Spiritual Reading 14

14. The Revelation of The Sacred Heart

His heart is like those cells the bees brim full.

– Pindar

The Sacred Heart of Jesus brings love into full focus as the purpose of human living. This love is God loving ourselves, others, and all the universe. Love means vulnerability so Jesus presents a heart that hurts along with ours in just the same ways that our hearts hurt: by abandonment, rejection, betrayal, and indifference. In his apparition to St. Margaret Mary he says: “Behold the heart that has loved humanity so much and has been so little loved in return.” Though her visions often included fear-based moralisms, the revelations she received from the Sacred Heart do tell us how God feels about us. We learn that Jesus feels and cares about our response or lack of response. Our own caring about whether others love us, by Jesus’ example, is therefore not a shortcoming or a sign of immaturity. It is part of loving one another and God.

The revelation of the Sacred Heart shows the scope and meaning of love. It shows that nothing matters but love. It brings tenderness into religion by presenting an image of warmth, a desire for relationship, and an abiding sense of divine assurance. The warmth of Jesus is what melts our cold cold heart and makes us more radiant with love.

The old pictures of the Sacred Heart in our childhood homes presented and preserved a consciousness of how God is love and how love happens in suffering. Only now do we appreciate the depth of meaning in that image. A glowing heart is a warm heart that radiates compassionate love. A hurt heart is an open heart, the gate of heaven. In addition, the pictures of Jesus were often androgynous. This fits with the symbolic meaning of the heart as feminine and the mind as masculine. The softness and approachability showed themselves in the work of the artists who perhaps unconsciously knew the Sacred Heart was meant to open us to the feminine in the divine.

We can trust that the ever-present Heart of God is the equivalent of perceiving a loving intent in the universe. Nature is continually gracious and non-retaliatory toward us. It can follow that events and life’s givens are gracious, grace-giving.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus sought us with grace as far back as the birth of the universe. We are loved that much. The following words of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary highlight a dramatic power that has always characterized the revelations of the Sacred Heart: “Behold this heart which has so loved human beings that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to give them proof of its love, and in return I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude, contempt, irreverence, sacrilege, and coldness toward the Sacrament of my love.” The drama resides in the point-counterpoint of a wooing love from Jesus toward us, our rejecting him, and then his loving us even more ardently. This is a powerful affirmation of the unconditionality of divine love for humanity without stint and not at all contingent upon our actions or deservingness. St. Margaret Mary’s devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus pivoted around her belief in an unconditional love that continually beams its graces and grants a serene refuge in the midst of life’s fretfulness: “In his heart I sleep without care and repose without anxiety.” A deep serenity results from that kind of yes. John Croiset, S.J., a confidant of St. Margaret Mary, wrote: “The Sacred Heart preserves unalterable tranquility because it is in such perfect conformity with the will of God that it cannot be troubled by any event.”

The revelations of the Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary placed an over-emphasis on reparation and sin which diverged from medieval mysticism in which the accent was on a love relationship with Christ. At the same time, the revelations to St. Margaret Mary reaffirmed in a very striking way, a certitude that God longs for love from us. This is a sign of God’s awareness of the depth of our capacity to love. We have enough love to respond to God’s desire for it. In spiritual teachings, desire is hazardous and we are warned to beware of it. Yet now we see that divinity itself includes desire. This was visible also at the last supper: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Luke 22:15 This longing of God for man is an endlessly rich and provocative metaphor for how the higher Self needs the ego to bring its light into the darkness. During World War II, American soldiers arrived in a small almost bombed-out town in Germany. In the central square was a statue of Christ with his arms extended in love. His hands had been blown off in the recent attack. A soldier wrote this note and placed it under the statue, which the townspeople carved into the pedestal later: “I have no hands but yours.” Our ego is how the hand of Christ reaches into the world.

The “so” in “God so loved the world…” is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart shows that the divine is in love with the human; the timeless is in love with the timely; the spiritual is in love with the material. Since love means connection, in it apparent opposites unite. Mystics universally noticed that God-in-love never ceases to woo humanity. The wooing is not from someone above to someone below, as if there were a distance between ourselves and Christ. As so many mystics realized, the whole courtship happens within us and that is why our response is described in their visions as an awakening to our true nature, a realization of God within. In that wondrous moment, the solitary and self-sufficient ego turns out to be simply a much too limited identity. We feel ourselves widen with universal compassion. Then we realize God was courting us to bring us close to his heart and to give us that heart to use for the good of the world: “I will bring him near and he shall approach me.” Jer 30:21

In the Hebrew bible we see how God desires us but leaves it up to us to open the door: “I am my beloved’s and his desire is for me…. My beloved put his hand by the latch of the door and my heart was thrilled. I rose to open to my beloved.” Song of Songs: 7:11 and 5:4. The Talmud adds: “God wants your heart.”

We are attractive in the divine courtship not because of our accomplishments or talents. What makes us appealing is how much room there is in us for God. When St. Margaret Mary asked Jesus why he chose her to be the courier of his heart, he answered: “Because you are a vessel of nothingness.” That phrase is not about worthiness but roominess.

Love makes God long for us… God never began to love us… We have always been… known and loved without beginning.

– Juliana of Norwich