June 27, 2014 - SACRED HEART OF JESUS:

DEUTERONOMY 7:6-11 ;1 JOHN 4:7-16 ; MATTTHEW 11:25-30

"Love is of God", St. John tells us.  So eager is he to convince us of this central truth that in the brief passage we heard in the second reading the word "love" the apostle uses the word "love" 17 times.  He even describes the nature of true love for our benefit when he states: "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He has loved us and sent His only son into the world that we might have life through him."  The evangelist certainly provides us here with an impressive proof of God's love, but for those of us in the Western world, his words are not really a definition.  John himself seems to have some awareness of that fact for he soon returns to the same question, and makes another attempt: "this is the love of God,that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not heavy."   Certainly such careful observance of God's orders is a convincing sign of real charity (which is the term John uses her for love), but we find it hard to consider such obedience as an adequate definition of love itself.

If we pursue this matter further, we discover that the experts on defining words, are unable to provide any one statement than adequately presents a definition.  I found 25 different conceptions of what love is, in the American Heritage Dictionary, but no one adequate definition.  The fact is that love can be experienced by us all, but it is a reality that transcends any one attempt to express its nature in any adequate way.  It turns out to be what the Germans call an Urwort.  English has no equivalent single term that warns us to be aware that we are interpreting just what is meant when the word "love" is used.  In itself it conveys no single meaning.

Heart is another term that admits of a number of definitions based on the various concepts associated with that word.  Today's feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus has as its object the physical heart of our Lord conceived less as a muscular organ than as an apt symbol of the fundamental disposition of his person.  In celebrating this day in honor of the Heart of Christ, we do not exclude the anatomical organ but view it as opening out into the vast horizons of his divine person whose atmosphere is love.  The more we learn about the physical heart, the better suited it is to serve as a symbol of a love without limit. For one thing the human heart consists chiefly of a special kind of muscle that contracts on average 103,680 times/day and remains active at the same rate every day throughout life without rest.  Should it stop for more than a few minutes, the person dies.  While the importance of the heart was recognized in ancient times it was only in 1728 that its role in blood circulation was correctly understood. Is there some related reason why it was not long after that discovery that our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary showing her his heart to be a living symbol of an unending love, a love that never stops as long as life lasts.

For the heart we honor today is not only as a physical organ, it is a symbol of a fundamental disposition of the person of Jesus and of his humanity.  The heart is so responsive to human emotions that we speak of deep feelings as if centered in the heart; often the word 'heart' is used to mean the deepest self.  Around the time of the apparitions at Paray-le-Moniale John Adams used the expression "my hand and my heart" to signify his total dedication to the American cause.  And it is in the similar sense of "the most intimate self" that our Lord spoke of his heart as wounded by the indifference of so many.  He found consolation, he told her, by her devoted concern to honor his person as symbolized by a thorn-pierced heart, aflame with love for all men and women.

From the beginning of the Incarnation to the piercing of his heart on the cross the true meaning of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is given vivid expression in the symbol of his Sacred Heart, pierced for loving concern for each of us.  It reveals not only his most personal disposition toward us whom he died for but also reminds us of the Father's ever watchful care, reminding us that "God so loved the world that He gave his only-begotten Son . . . so that everyone who believes in him many have everlasting life."

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger