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Devotion to the Sacred Heart Today
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
We may say that devotion to the Sacred Heart began on Calvary. When the Heart of Christ was pierced on the Cross, it opened the door to realizing how deeply Jesus loves us. In return, He wants nothing more than for us to love Him with all our hearts. There is nothing that God wants more than for us to love Him without reserve.
The present issue of The Catholic Faith magazine is devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The reason is obvious. What God wants more than anything else is for us to love Him more than anyone else in the world. I like the prayer of St. Claude la Colombiere, in which he asks, O God, what will You do to conquer the fearful hardness of our hearts? Lord, You must give us new hearts, tender hearts, sensitive hearts, to replace hearts that are made of marble and of bronze.
St. Claude goes on to ask our Lord, You must give us Your own Heart, Jesus. Come, lovable Heart of Jesus. Place Your Heart deep in the center of our hearts and enkindle in each heart a flame of love as strong, as great, as the sum of all the reasons that I have for loving You, my God.
Colombiere closed with a prayer of petition, O holy Heart of Jesus, dwell hidden in my heart, so that I may live only in You and only for You, so that, in the end, I may live with you eternally in heaven.
This is the sum total of our Catholic faith. We believe that God made us out of sheer love. None of us, none of us had to exist. We also believe He became man to die on the Cross out of love for us. We further believe that He is present in the Blessed Sacrament with His living Heart of flesh so that we may come to Him and tell Him how deeply we love Him.
In todays love-starving world, how we need to follow the example of Jesus Christ in His unspeakable love for us. If there is one adjective that describes the modern world, this world is a loveless world. This world is a selfish world. This world is so preoccupied with space and time that it gives almost no thought to eternity and the everlasting joys that await those who have served God faithfully here on earth.
How do we serve God faithfully? We serve Him only as faithfully as we serve Him lovingly, by giving ourselves to the needs of everyone whom God puts into our lives. No one reaches heaven automatically. Heaven must be dearly paid for. The price of reaching heaven is the practice of selfless love here on earth.
That is why God puts into our lives so many occasions for loving people who obviously do not love us, or giving ourselves to people who have never given themselves to us. How desperately we need, especially in todays world, to learn that God became man in order to suffer and die out of love for us on the Cross.
That is what devotion to the Sacred Heart is all about. It is the practice of selfless love toward selfish people. It is giving ourselves to persons that do not give themselves to us. In all of our lives, God has placed selfish persons who may be physically close to us, but spiritually are strangers and even enemies. That is why God places unkind, unjust, even cruel people into our lives. By loving them, we show something of the kind of love that God expects of His followers.
Devotion of the Sacred Heart is the solution to the gravest problem in the modern world today. How can we give ourselves to those who do not love us, who even positively hate us? We can love them, with the help of divine grace, by following the example of Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross out of love for a sin-laden human race.
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