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The Heart of God: Weekly Message for 06-13-2023
My heart is overthrown within me, my compassion grows warm and tender (Hosea 11:8).
A new heart I will give you… and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26.)
After St Peter’s Basilica, my favorite Roman church is the Gesú. The ceiling is a riot of Baroque exuberance; the tomb of St Ignatius invites one to prayer; St Francis Xavier’s reliquary inspires missionary fervor.
And tucked away in the back corner is a small chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
In the chapel resides a painting by Pompeo Batoni, which is one of the earliest depictions of the Sacred Heart. It corresponds to St Margaret Mary’s description: Jesus holding his heart crowned with thorns, capped with a cross, surrounded by flames.
Two elements of the painting always impress me.
First, Jesus is holding out his heart. He’s not clutching it; it’s resting lightly in his hand; he’s offering it to us. It’s as though he’s asking: “Will you accept the gift? Will you accept it where I offer it? In the circumstances of your life, where you’re living your own Paschal Mystery, your own Cross and Resurrection?”
And secondly, Jesus is looking straight at you. It seems that saying: “Here is my heart, for you. Will you offer me your heart again? Will you give me yours, the good and the bad? Will you invite me into the corners of your heart that you’re most afraid of, the crevices where the line between good and evil seems terrifyingly blurred? Will you trust me enough to invite me into all of that, to believe that your heart – your whole self – is the gift that I’m longing for? Will you allow me to draw you to myself and lead you along paths that you can’t control?”
He asks that question every day of our lives. And when we say “yes,” his heart, pierced and open, restores our hearts in his image.
In this month dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lord’s eternal invitation echoes again. And there is no time like the present to accept the gift and, by God’s good grace, to respond.
Fr. John Pietropaoli, L.C.