluable gift, a gift of the heart; no material good can match it in value. The very act speaks, saying "I trust you". The very act of opening one's heart is thus an act of love, and it moves our heart to respond in gratitude and tenderness and even a kind of reverence, because we perceive the immense value of what has been given to us, a kind of participation in the heart of another person.

Even more so, when Christ opens His heart to us, in letting us hear His prayer to the Father, this is an act of tremendous love and humility toward us. He is making Himself vulnerable to us, entrusting us with His heart, allowing us to receive His heart with gratitude and joy, or reject it with apathy or preference for other things. If we receive the Sacred Heart He opens to us in John 17, we experience there His blessed communion with the Father, that eternal activity of His heart in which He receives from and gives back to His Father the most perfect love and fellowship, the most transparent and unreserved union of hearts, of which all human friendships are a mere imitation.

In John 17 we are hearing what is going on 'inside' God, inside the Trinitarian community of divine Persons. We are being given the amazing gift of a glimpse inside the Trinity. And what do we hear? We hear Jesus asking the Father that all Christ's followers would be one, as He and the Father are one. The unity of His people is the passion of Christ's Sacred Heart. And that is because unity is the telos (goal, aim, end) of love. We cannot claim to love one another, and not be seeking unity with one another. (See here). And because human persons are embodied, love between human persons involves visible unity, as I showed in "Sex, Dualism, and Ecclesial Unity". The passion of Christ's Sacred Heart is the *visible* unity of all His disciples.

Today I came across the following photograph, taken in Belfast:

The "peace wall" in Belfast, dividing Catholics and Protestants
Source: Phil Chevalier, via Dave Armstrong)

This wall apparently had to be extended upward, because Catholics and Protestants were throwing things over it, in their hostility toward one another. This wall is not a failure to demonstrate visibly an underlying pristine unity; rather, this wall is a visible, bodily expression of an underlying disunity at the level of heart, soul, mind and body.

The love that seeks the unity of all Christ's followers, the love revealed in Christ's Sacred Heart through His prayer in John 17, seeks to break down such walls, and especially the wall of hatred and separation that these physical walls instantiate (Eph 2:14).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, let us resolve, with the help of God's grace, to tear down this wall, and that in our hearts on account of which such a wall was built. Let us come in humility and repentance and charity to the ecumenical table, and seek full visible unity with each other, having hearts with like passion as that of our Savior Jesus Christ. He freely offers His heart to us in love; let us do likewise to one another.

Dear Lord Jesus, we ask you to join our hearts to your Most Sacred Heart. Forgive us our sins. May the passion of Your Most Sacred Heart be also the passion of our hearts, in union with You. Please tear down those walls that divide us from each other. And please use us to do so, not by our worth or strength, but in our weakness, through our sacrifices of love in imitation of your ultimate sacrifice of love. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Chris Blackwell said...

I am looking for the image of the sacred heart that you have posted for this blog post. Do you know where it came from? Do you gave higher resolution jpg of this image I might be able to have?

Bryan Cross said...

Hello Stef,

I scanned the image in myself. It is one of Cardinal Burke's favorite images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I don't know the artist or source. Cardinal Burke had an icon made in the Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica, from this painting.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan