Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a feast which celebrates a love that conquers evil by the sheer acts of love and mercy. More on that in a moment.

I am afraid that, growing up as a boy and later as a young man, I found the devotion to the Sacred Heart came off as syrupy and sentimental. I hope I do not offend but I must say that some of the images of the Sacred Heart present Jesus in an almost feminized manner. His long locks of flowing blondish hair, red lips and an almost “come hither” look were bothersome to me. (For example: HERE & HEREHERE & HERE) Such qualities look fine on a woman, but not a man.

Again, I hope this does not offend. There are surely good depictions of the Sacred Heart out there, I just think some are in bad taste, at least from my perspective as a man. I realize especially that many women do not share my view of such art.

But, beyond sentiment this a serious feast. It took time for me, growing up to understand that the devotion to the Sacred Heart was not simply to be identified with the art I saw. Yes, Jesus has a strong, manly and loving heart too, he had a courageous will to save rooted in love. He never hesitated to speak the truth in love. He loved us enough to warn us of sin, and call us to repent. He loved us enough to summon us to sacrifice and taught us that the greatest love was to lay down your life for others. He loved us unto the end, dying for us to bring us salvation, consolation and peace.

In the end it was not nails that held him to the cross but love, love for the Father, and love for us. The heart of Jesus contains not just a sentimental love, but a saving and summoning love. His heart is strong and spacious, vigorous and victorious. And his love alone is powerful enough to drive back sin and restore grace. For some reason I am mindful of the Words of Dr. Martin Luther King who sad: Darkness cannot conquer darkness, only light can do that and hatred cannot conquer hatred, only love can do that.

And his love conquers in this paradoxical way for it ends the cycle of violence by not returning violence. It ends the cycle of retribution by not paying back, but by forgiving gratuitously. It is ends the cycle of hatred by returning love in the face of hatred. For the Lord’s love stands its ground and will not be drawn into the world of hatred and revenge, will not be defined by them or succumb to their demand to act on their terms. Love conquers simply by being love.

The video you are about to see is the furthest thing from sentimental. It is from the passion of the Christ and shows the moment of Christ’s death.

But notice how, in the video, love conquers. Shortly after Christ’s death, a soldier thrusts open Christ’s side and reveals the very Heart of God. The way the movie depicts it, Christ’s love, his Holy Spirit almost explodes from his side. And this love “confuses the proud in their inmost thoughts” and “lifts up the lowly.” The Temple leaders are in confusion, the Roman guards are in flight. But Mary, John and Mary are at peace beneath the Cross of Christ. His heart has been revealed. They know his love and are at home with it.  Christ’s vigorous love makes Satan howl in frustration and defeat.

Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart. May you know the tender and powerful love of Christ.

8 Responses

  1. Stephen from New Orleans says:

    I feel I’m incapable of understanding the true meaning, depth, impact and reality of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It’s frustrating, humbling, awesome and enlightening. When I meditate on this in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I know I’m only capable of scratching the surface. I don’t know.

    I say the creed and recite “Through whom all things are made” and I know it and believe it, I even give thanks for creation, but am I fully appreciating it ? Am I really capable of thanking God for everything? Can I help but take things for granted?

    I think my prayer life is poor…I need to be more like the lamb that Jesus is holding and carrying in those other famous artistic renderings of Christ, the Good Shepard.

  2. John Clem says:

    Great reflection on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Thought it was fascinating that the earthquake in the video during the crucifixion was recently verified by geologists in Jerusalem. http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=31443

    God Bless,
    John

  3. Vijaya says:

    Thank you for this … I did not know that there is a Feast Day for the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I only knew about the First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart for reparation. How did the Church Fathers choose this date? I like knowing more stories about our Blessed Lord.

    Vijaya

  4. [...] Heart of Jesus: McNamara’s Blog: St. Margaret Mary and the Sacred HeartMsgr. Charles Pope: Love Conquers AllFr. Dwight Longenecker: a converts insights on the Sacred HeartFiled Under: Uncategorized Tagged [...]

  5. Steve M says:

    Thank you Msgr. Pope for making me tear up while I sit in an airport. The Sacred Heart Of our Lord is a great preview for Father’s Day. It defines how a father should love his children and spouse.

    Happy Father’s Day a couple days early.

  6. RichardC says:

    I have never seen the Passion of the Christ. For me, the most powerful part of the video was the very beginning when His eyes were like icon eyes. I don’t envy anyone the task of trying to do a portrait of Jesus.

  7. Dismas says:

    I’d love someday to see the Sacred Heart of Jesus depicted with the Christ in Majesty image contained in the National Shrine of the Immacute Conception.

