Monday, June 12, 2023
Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
The most widespread representation of Jesus Christ from the 18th century to the present day is the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
There is no shortage of pictures or statues of the Sacred Heart in many Catholic homes. The first preface of Christmas says that the visible leads to love of the invisible.
The Church has never underestimated the pedagogical, pastoral and devotional value of iconography. In the eighth and ninth centuries, she had to strongly censure the "iconoclasts" (destroyers of images) who said that images made us idolaters. The Church has always maintained that we do not practice idolatry, but rather iconodulism, or the veneration of images.
Now, let it be clear that pictures, stained glass windows and sacred statues are not enough. Something more is needed. That is prayer.
People devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are very fond of the ejaculatory prayer, "Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in You."
There are other more elaborate prayers, such as consecrations to the Sacred Heart as well as litanies. A prayer for daily use known as "Daily Offering" is highly recommended. Among its different versions we offer here one of great doctrinal richness:
"Come, Holy Spirit! Inflame our hearts in the redemptive longings of the Heart of Christ, so that we may truly offer our persons and our works, in union with Him, for the redemption of the world. My Lord and my God Jesus Christ: By the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Mother, I consecrate myself to your Heart, and I offer myself with you to the Father in your Holy Sacrifice of the Altar, with my prayer and my work, sufferings and joys of today, in reparation for our sins and that your Kingdom may come among us. Amen." To this prayer we add the intentions of the pope, the bishops, the pastors and our own.
Prayers alone are not enough either; they must serve as the fuel that propels us to praxis or action. As Jesus himself said in the Sermon on the Mount, "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 7, 21). There is an ejaculatory prayer that moves us to imitate Christ: "Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours."
With the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus we seek to become Christ-like at the deepest level, that is, at the level of the heart.
The heart that appears visible on the chest of Christ in his images graphically illuminates the inner self of Jesus. We see how a flame of fire bursts out of his heart. This is a symbol of the burning love of Jesus.
His love for his heavenly Father is love expressed in deeds. "I always do what is pleasing to him" (Jn 8, 29). The Father sent him on a difficult mission, and Jesus carried it out, overcoming countless obstacles.
The flame also stands for the love of Jesus for us. "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13).
That immeasurable love of Jesus for the Father and for us continues to be illustrated by the icon of the Heart, depicted crowned with thorns and wounded by the spear (cf. Jn. 19, 34).
The bleeding heart of Jesus speaks to us of a life filled with misunderstandings and persecutions; he endured it all by making it a sacrifice, that is, a free offering.
Whoever wants to be a true devotee of the Heart of Jesus must embrace sacrifice. They cannot allow themselves to be swept away by the forceful currents of hedonism, materialism and consumerism.
The true devotee venerates the images of the Heart of Jesus and addresses prayers to him, but above all lives a mortified, ascetic, service-oriented life, free from disordered affections. As the apostle who was very close to the Heart of Jesus said so well: "Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth" (1 Jn 3:18).
This blog was originally published as a column in the February 2023 edition of La Voz Católica.