Some time ago, while I was teaching in the Bronx, a Redemptorist priest from Japan who was staying in the rectory and studying in Fordham University came to the convent for Mass. It was the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Most feast days within the Church’s calendar are celebrated on a specific date each year. This feast day is always 19 days after Pentecost, which is dependent on Easter. This year, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is June 28.
I will never forget the priest’s homily. In absolutely impeccable English, he said that when he was in the seminary in Japan, he thought this feast was truly a “western” notion. You see, as a Japanese young man, the image of the “western” Jesus holding his heart totally repulsed him. He explained that most Japanese are brought up eating fish. To hold a bloodied piece of meat in one bare hand is repulsive in his culture. Because of this, he was prejudiced against the devotion to the Sacred Heart. That was until his brother met a wonderful woman and fell in love. He said that his brother explained to him, “Loving someone the way I love Yousi means that I have given her my heart and she has given me hers.” The priest went on to explain that sentiment perfectly personifies Ezekiel 36:26: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (NIV). It also explains that Christ wants to give us His heart in which to love the Father, he said.
I could not help but think of this as I begin to discuss devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart is a universal symbol of love. In “A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus” author Father James Kubicki, SJ, writes, “The feelings of one’s heart, though sometimes sentimental, run deeper than the strongest emotions. … The heart is a symbol of true love, that love for which every human person is searching. Yet, we so often look for love in the wrong places. … Our [mis]use of the heart symbol shows that we have a confused idea of love. … Made in the image and likeness of God who is Love itself, we are built for infinite love.”1
Pius XII, in his encyclical, On Devotion to the Sacred Heart, when describing this devotion, writes, [The] Heart of the divine Redeemer … demands in a special way that the highest form of worship be paid to it, arises from the fact that His Heart, more than all other members of His body, is the natural sign and symbol of His boundless love for the human race.” (22)
It is my prayer that during the month of June that you would spend some time contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as God’s merciful and boundless love for you. It is a love that knows no end! Give Him your heart! He hungers to give his to you as well!
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, Special to The Witness
1Kubicki, James. A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Ave Maria Press, 2012