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June 8: The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus [B]

First Reading Hosea 11:1,3-4,8-9
Second Reading Ephesians 3:8-12,14-19
Gospel John 19:31-37

…and immediately blood and water flowed out.

Tomorrow we celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the heart of her who was never touched by any sin, but rather is full of grace. Jesus, of course, sharing in the divinity of His Father, is sinless, and so we could speak of and celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Jesus. But today the Church celebrates instead the “Sacred Heart” of Jesus.

To be “sacred” means “to be set aside for a unique purpose”. What, then, is the purpose of Jesus’ heart? The heart is obviously a human element of who Jesus is. It certainly expresses the love of God the Son, for as Saint John the Divine tells us, God is love. As God, in his divinity, the Son of course has no physical heart—we can say only that the Godhead possesses a heart in a metaphorical sense—but in His humanity Jesus of course possesses a heart, beating within His Body, pumping His life-blood to all its parts.

What does it mean then to say that Jesus, as human, has a heart? It means that He is capable of suffering. To have a heart means to be able to be broken, to be weak, to be vulnerable. This is the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love: that He would carry a Cross and die upon it for us, in order to open the gates of Heaven for our darkened, sinful hearts.

Here is the unique purpose of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Here is what Jesus’ heart was set aside for: that it would be broken and would be pierced. But far be it from us simply to worship the Sacred Heart as an image to be given thanks. Instead, the Sacred Heart is a person to be imitated: or even better, whose love we were created to abide within.

We do not celebrate the feast of “the Sacred Intellect of Jesus”. Nor do we celebrate the feast of “the Sacred Memory”. We celebrate the “Sacred Heart” because the greatest of the capacities of God—and, since he was created in His image, man—is the capacity to will. God’s will always chooses love, because God is love, and because love consists in this: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and has sent His Son as an offering for our sins.

The Sacred Heart is a person the Christian is meant to imitate, by means of His abiding within the Christian. The heart pumps blood to the entire body, and as His members we share in that life-blood as we share in the offering for our sins that Christ sacrificed on the Cross and memorialized sacramentally at His Last Supper. This sacred meal is “set aside”: its purpose is our sanctification, that our hearts might become more capable of being broken for the salvation of others, and attain to the fullness of God Himself.