The month of June is dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. One may be forgiven for not knowing that, since the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not something that attracts corporate sponsorship or media attention. Sadly, there are no parades organized to celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Which is surprising, in a way, since the importance of this devotion has grown enormously in recent centuries. Since early days of the Church, Catholics have meditated on the significance of the wounded Heart of Christ. But it was the mystical experience of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in the late 17th century that truly captured popular imagination regarding the Sacred Heart. By the 19th century the Sacred Heart of Jesus was everywhere, thanks especially to the missionary work of the Society of Jesus.
The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion that invites us to think about the deep mysteries of our Catholic faith. Sacred Scripture tells us that, in the beginning, God created everything, including our first parents, whom He made in His image. He made human beings with physical bodies, including our human hearts. In the most remarkable turn of events ever, after Creation’s rebellion against Him, He entered Creation in order to redeem it. With the Incarnation of the Son of God in the womb of Mary, He took for Himself what He first gave us – a human nature, including a human body with a human heart. And in a gesture of love, He offers His Heart to us, the Heart that He received from His human mother. He gives us His Heart as a way of making visible His infinite love for us. But through our sins, we repudiated His loving gesture by adorning His heart with a cross and piercing it with a lance. We mocked it with a crown of thorns. But looking at the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we see that these ornaments of rejection in fact reveal to us all the more the unquenchable fire of divine love that pours forth from the human heart of the Divine Person.
Yes, God loves us with a human heart. His love does not view the limitations of human nature, including the human body, as an obstacle to His love for us. He doesn’t try to get around it or violate it. Rather, it is through His sacred humanity, including His body, that God loves us. By the inseparable union of Christ’s divinity and His humanity He gives us new life. How noble He has made human flesh! So essential is God’s human flesh to our Catholic faith that St. John the Apostle writes in his first letter: “This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world” (1 Jn 4:2-3). St. John is warning us against anything that would call into doubt the Incarnation of God the Son, including that which would deny the goodness of the material world and the dignity of the human body. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a devotion that affirms the goodness of Creation, which reflects the infinitely greater goodness of our Creator. It is an image of the humility of God, and a reminder of the heights to which the Incarnation has raised our human nature, including the flesh of our human bodies.