    http://www.kintera.org/site/apps/nl/content2.asp?c=etITK6OTG&b=309285&ct=166455

  8. Peter Wolczuk says:

    What an article. What responses. “…some of the images of the Sacred Heart present Jesus in an almost feminized manner. His long locks of flowing blondish hair, red lips and an almost “come hither” look were bothersome to me.” later followed by, “I don’t envy anyone the task of trying to do a portrait of Jesus.”
    Both excellent and not so much in conflict but more like the buttresses on either side of a pillar that firm and affirm it’s upright state.
    I do struggle to accept portraits that may fit some of the gentler aspects of His mission that seem carefully selected to fit one small part of the whole as if that part was the whole. Self just can’t visualize seeing the One of the portrayals at; “(For example: HERE & HERE & HERE & HERE) Such qualities look fine on a woman, but not a man.” as overturning tables and driving livestock from His Father’s (also our Father’s) house. Not even telling the scribes and pharisees that they were the children of satan as in John 8:37-58.
    Also, like in the comment by Stephen from New Orleans, I know that I am also I’m only capable of scratching the surface.
    However, there may be a starting point to grasping the meaning of the importance of heart (especially the Sacred Heart) which is a part of a group of processes that come in a process that is, sometimes, so intense that the feeling could mistaken for pain; What’s the big deal about the heart anyway? Many times in Holy Scripture; especially the Old Testament; there are references to God seeing into, and understanding the content of, our hearts.
    The ancient Egyptians, when mummifying a corpse would take great care with the heart but discard the brain. They knew that the brain had a lot to do with thinking. When someone’s thinking seemed off the beam they would make an opening in the top of the skull to vent the brain so that thinking was clear. Not to say whether this helped or not, just to illustrate that they knew that brain had a lot to do with thinking. Did they see as the brain as just some sort of mechanism that didn’t so much think, but rather enabled the “thoughts” of the soul to be delivered to and react with the body and the immediate world that the body lived in?
    In our recent age (including the last few centuries) there’s a lot of talk about love originating in the heart – even in many totally secular environments. I would be surprised if there weren’t a whole lot more similar beliefs spread through the many human cultures.
    Well, consider how the blood has been referred to as carrying the life so that the Old Covenant standards disallowed eating of it. Leviticus 17:10-14 Deuteronomy 12:23-25.
    From these perspectives of brain and heart consider how the brain appears objective the heart’s subjectivity. The brain takes in information and either processes it for seconds or for many year that may involve communication with sources away from the body. Instant reactions tend to be reflex, but most use objectivity to derive them.
    The heart, from our mere three dimensional (and a twisted version of time, the fourth) perspective very much resembles little more than a fuel pump. Even the oxygenization occurs elsewhere somewhat the oxygenation of machine fuel sometimes occurring in a carburator separate from the pump.
    However, the body’s fuel isn’t just burned away and discarded. It courses all through the body and intimately interacts and empowers every physical action of that body. The sum of the blood which is in the heart between one beat and the next is separated to voluntary muscles that move the body about; involuntary muscles that perform life functions; organs to nourish/cleanse/produce; to hair follicles that grow.
    Then; when one of the units of the blood that occupied the heart during that previously mentioned one pause between beats returns to the heart for another pause between beats; this unit does not encounter many of the blood cells that were present during that units last time within the heart but … does encounter many more which were elsewhere about the body. Joined and separated in not only three spatial dimensions but, also in time. This occurs time after time.
    Enough times around the body and each blood cell will have encountered (or failed to encounter) virtually every other blood cell in the body.
    And these multiple encounters with the parts of the body, the other blood cells and, most especially, the heart are all about every experience of the body and the combining them into a whole where every experience touches by having been touched by every blood cell within the intimacy of the heart as a focal point.
    If this is a guide to understanding (or if that’s outside our ability then the acceptance of) the special mystery of the heart, then it seems like a mere starting point like Marie and Pierre Currie seeing a silhouette of a key on an old fashioned photographic plate that had never been exposed to light. Maybe even less.
    The loving passion that accompanies these lessons and with the transcribing of them is pretty nice too, sometimes with a chance for an additional one within the same lesson. Like when I recently reported what was given about other spiritual concepts that have drawn comfort seekers from Christianity; including myself in the 1970’s to the point where my faith wasn’t so much separated from me but;,; almost; and a follow up that on how karma tells us that we can redeem ourselves from our sins. Oh sure – guidance, reincarnations and other attractive hocus pocus.
    If that were the case why would God the Word become God the Son Who suffered frustration of those who refused to accept a message of loving truth because they couldn’t stand to leave their comfort zones? Then to die a painful and drawn out death and call for the forgiveness of the ones who brought it about as he suffered that death.
    Attached to that is the one about the person who felt bad because of having no shoes until meeting someone who had no feet. Good stuff about avoiding a desire to wallow on the pity pot and a reminder that the I’m not the only one with a problem as I realize that the world doesn’t stop over my concerns. But could there be an implied guilt trip about negating all negative feelings except the worst? Only extreme suffering is uncomfortable and I should repress discomfort until that suppression causes it to grow into agony? All this keeping us from learning to deal with discomfort so that we are incapable of accepting beneficial discomfort:
    If one wanted to learn one of the uncomfortable messages by subjectively experience try writing out a list of things which annoy self when done by other people. Then dig deep over a period of time and find at least one time that self has done that; even if it was against the personal nature and only done to test and never done again. Carry over to a new list only the ones where self has done such deed(s) and meditate for years (off and on and never dwelling on or obsessing about) and I don’t know what you’ll come up with. However, for me, it took about two years that loving all people, especially my enemies, came to be the only logical way to feel. Oh sure I have a lot of work to shed old angers and resentments. Sometimes the feeling is in conflict with temptations of one of the deadly sins. A struggle but the passion that comes with the feeling and the experiential, as well as the intellectual, understanding. So vibrant a passion.

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