José María Ibarrarán y Ponce, 1896
Today we celebrate the external feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is properly celebrated on the Friday after the Sunday after Corpus Christi. The Church often celebrates beloved feasts more than once—we just can’t get enough of them! For example, we celebrate the Christmas and Easter Masses for eight days in succession, and the Church often permits us to celebrate a weekday feast again on the following Sunday. Such is the case today. Fr. Hildebrand did celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart with all solemnity last Friday at the 5:20pm Mass, and they even kept the kitchen open 15 minutes longer so we could get some dinner afterwards. We really appreciated that kindness from the kitchen staff—the thoughtfulness of the heart of Jesus. As Mother Teresa was wont to say: “thoughtfulness is the beginning of great sanctity.” On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we call to mind how our Lord thinks about us all the time; for example, in his thoughtfulness Jesus inspired the kitchen staff to keep the food lines open for us.
Blood and Water
The graces we receive daily from God’s thoughtfulness, however, come at a price, as we are reminded in the Gospel today. There is no love without suffering; no love without sacrifice. Jesus had been crucified, and his body hung lifeless from the Cross. A soldier thrust for his heart to make sure he was dead, and the lance drew a great flow of blood and water from his open side. St. John assures us that he saw this himself. Why would blood and water flow in abundance from a corpse? First, because Jesus, though dead, lives forever, and his heart never ceases to beat, his blood never ceases to flow for the people he loves. Second, the Church is born from Christ’s wounded heart as the sacraments of water and blood—Baptism and the Holy Eucharist—pour out upon the world. He will cleanse us with the grace-filled water flowing from his open side, and he will feed us with the blood flowing from his open heart. Christ’s heart is open to all men and women. It is never closed. St. Paul will often say, “open your hearts to me.” We open our hearts by enthroning the Sacred Heart in our lives. Families and individuals who have enthroned Christ the King in their homes have hearts like unto his, open hearts.
They will look upon Him whom they have pierced
One of the kindest, most open-hearted prelates I have met is Raymond Cardinal Burke. Twelve priests had dinner with him at his rectory when he was Archbishop of St. Louis. He sat at the center of the table, showing kindness to every one of us. It was really like the Last Supper with Jesus. I met him again in Turin, in May 2010. The Shroud of Turin was exposed for a month during the Year for Priests and I was in the city for five days hearing confessions and visiting the Shroud myself. A few of us priests came to the early Mass on Sunday in front of the Shroud, and we found Cardinal Burke in the sacristy. He greeted us warmly, and then at Mass preached on the Sacred Heart (he has a deep devotion, and has spread that devotion to the Sacred Heart in his dioceses). I will never forget listening to his heartfelt witness to the love of Christ, to the blood of Christ, and seeing just 20 feet behind him the blood stains on the Shroud. “They will look upon him whom they have thrust through” (transfixerunt in Latin). Every Catholic church is to have an image of Christ crucified, Christ thrust through, Christ’s open heart, pouring out the sacraments of redemption upon the world. We long to look upon him whom we have thrust through. Let us renew our love for Christ by praying before the Crucifix—by placing a crucifix prominently in every room of our houses, and by enthroning the Sacred Heart in our homes. Deepening our love for him, we learn to love each other. Those who turn daily to the Sacred Heart of Jesus have opened hearts for one another.
We live in a time of cultural decline. As those around us deny truth and mock goodness, and are tempted to close our hearts and hole up in protected Catholic enclaves. Certainly we must protect our children and our culture, but we must keep our hearts open to others, imitating Jesus. He opened his heart, knowing that men would misunderstand him, abuse him, and pierce him. We Christians, we Catholics, choose to become warmer, more charitable, more thoughtful, even as the world around us is growing colder, less caring, less reasonable, and more violent. We can do this only by devoting ourselves to Christ’s Sacred Heart, open and bleeding for the life of the world.