Catholic images of the Sacred Heart are often perceived as gruesome to non-catholics. Jesus’ heart sometimes drips blood and is encased in a chain around which light radiates. Countless novels poke fun at the Catholic faith through descriptions of such images adorning Catholic homes. Yet each Catholic home should include an image of the Sacred Heart because Jesus’ heart truly lies at the center of our faith.
The Sacred Heart in the Scriptures
The Lord revealed himself to the chosen people as an act of love. Our Jewish brothers and sisters are distinguished by the love God revealed to them and by the love the chosen people were called upon to show to God. This exchange of love is the energy source which drives the covenant. As Christians, we consider ourselves God’s adopted children whom Jesus embraced universally.
Note that the Scripture uses the phrase the Lord set his heart on you and chose you (Deuteronomy 7:7). The image of God setting his heart upon us is powerful. To set one’s heart defines an act of will to choose to love. Our faithfulness to God is a return of love:
Understand, then, that the Lord, your God, is God indeed, the faithful God who keeps his merciful covenant down to the thousandths generation toward those who love him and keep his commandments… (Deuteronomy 7:10). The covenant is defined by this exchange of love.
St. Paul states this directly:
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love…No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us(1 John:4:8-9, 16). God’s act of sacrificing His Son to us was love. Jesus’ entire ministry preached love. Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was the ultimate act of love. Christ’s sacraments are outward expressions of His loving embrace. The Church embodies Christ’s love and is the conduit through which we grow in love.
The heart of Jesus is also “pierced” by our sins, as the facts about His crucifixion attest: But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (John 19:34) This blood and water poured out like a flood — so much more than what one human heart can hold. This image helps us understand Divine Mercy — the pouring out of heavenly grace in a great flood that wipes away all our sins. This is the ultimate love.
Jesus also tells us that to love involves gentleness, humility, and ultimately suffering. Our hearts get broken; and as they experience breaks, we enter into the Passion of our Lord. He heals our brokenness; and, in the process, He expands our ability to love. These sufferings, Jesus tells us, gradually lighten our hearts. As our hearts become more at one in His Sacred Heart, He lifts away our burdens: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30).
Devotions to the Sacred Heart
Devotion to Jesus’ Sacred Heart took specific liturgical form in the early 1000s, and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque popularized this devotion after a series of revelations in the mid 17th century. The point of all these devotions is best captured in this refrain to a Rosary-like prayer sequence to the Sacred Heart: Jesus most meek, make my heart like unto Thine.
In addition to having an image of the Sacred Heart in your home, you should begin your day with an Offering to Jesus’ Sacred Heart:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father.
You should participate in the Nine First Friday Devotions, which bring abundant graces to you and to your family, as well as great assurance in our passage to eternal life. This involves attending Mass on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, going to Confession, praying an act of consecration, and praying in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Learn more about First Friday Devotions.
Prayer to the Sacred Heart
O most holy heart of Jesus, fountain of every blessing, I adore you, I love you, and with lively sorrow for my sins I offer you this poor heart of mine. Make me humble, patient, pure and wholly obedient to your will. Grant, Good Jesus, that I may live in you and for you. Protect me in the midst of danger. Comfort me in my afflictions. Give me health of body, assistance in my temporal needs, your blessing on all that I do, and the grace of a holy death. Amen.
May your heart grow in love as you cleave to the Sacred Heart of Jesus!