A Letter From Our Pastor: Redefining Love Through the Sacred Heart of Jesus
One of the great feasts of the Christian year will occur in June, but it is often overlooked. It doesn’t fall on a Sunday, and it isn’t a Holy Day of Obligation. I am referring to the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, which will be on June 11 this year. This wonderful feast provides a great way to begin the summer.
However, despite widespread devotion and many parish dedications to the Sacred Heart, many Catholics have only a vague idea of what it’s all about. So, let me try to briefly fill in the picture.
Often, when we think of the heart, we think of it as the seat of our emotions and feelings. The heart is often contrasted with the mind, as though our God-given reason were somehow evil or, at best, second-rate. But feelings come and go — we can’t really depend on our emotions to be reliable, steady guides.
However, when classical theology refers to the heart, it is considering an aspect of human life that goes beyond our feelings. It includes our will, where we make decisions. The heart can be considered the center of our personhood.
In explaining Christian teaching about human nature, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God” (368).
It is common to mistakenly label love as an emotion. Love often includes feelings, but true love is more than that. Real love is a settled attitude that wants the best for the person being loved. That’s why the Church’s teaching usually uses the term “charity” — to distinguish the Christian virtue from the more superficial popular concept of love. The Catechism tells us, “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. Jesus makes charity the new commandment. By loving his own ‘to the end,’ he makes manifest the Father’s love which he receives. By loving one another, the disciples imitate the love of Jesus which they themselves receive” (CCC, 1822-1823). This sort of love, this charity — demonstrated by Jesus Christ and commanded to His followers — is no lightweight passing emotion. Feelings alone do not bring one to offer oneself to an agonizing death for the sake of someone else. No, that sort of sacrifice can only come from a considered and deliberate decision.
Although we sometimes forget that fact, Jesus is fully human as well as fully divine. So, His human heart was involved in His sacrifice on the Cross. Thus, simply put, devotion to the Sacred Heart reminds us of the basic fact that God loves us. It was a costly love, the ultimate act of charity, to give His life on our behalf.
We know the kind of love Jesus has for us. What kind of loving response are you going to make? How will that affect your use of your time, talent and treasure?
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Steven Arisman, Pastor