Feast of the Day – The Sacred Heart of Jesus
The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost each year. It is always on a Friday.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart began to develop in the Middle Ages, but it was considered a private devotion, not a specific feast day. Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a French nun and mystic, promoted devotion to the Sacred Heart in its current form and over time it was adopted as a formal feast. This devotion also includes Mass and Communion on the first Friday of each month.
A friend of mine was raised Catholic in an Irish family in Rhode Island. One day we were talking and laughing about some of the funny things that had happened when we were girls. She told of the time a non-Catholic friend of hers was visiting her family for the first time. The friend, a young man, commented that he was always shocked when he went into Catholic homes and was immediately confronted with a statue or picture of Jesus, with his heart showing – pierced and bleeding. He said something about how glad he was not to find that image in her parents’ home. He had begun to think that all Catholics were somehow off balance with this insistence on having the image around them. Then they went around the corner into the living room, and there was the picture on the wall, where it couldn’t be missed by anyone!
My friend and I were working together at the time. As we went around the corner into my home office, what was on the wall, but a picture of the Sacred Heart – more modern than the traditional one in her home, but unmistakably still, the Sacred Heart. We just laughed and knew again how much we had in common!
So what is it about the Sacred Heart? First, it’s important to remember that it’s not really about worshipping a physical human heart. The Feast of the Sacred Heart reminds us of the overwhelming love of God for us, as seen in the love of Jesus for us. As the Son of God, second person of the Blessed Trinity, Jesus became one of us, lived as one of us, died as one of us. God’s overflowing love poured through Jesus to us. It still does. Symbolically, Jesus’ pierced heart is a reminder that love is not always easy. It can be costly. Love flows out of the heart of God as the water flowed out of the heart of Jesus when pierced by the centurion’s sword. Nothing can stop that love’s flow but our refusal to accept it.
The Sacred Heart also reminds us that Jesus always forgives. God always forgives. Nothing we can do will keep God from loving us and forgiving us. We can turn away, but God is always there calling us back. Hoping we will once again accept love and mercy. Because God’s mercy is unfailing, all we need do is ask and accept it.
In celebrating the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we are called to love as Jesus loves, forgive as Jesus forgives and be compassionate and merciful as Jesus is compassionate and merciful. A tall order for our human hearts, but one to which, with the help of Our Lord, we are called.