“… one of the Pharisees, a lawyer, in an attempt to trip up Jesus, asked him, ‘Teacher, what commandment of the Law is the greatest?’ Jesus said to him: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment; the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments, the whole law is based and the Prophets as well.’“ (Mt 22, 35-40)
Such is the law. Christ’s law. The Christian law.
How is man – in his frailty, in his tendency to pride, to anger, to lust, to deceit, to aggressiveness, to irresponsibility, etc. How is man to fulfill Christian law?
It has been said that God does the impossible, because he is an impossible God, But when God asks for the impossible, he always gives the impossible:
To the Christian, God has given a divine heart; in consequence, he loves as does God, and he also loves what God loves.
Such is the theologal virtue of Charity: God’s heart grafted on our human heart, to enable this heart of ours to apply its love – that has become similar to God’s own love, – to all that is loved by God himself.
When the Heart of Jesus is ‘grafted’” on our own, there is no loss but an immense enhancement of being:
“I live, now not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (St. Paul)
Having emptied oneself of self and accepted Jesus, as have done the saints, we are, as they were, truly free: they do what they like and no man can stop them… they laugh at terror and torture, having nothing to lose… When the lions lick the feet of Paulinus in the Roman arena, when Lawrence makes fun of himself on the gridiron, – when thousands flock to the confessional of the illiterate Curé of Ars…
When people lose their hearts to the saints, not because of what they do, but because of what they are… consciously or unconsciously, one must recognize in them a share of the divine Heart, of the Heart of Jesus… the first Christian heart…
It has been said that the heart of man is an abyss: there is room for infinity, because in it there is an infinity of desire. What will inhabit it, if it is not filled by the limitless ocean of the Goodness of God?
St. Paul attempts to give us a description, nearly a ‘blue-print’ of the divine Heart of Jesus. In Eph 3, 14, he tells us:
“… I kneel before the Father… and I pray that he may bestow on you gifts in keeping with his glory.
“May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith, and may Charity be the root and foundation of your life. Thus you will be able to grasp fully… the breadth, and the length, and height and depth of Christ’s love, and experience this love which surpasses all knowledge…”
and every Christian heart has been created on the very same model as the Heart of Jesus…
From this Christian heart, thus made divine, God expects a lot, much more than could ever be expected from a merely human heart:
“Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect…
“You have heard that it was said: ‘You shall love your neighbor and you shall hate your enemy’ – but I say to you: ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…’
“This will prove that you are sons of your Heavenly Father, for his sun rises on the bad and the good, he rains on the just and the unjust.”
“If you love those who love you, what merit is there in that? Do not Tax collectors do as much? And if you greet your brothers only, what is so praiseworthy about that? Do not pagans do as much? In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
To expect a human being to love his enemies, to do good and to pray for those who calumniate him and who persecute him, is to expect the impossible. To be able to do such things, it is necessary for man to have a special faculty, a gift from God, – the gift of Charity.
“…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us…” (Rom 5, 5)
and so, this demanding prayer of Francis of Assisi – summary of the Gospel may become reality in our life:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love…
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled… as to console;
to be understood… as to understand;
to be loved… as to love.
it is while giving that we receive;
it is while forgetting ourselves that we find;
it is while pardoning that we are pardoned;
it is while dying that we are born to eternal life.
When one speaks of the Heart of Jesus, one speaks of the greatest mystery: the love of God, – inexpressible in human language. The only adequate expression of this mystery is SOMEBODY: the Word of God made man, Christ Jesus, love of God for man and love of man for God.
To return to our human context, let’s think, on one hand, of one of the most beautiful masterpieces of Nature: the heart of a Mother, for instance, and, on the other hand, of what Charity, – this Christian heart, this divine heart shared with Jesus, – what Charity can achieve, and does achieve…
The human heart, be it that of a Mother, – has limitations; the Christian heart, being divine, has none; it can draw on God’s own reserves!
The Heart of Jesus… – the Heart of Mary… – the heart of Paul…, of Francis of Assisi…, every one of them is Charity.
But we must make sure of this: just as nature gives woman the heart of a mother, which practicesin maternal love, – so the Christian heart, the divine heart, to be normal and to fulfill its faculty properly, must also have practice, must love with divine ardor all those who are God’s own family, all men, our brothers, – those who are ‘our neighbor’.
