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Welcoming the Sacred Heart: Weekly Message for 06-08-2021
Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrim, pax Christi:
In the year 1932, the entire world was in an upheaval. Europe was still desperately trying to recover from the First World War. Revolutions and uprisings were exploding in South and Central America and parts of Asia. Famine was devastating Joseph Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union. A bloody civil war had just ended in Mexico, and one was soon to begin in Spain.
Japan annexed Manchuria and was threatening the balance of power in the eastern Pacific. Mussolini was in power in Italy. Adolph Hitler was advancing to power in Germany. And the stubborn, worldwide Great Depression was continuing to devastate the international economy.
That year, Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical entitled “Caritate Christi Compulsi,” or, in English: “Constrained by the Charity of Christ.” In this letter, the Pope interpreted the signs of the times, and he described the world situation as more dire than in any period since Noah’s flood. He wrote:
Anyone who considers carefully the prolonged and bitter series of sufferings, the unhappy heritage of sin, whereby, as by so many stages, we mark the course of fallen man in this mortal pilgrimage, can hardly find any occasion since the Flood, when the race of man was so deeply and so commonly tried by so many and such great distresses of body and of mind as those which we lament to see in the present troubles. – Caritate Christi Compulsi, 2
And what was the Pope’s proposed solution to this cataclysmic situation? Did he call for political action, economic reform, and shrewd diplomacy? No. Not just those kinds of things. Instead, he went right to the heart of the matter — to Jesus’ Sacred Heart, in fact.
In that encyclical, he called on Catholics throughout the world to return in prayer and penance to that symbol and source of all saving grace. He assured the suffering multitudes that:
The divine Heart of Jesus cannot but be moved at the prayers and sacrifices of His Church, and He will finally say to His Spouse, weeping at His feet under the weight of so many griefs and woes: “Great is thy faith; be it done to thee as thou wilt” [Matthew 15:28]. – Ibid. 34
We have all seen pictures and sculptures of the Sacred Heart of Jesus — not all of which are exactly artistic masterpieces. Some of us may have even consecrated ourselves or our families to the Sacred Heart. And yet, I think it’s safe to say that most of us, here in the twenty-first century, feel that we don’t fully understand either the beauty and the power of this devotion, or how to effectively plug into it in our daily lives.
Why is this devotion so central, so unique, so “irreplaceably important” for us and for the whole Church?
In Biblical terms, the heart is the hidden center of the person. And so, if we really want to get to know someone, they have to open up their heart to us; if they don’t, we may get to know things about them, but we will never really get to know them.
And now, here is the amazing thing: God himself, the creator of the universe, infinitely wise and powerful, has opened his heart to us: this is the very basis of devotion to the Sacred Heart.
While we were still sinners, still rebelling against God’s plan for our lives, he took on human nature through the Incarnation of the Eternal Word in Jesus Christ, and he revealed his heart, the very center of his divine person, the very core of his identity. What does this mean?
It means that God wants to be known by us! He wants to enter into relation with us! He doesn’t stay aloof and distant! He comes to us, he opens himself up to us, inviting us to get to know him.
Let’s take this week (and the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) to embrace this truth and accept this invitation from the God who loves us!
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Fr John Bartunek, LC
(note: This message is excerpted from Fire and Thorns: A Retreat Guide on the Sacred Heart of Jesus)