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Sacred Heart

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Devotion to the Sacred Heart

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is as old as Christianity. When the side of Christ was pierced on Calvary, there immediately flowed out blood and water. The Church has interpreted this to mean the outpouring of grace through the Church, which began the moment that Christ expired on the Cross.

Over the centuries, the gratitude of the faithful for this manifestation of divine love has centered on the physical Heart of Jesus as the symbol of God’s love for man. We may therefore say that devotion to the Sacred Heart is really devotion to the love of God as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

When God became man, it was God - who is love - who became man. In the languages of all nations, the heart is identified with love. Consequently our devotion to the Heart of Jesus is directed to the love of Jesus in different ways.

  • We love Him as our God, who has loved us from all eternity and out of selfless love brought us into existence and destined us to possess Him for all eternity.

  • We love Him as our God Incarnate, who loved us so much that He assumed our human nature and by His bodily death redeemed us from the eternal death we deserved for our sins.

  • We love Him as our Redeemer who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven where He is preparing a place for us. Where He is, our God united with His human body and soul, we hope to be in His blessed company.

  • We love Him as our Eucharistic Lord who is on earth in His humanity, in the Blessed Sacrament. He offers Himself in the Mass through which He now communicates the graces He won for us on the Cross. By His Real Presence, He invites us to offer Him our adoring love and ask Him to work the miracles He performed during His visible stay in Palestine.

To be emphasized is the unique character of devotion to the Sacred Heart. It is nothing less than a synthesis of Catholic Christianity in its loving response to the unspeakable love of God for the sons and daughters of the human family.

For the sake of convenience, we may divide the terms “Sacred Heart” and “Devotion” into two parts.

  • Sacred Heart stands for the love of God, which means the love that is God, the love that God has shown for us from the dawn of creation until now, and the love that God will continue to pour out on us into the endless reaches of eternity.

  • Devotion stands for our grateful return of love for love, which is shown in loving sacrifice by the total surrender of our wills to the mysterious and demanding will of God; in loving imitation of Jesus Christ, whose virtues as man are so many manifestations of His divine attributes as God;

    • in loving worship of Mary’s Son, who is present with His living, pulsating human Heart in the Blessed Sacrament;

    • in loving petition for the graces that we and others need to serve Him faithfully here on earth and enjoy Him in the life that will never end.

A simple but very effective way of growing in devotion to the Sacred Heart is to recite daily the morning offering of the Apostleship of Prayer:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father.

Among the promises made by our Lord to St. Margaret Mary was the assurance that, “Those who shall promote this devotion shall have their names written in my Heart, never to be blotted out.”

One of my hopes for the readers of Challenge magazine is that they will become zealous promoters of devotion to the Sacred Heart in a world that is starving for the love of God.

Vol. 16 - #9, June 1990, p. 14

Copyright © 1999 Inter Mirifica

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