The Sacred Heart: What Does It Mean?
Most Catholics have some familiarity with the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For older Catholics, it was a requisite wall hanging, and their homes and families were consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the "Enthronement" of that image. What is meant by this concept, this image of Jesus' Heart exposed, in flames, surrounded by thorns, surmounted by a cross, bleeding from a lance wound, and emanating rays of divine light? And what is meant by "devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus?"
The answer, in a word, is love.
Jesus visited St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation nun in the 1600's, and showed Himself to her, His Sacred Heart exposed. He wished to remind us of His true humanity and of His ineffable love. The Heart is the beating, living flesh of Man pouring out the Divine offering and love of God. It is God's inexhaustible love which caused Him to become Incarnate and take on our humanity. Human flesh commingled with Divine Love: that is the Image of the Sacred Heart. In it we find the fullness of love and the One deserving of all our love. All of salvation is enclosed therein!
Offended by our lack of love, Jesus spoke these words to the humble nun, "My Divine Heart so ardently loves men that, unable to contain within itself any longer the flames of its burning love, it needs must spread them with your assistance, and thus it will show itself that all men may be enriched with its most precious treasures...It is the ingratitude of men which has hurt Me more than all the suffering I underwent during My Passion. If only they would make some return for My love…Behold this Heart, Which has loved men so much, that It has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify to them Its love; and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt which they show Me in this Sacrament of Love."
Jesus gave twelve promises for Saint Margaret Mary to share, promises which He will fulfill for those who will practice and spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
I will give them all graces necessary for their state in life.
I will establish peace in their homes.
I will comfort them in their afflictions.
I will be their secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.
I will bless all their undertakings.
Sinners shall find in My Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy.
Tepid souls shall become fervent.
Fervent souls shall quickly mount to high perfection.
I will bless every place where the image of My Heart shall be set up and honored.
I will give to priests the gift of touching the most hardened hearts.
Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in My Heart, never to be effaced.
I promise thee in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace, nor without receiving the sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe Refuge in this their last moment.
The Morning Offering is a means by which we might offer all for the Sacred Heart of Jesus:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer you my prayers, works, joys, sufferings of this day,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world.
I offer them for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart;
the salvation of souls, the reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians;
I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all members of the Apostleship of Prayer, and in particular for those recommended by the Holy Father (i.e., the Pope) this month. Amen.
Pope John Paul II said that the practice of praying the Morning Offering is "of fundamental importance in the life of each and every one of the faithful." With it, we can begin to build our devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so consumed with love for us.
June 13, 2014