The law of life is to love: it is the great, the first, the only commandment… “In the evening of life, we shall be judged on love…” (St. John of the Cross).
Why, shall we say, has God given the Christian a divine heart? Because the object that is destined to its love is too great, too immense, to be embraced by a human heart… This object: God himself!…
The law of life is to love God, – that is: God and everything inherent to him. To love in such a way, to be passionately in love with God, in a love worthy of Him, – is not only human, – it is, in a special way, divine. That is why we must have Charity, – a divine heart, the Heart of Jesus grafted on our own.
But could not, and should not man, without a supernatural vocation, love God? Certainly, he could, and he should. Only, we must realize the great difference between the human heart as such, and Charity, or divine heart, the one we share with Christ.
The God of man is the God Creator.
The God of the Christian is the God of Christ, His Father, our Father… He is the same God, but he does not give himself in the same way…
St. Paul, delighted with the way the Father loves his children, admits to being incapable to even begin to tell any of these mysteries:
“It is not possible <to?, for=””>man to say anything about it…”
As an example: here are two fathers, as good and kind, one as the other, but one is my father, the other one is a stranger. I must love them both: they deserve it. Although I do not love them in the same way: to love my own father, I have the heart of a son, with immense resources; for the other, I have only a common heart… Every allowance being made, a similar distance, – prolonged to infinity – exists between natural love for God, and supernatural love, or Charity. As Creator, God is all lovable, good,… but more distant than the King is from a street beggar. Whilst the God of the Christian, the God of Jesus Christ, is His Father: sanctifying grace – dare we to use the simile?… – as God’s ‘blood’, circulates into the Christian… his life and his destiny are those of a son: this is why he has the heart of a son of God, – the Heart of Jesus, – to love his Father, and his neighbor.
In the Heart of Jesus:
Have not the Popes repeatedly emphasized for us, and also recommended to us, the cult of the Heart of Jesus as an excellent way of practicing the Christian religion?
Pius XI, and later Pius XII in his encyclical letter Haurietis aquas, told us:
“This form of piety leads our mind more quickly than any other to an intimate knowledge of Christ the Lord, and inclines our hearts more effectively to love Him with greater vehemence, and to imitate Him more earnestly.”
The cult of the Heart of Jesus teaches us the absolutely unique importance which our relations with Christ have in our spirituality. As we participate in God’s nature –
“He has bestowed upon us the great and precious things he promised, so that through these you who have fled a world corrupted by lust might become sharers of the divine nature…” (2 Pt 1, 4)
They are particularly intimate and spontaneous relations; and yet it is by the facility and simplicity of these relations that man enters into the very heart of God, – for he does not unite himself to the person of a man, but to the Person of the Word … God is no longer infinitely distant and inaccessible: he has become our Friend, our companion, and – through the Holy Spirit – is more present to man than man is to himself.
What is the cult of the Heart of Jesus but the most perfect and fullest expression of ‘our’ friendship, a mutual friendship between Him and us? Only this cult shows us Christ as our brother, who loves us and asks us for our love… Loving us, in a way, He loves Himself:
“You are the body of Christ…” (1 Cor 12, 27)
“I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me…” (Mt 25, 40)
Every devotion ‘creates a perspective’ and shows us the ‘directive lines’ the practice of our spiritual life should take. The cult of the Heart of Jesus – that is much more than a devotion, even a cult … – is as important as to live, – as we have said, to live is to love; the cult of the Heart of Jesus gives us this perspective: Christ Incarnate as the center of a twofold movement: that of God’s love for man; as also the ascending love of a human nature, a filial love, – the love of man for God, – for it is the love of the Son of God, a love that expresses itself in worship and adoration. It is the meeting place of the love of God and man.
Let’s end with this Hymn to Charity, of St. Paul’s, – of whom St. John Chrysostome used to say: “Cor Pauli, Cor Christi….”
“If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have no love,
I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, but have no love,
I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
Love bears all things, believes all things,
hopes all things, endures all things.
(O Lord, how far I am from this goal!…)
Love never ends. As for prophecy, it will pass away… knowledge too, will pass away.
For our knowledge, – (you have assured me,) is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;
but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child;
but when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.
So faith, hope, love abide, these three;
but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13, 1-13)
P. Eusèbe H. MENARD
Sup. Gen. M.Ss.A.
June 6th, 1975
Feast of the Sacred Heart.