Today is the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a feast which celebrates a love that conquers evil by the sheer acts of love and mercy. More on that in a moment.
I am afraid that, growing up as a boy and later as a young man, I found the devotion to the Sacred Heart came off as syrupy and sentimental. I hope I do not offend but I must say that some of the images of the Sacred Heart present Jesus in an almost feminized manner. His long locks of flowing blondish hair, red lips and an almost “come hither” look were bothersome to me. (For example: HERE & HERE & HERE & HERE) Such qualities look fine on a woman, but not a man.
Again, I hope this does not offend. There are surely good depictions of the Sacred Heart out there, I just think some are in bad taste, at least from my perspective as a man. I realize especially that many women do not share my view of such art.
But, beyond sentiment this a serious feast. It took time for me, growing up to understand that the devotion to the Sacred Heart was not simply to be identified with the art I saw. Yes, Jesus has a strong, manly and loving heart too, he had a courageous will to save rooted in love. He never hesitated to speak the truth in love. He loved us enough to warn us of sin, and call us to repent. He loved us enough to summon us to sacrifice and taught us that the greatest love was to lay down your life for others. He loved us unto the end, dying for us to bring us salvation, consolation and peace.
In the end it was not nails that held him to the cross but love, love for the Father, and love for us. The heart of Jesus contains not just a sentimental love, but a saving and summoning love. His heart is strong and spacious, vigorous and victorious. And his love alone is powerful enough to drive back sin and restore grace. For some reason I am mindful of the Words of Dr. Martin Luther King who sad: Darkness cannot conquer darkness, only light can do that and hatred cannot conquer hatred, only love can do that.
And his love conquers in this paradoxical way for it ends the cycle of violence by not returning violence. It ends the cycle of retribution by not paying back, but by forgiving gratuitously. It is ends the cycle of hatred by returning love in the face of hatred. For the Lord’s love stands its ground and will not be drawn into the world of hatred and revenge, will not be defined by them or succumb to their demand to act on their terms. Love conquers simply by being love.
The video you are about to see is the furthest thing from sentimental. It is from the passion of the Christ and shows the moment of Christ’s death.
But notice how, in the video, love conquers. Shortly after Christ’s death, a soldier thrusts open Christ’s side and reveals the very Heart of God. The way the movie depicts it, Christ’s love, his Holy Spirit almost explodes from his side. And this love “confuses the proud in their inmost thoughts” and “lifts up the lowly.” The Temple leaders are in confusion, the Roman guards are in flight. But Mary, John and Mary are at peace beneath the Cross of Christ. His heart has been revealed. They know his love and are at home with it. Christ’s vigorous love makes Satan howl in frustration and defeat.
Happy Feast of the Sacred Heart. May you know the tender and powerful love of Christ.
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