Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, this significance of this day is highlighted by the fact that today’s commemoration is given the status of a solemnity- the highest “rank” of liturgical observance.
Though not a Holy Day of Obligation, in theory, today should be marked and remembered with an attentiveness that characterizes our commemoration of Christmas or Easter.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a representation of the greatest and most important revelation of the Church’s Faith- God has, in Jesus Christ, accepted a human nature and lived a real human life. Remember, the Church’s Faith is not faith in a teaching of Jesus or an idea about Jesus or a feeling about Jesus- the Church’s Faith is in Jesus as a person, a divine person, who at a particular moment in time and in particular place, entered human history, and did so, by accepting a human nature (which means he became a man, God became human.
This revelation is what the Church is all about.
God in Christ’s acceptance of a human nature was so complete that he was, in his humanity, as the scriptures testify “like us in all things but sin.” This means that God in Christ had a real human body- and this real, human body had a real human heart.
Why did God do this? Why did God accept a human nature and live a real, human life?
His purpose in doing this is called a “marvelous exchange”, which means that God accepts from us a human nature and gives to us a share in his divine nature. God in Christ becomes like us so that we can become like him.
The physical heart of Jesus is called sacred because it represents his total revelation- that Jesus is God and man and in the unity of divinity and humanity (God and man) in Christ, God offers us the possibility of becoming his friends and sharing the gift of his divine life.
This friendship, this gift, takes the form of a relationship through which we come to know Christ and receive from him a mission. Christ presents himself to us in the Church so that this relationship can really and truly happen. A relationship with Jesus is not merely a matter of your mind or your emotions, it is about meeting him, listening to him and coming to know, love and serve him in his Church.
The great mystery of all of what I have described to you is the God in Christ did not have to accept a human nature, with all its implications, including the experiences of suffering and death. God was not obligated to do this and he gained nothing from the experience that didn’t already belong to him.
That God in Christ did accept a human nature is total grace- which means it is a gift that is undeserved and was not something that we could ever earn. Why then did God in Christ do this? Why did God do something for us that he didn’t have to do?
The answer to this question is as mysterious as the revelation of Christ himself. God did all this out of love. It is in Christ that the love of God for us is most apparent because he does something for us that he didn’t have to do and that we didn’t deserve.
The proper response to such a revelation of love is to love God in return, and we manifest this love in the awe and reverence that we bring to the Church’s worship in the Mass, but even more than this, we show the proper response to the revelation of God’s love in Christ by loving what he loves.
And if you want to know what Christ loves, look at one another.
Pope Leo XIII once testified that we see in the Sacred Heart of Jesus an image of the love of Jesus Christ that moves us to love in return. So right! So true!