The universal Church only began celebrating a feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1856, to be observed on the Friday “after the Octave of Corpus Christi”, which is often in June. Hence this month came to be associated with the Sacred Heart. Although this liturgical observance is somewhat modern, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus can be traced, more generally, to a devotion to the wounds of Christ which is Patristic in origin, and, more particularly, to the mystical writings of the 13th-century St Gertrude of Saxony.
Moreover, in the Scriptures, Christ himself calls us to contemplate and to rest in his Sacred Heart, that is to say, to have confidence in his love, mercy, and compassion for sinners. “Come to me… I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (cf Mt 11:28-29) Thus, in 1673, St Margaret Mary Alacoque had a series of visions of Jesus, which begin with him declaring: “My divine Heart is so impassioned with love for humanity [that] it cannot contain the flames of its burning charity inside.” The Sacred Heart, therefore, is a symbol of God’s love for us, and, in particular, devotion to the Sacred Heart is centred on the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is the heart of Jesus given to us sacramentally, and on confession.
The practice of receiving both these sacraments on the first Friday of the month is part of the modern devotion to the Sacred Heart which is inspired by the visions of St Margaret Mary. However, it seems to me that the core aspect of this devotion to the Sacred Heart is often forgotten. According to St Margaret Mary, Jesus asks her to make reparation for “the indignities I have received in the Blessed Sacrament”; for the “ingratitude by reason of their irreverence and sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt” shown to the Eucharist by so many, and especially by priests and religious.
Therefore, although an act of Consecration to the Sacred Heart, and the Enthronement of an image of the Sacred Heart are laudable acts to be done this June, I would encourage us to devote some time each week to Eucharistic Adoration, and to making an Act of Reparation for the ingratitude we have shown towards our Eucharistic Lord. At this time when many still cannot go to Holy Communion, perhaps the Lord, in his providence, is thus stirring up in our hearts a greater love and ardent desire for him. Let us go to him in prayer, trusting in his burning love for us, and so shall we find rest from all that burdens and worries us.
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