Nineteen days after Pentecost Sunday the Church celebrates on its liturgical calendar the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 2020, it is on June 19, which is not a Holy Day of Obligation in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. This devotion to the Sacred Heart views the heart of Jesus as a powerful symbol of God’s boundless love for mankind. Through this devotion, we recognize Jesus’ long-suffering love and compassion for humanity. 

While devotion to the Sacred Heart can be found as early as the 11th and 12th centuries, the devotion to the Sacred Heart as we know it today was formed in the late 17th century through an apparition of Jesus to a French nun, Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Jesus said to her: “My divine Heart is so passionately fond of the human race and of you, in particular, that it cannot keep back the pent-up flames of its burning charity any longer. They must burst out through you and reveal my Heart to the world, so as to enrich mankind with my treasures.” Jesus requested that He be honored under the sign of His heart. His message was centered around love and asked for a devotion of love to atone for sins by having frequent communion, particularly on Fridays, and observing the Holy hour.

An image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was created that reveals God’s love in the pierced heart of His Son. It symbolizes God’s love that conquers sin and transcends death. The Church was born through this pierced heart and is tasked with proclaiming God’s love throughout the world. Only this love of the Heart of Christ can transform the hearts of the people and bring peace to our world. Jesus himself said in Matthew, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Rather than approaching the world with aggression and pride, we are called by the Sacred Heart of Jesus to approach our brothers and sisters will meekness and humility.

It is not surprising that, since the decline of the devotion from the late 20th century when the it was widely celebrated by Catholics, civility and love in our society has diminished. A resurgence in the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is needed so we can dwell on one of the central mysteries of our faith, God is love. We need to strengthen our resolve that, despite the current turmoil and challenges, we will face the world by imitating the love of God and building a society based on love and not on hate.

This month of June is an excellent time to start. But how? Some steps could be praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, having the image of the Sacred Heart in your home, and consecrating your household to the Sacred Heart. Pope Pius XII wrote in his landmark encyclical, Haurietis aquas:

Since then the Heart of Christ is overflowing with love both human and divine and rich with the treasure of all graces which our Redeemer acquired by His life, sufferings and death, it is therefore the enduring source of that charity which His Spirit pours forth on all the members of His Mystical Body (Haurietis aquas, 85).

Like the Eucharist, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a source of God’s love that fuels us as members of the Body of Christ. We lift up our hearts to the Lord and He “will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). God replaces our stony hearts with one of flesh, changing our disposition towards God and others. When we lift ourselves toward the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we encounter the fullness of Christ’s gospel message – God’s saving love that was poured out for us by Our Lord Jesus Christ. As such, we are drawn into His heart and experience the joy of a loving communion with God.

Photo Credit: By Unknown author - Leiloeira São Domingos, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...