Follow your heart. Our culture is driven by this concept, which today often entails doing what is right for you, fulfilling all your desires, and hustling to make it happen. Pursuing your dreams and finding fulfillment are worthwhile endeavors, but have you ever found your heart divided about someone or something? Or desired and pursued something that wasn’t good for you? I have. Those stories didn’t end well.
Beyond its vital physiological functions, we attribute love, wisdom, and compassion with the heart. Sacred Scripture also ascribes spiritual functions to this complex organ. The 1,000+ Scripture passages about the heart tie it to the core of our being, our identity.
One of the most jarring yet candid Scriptures on the human heart is:
The heart is deceitful above all things,Jeremiah 17:9-10
and desperately corrupt;
who can understand it?
‘I the Lord search the mind
and try the heart,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his doings.’”
Somehow ‘follow your deceitful, desperately corrupt, incomprehensible, tested-by-God vessel’ doesn’t seem quite as catchy. The good news is that Our Father knows this about our hearts and sent His Son to show us how to navigate our path through this life. We need Christ to be our compass. To follow His heart. And Christ’s fundamental teaching, love, flowed from that center of His being.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”John 15:9
The Sacred Heart of Jesus symbolizes the infinite love of God. It is the burning, wounded heart of Christ that reveals the Trinity’s self-sacrificing, consuming love for us. This love endured incomprehensible sufferings unto to death, over which it triumphed. Devotion to the Sacred Heart is devotion to Christ. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of devotion, or with that of the Sacred Heart, Fr. John Bartunek gives a beautiful explanation of that here.
Honoring His Heart is paying reverence to Christ in the way that He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. The Scriptures reveal much about the love and heart of Christ, but devotion to the Sacred Heart popularized after 1673-1675 when Jesus appeared to a young French nun, Margaret Mary Alacoque. In a series of revelations as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, Christ revealed that He had chosen her to spread this devotion. She wrote, “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of His Sacred Heart.”
During His third apparition to Margaret Mary, He opened His robe, exposed His human Heart, and said:
“Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love. In return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in this sacrament of love…. I come into the heart I have given you in order that through your fervor you may atone for the offenses which I have received from lukewarm and slothful hearts that dishonor me in the Blessed Sacrament.”Jesus christ
Centuries later, despite our rejection, irreverence, and apathy, the wounded Heart of Christ still pours His love out such that He withholds nothing from us. It is in this Heart that we find all that we need.
Jesus gave St. Margaret Mary 12 promises to those who honor His Sacred Heart. Reflecting on these promises, we will focus on the ones that echo our hearts cry.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus is Our Refuge
“I will be a secure refuge during life, and above all, in death.”Jesus
In His Sacred Heart, Christ offers us sanctuary. We will find refuge there in both life and death. This is our hiding place, a place where we can find rest.
How will He accomplish this? He promises to comfort us in our trials. He will establish peace in our families. He will bless every place in which an image of His Heart is exposed and honored. And he will write the names there of those who spread this devotion.
Take a break from the hustling and striving, and just be with Him. Seek shelter in His heart. Security anywhere else is an illusion.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Gives Us Strength
“Now, rest your head on My bosom, on My heart, and draw from it strength and power for these sufferings, because you will find neither relief nor help nor comfort anywhere else.”Christ to St. Faustina
A common phrase said in times of difficulty is, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Scripture offers us a more complete truth: “he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13.)
It is because God loves us and knows us that He allows more than we can handle, so we will turn to Him and rely upon His grace. It is not more than we can handle with Him.
Through this devotion, Christ promises to give us all the graces necessary according to our state in life. He will shed abundant blessings on all our undertakings.
He also promises that Lukewarm souls will become fervent. And fervent souls will rapidly grow in holiness and perfection.
He will do the work in and through us, if we draw strength from His Sacred center.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus Extends Us Mercy
“The Spirit of God does all things in peace. Let us have recourse to God with love and confidence, and He will receive us into the arms of His mercy.”St. Margaret Mary Alacoque
Mercy shows us the compassion of a God who not only spares us from what we deserve, but also embraces us with an everlasting love. Christ promised that although we are sinners, we will find in “His Heart an infinite ocean of mercy.”
His final promise was that “in the excessive mercy of My Heart, that My all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Friday of nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in My disgrace nor without receiving their Sacraments; My Divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment.”
His mercy knows no limits, there is no sin beyond His forgiveness. Let us fly into the arms of the Merciful Savior.
How To Handle Our Hearts
To love like Christ, we look to the indescribable love contained within the Sacred Heart of Jesus! His pure love has the power to transform our hearts. In turn, we can then love and serve others in a more Christ-like manner. For this transformation to occur, we must consent to let the Lord do the work in the depths of our being.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”Psalms 51:10
We need only to ask, to invite, to pray, and then watch how He moves. Jesus revealed how He transforms the offering of our Hearts through St. Margaret Mary. She said,
“Jesus asked for my heart which I begged Him to take, as He did, and placed it in His adorable One, in which He showed to me as a tiny speck consumed in this burning furnace. Then, taking it out as a burning flame shaped like a heart He replaced it in the place from which He had taken it.”
Giving our hearts over to Christ is not a one-and-done deal. We must continue this act. Many obstacles — such as our human nature and the effects of sin, our own failings, the Devil, and things of the world — can harden our hearts. We must battle against these things, and even ourselves, to keep our hearts aligned with His.
“Fight the hardness that wants to build around your heart. Stay soft. Let it hurt. Jesus never built walls around his Sacred Heart, but let it stay vulnerable. Feelings will pass. They are not evil. Let them happen.”Natalie Stefanick
To stoke that fire within, there are many Scriptures and prayers to turn to. To make this simple, here are three resources, and Google will give you the remaining millions.
“7 Ways to Honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus” by The Catholic Gentleman
“Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” by the USCCB
“Meditation, Novena and Offering to the Sacred Heart” by EWTN
The Resurrected Christ could have revealed Himself to us in a perfect, glorified body; yet He retained His wounds. His heart, encircled by a Crown of Thorns, surmounted by the Cross, and engulfed in flames reveals His Sacrificial Love – from Calvary throughout eternity. May we have the grace to give our hearts to God, to follow His Heart, and to find therein all that we need. Fueled by the love from His Heart, we then go forth to share that love and serve the Lord.