The month of June is traditionally dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the highest human expression of divine love. Just this past Friday, in fact, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: the feast that sets the tone for the whole month. Popular piety highly prizes symbols, and the Heart of Jesus is the ultimate symbol of God’s mercy – but it is not an imaginary symbol, it is a real symbol, which represents the center, the source from which salvation for all humanity gushed forth.
It is one thing to love when you feel love around you, when others understand you and are grateful for your person and gifts; it is quite another when everything around you speaks of misunderstanding, jealousy, coldness, and hatred. It is one thing to give your life over to family, church, community, and God when you feel loved and supported by them, when they seem worth the sacrifice, when you get a good feeling by doing it; it is quite another thing when you do not feel support, when it doesn’t seem worthwhile, and when you feel no other reason for doing it except truth and principle.
These contrasts capture, in essence, what Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. His passion was a drama of the heart, not an endurance test for his body. What made his sacrifice so special was not that he died a victim of violence nor that he refused to use divine power to stop his death. What made his death so special is that, inside of all the aloneness, darkness, jealousy, misunderstanding, sick crowd hysteria, coldness, and murder, he held out, he gave himself over, without bitterness, without self-pity, holding his ideals intact, gracious, respectful, forgiving, without losing his balance, his meaning, or his message.
Jesus’ heart was moved to pity when he saw broken, hopeless people before him, and when he brought them healing and hope, his heart was hurt by criticism and broken by a lack of gratitude. Jesus’ heart was moved to tears over the lack of love in the streets of Jerusalem, and when he tried to call the city to repent and to be gathered into the loving arms of God, he was marched out of the city as a criminal and hung upon a cross.
“God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Jesus’ total gift of himself – in love – from the cross is the gift that gives us hope. It is the gift that enables us to see through the pain and loss of this world to the promise of life and peace. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi: It is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Fr. Jilson George, CMI