In October 1986, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to a place called Paray-le-Monial, a town in eastern France. Paray-le-Monial is called the “City of the Sacred Heart” because it was the home of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a 17th century religious sister whose visions of Christ led to widespread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. During an audience, Pope John Paul II said to the people gathered: “Everywhere, in society, in our villages, in our neighborhoods, in our factories and our offices, in our meetings between peoples and races, the heart of stone, the dried-up heart, must change into the heart of flesh, open to one’s brothers, open to God. The survival of humanity depends upon it. It is beyond our power. It is a gift from God. A gift of His Love.”
One of the most important images that we have of the gift God’s love for us is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart reveals to us that the response of God to the hardened hearts of human beings was to take a human heart for Himself. Through His Incarnation, the Son of God assumed a human nature, complete with a human body and a human soul. This allows Jesus to love God the Father with His human heart, so that human beings might love the Father perfectly again through Jesus. Our Lord also loves us with His human heart. So complete is Christ’s love for us that He allowed us to crown His Heart with thorns and pierce it with a lance. In Christ Jesus, God truly was “wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that made us whole – by his wounds we are healed” (Is 53:5). The Lord Jesus heals our dried-up hearts of stone by sharing with us His Sacred Heart.
This is what Pope John Paul II was getting at in his address to the people of Paray-le-Monial. The Lord sees the strife that exists among people of our age, the dark inclination that pits one group against another in a war of each against all. In response, He offers us His Sacred Heart as the way in which the calloused hearts of our generation might be given new life, filled with love for God and love for our neighbor. During this month of June, the month that the Church dedicates to the Sacred Heart, we acknowledge that too often our hearts refuse to love, to show mercy, to accept the risk of rejection for the sake of solidarity. Meditating on the Sacred Heart of Jesus we see that God refuses none of these things, embracing them for the sake of reconciling His beloved creatures to Himself and to each other.