Vol. I / Issue 3 / June 2016
But I as a fruitful olive tree in the house of God, have hoped in the mercy of God for ever, yea for ever and ever.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus
"This people honoureth me with their lips: but their heart is far from me." - Gospel according to Saint Matthew 15:8
According to modern devotion, the month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.
What devotion is dearer to the Catholic heart than devotion to the Sacred Heart? Is not the Sacred Heart the divine school of charity for the docile mind? Do we not find in enraptured discursive meditation every day upon the glories of the Sacred Heart the answer to all troubles and trials? Is not every soul moved each day by the mere thought of the Sacred Heart?
As a matter of fact, no. While all of the flowery talk and pious imagery that we like to equate all too often with devotion to the Sacred Heart might be momentarily pleasing, unless they further direct us toward the necessary means of our own sanctification, then we make them void of grace.
If we make the Sacred Heart the mere object of our emotion, then we are become like the Daughters of Jerusalem:
"And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women: who bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning to them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold the days shall come, wherein they will say: Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that have not borne, and the paps that have not given suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall upon us; and to the hills: Cover us. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?" - St. Luke 23:28-31
We see here that the Daughters are - very understandably - moved to tears at the sight of our Lord in his Passion. But our Lord invites them to a deeper appreciation of the moment to which they are witness. Our Lord in his unutterable selflessness invites the Daughters of Jerusalem - and every Christian soul - to regard their own state of soul when standing before Him. Our emotional reactions, genuine and understandable as they might be, are ephemeral and fleeting. Our state of soul, however, remains, as does the fact that we are to render an account for ourselves.
"Therefore every one of us shall render account to God for himself." - Romans 14:12.
No, it is not at all enough to proclaim a love for the Sacred Heart. It is not enough to think that we feel moved by the Sacred Heart.
Rather, it is absolutely imperative that a devotion to the Sacred Heart be made manifest through our personal conversion and through living the life of grace. We make the first step in this by approaching our Lord in our own brokenness, as the Psalmist attests:
"A sacrifice to God is an afflicted spirit: a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." - Psalm 50:19.
Now, our own hearts are always open before God, for nothing can be hidden from Him. Being created in the image and likeness of God, our own hearts are continually before his Heart, and are called to like unto his Heart. But how far we fall from this in our sinful nature! The first juxtaposition of the hearts of men and the Heart of our Lord is found in the book of Genesis, and what a sorrowful picture it portrays:
"And God seeing that the wickedness of men was great on the earth, and that all the thought of their heart was bent upon evil at all times, it repented him that he had made man on the earth. And being touched inwardly with sorrow of heart, He said: I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth, from man even to beasts, from the creeping thing even to the fowls of the air, for it repenteth me that I have made them." - Genesis 6:5-7
What more sorrowful situation could be put forth than that the very Heart of God Himself is made to repent on account of the evil of men's hearts? And thereafter we see the chastisement of the deluge.
No sooner had the waters receded, however, than Noe built an altar unto the Lord and offered holocausts:
"And the Lord smelled a sweet savour, and said: I will no more curse the earth for the sake of man: for the imagination and thought of man's heart are prone to evil from his youth: therefore I will no more destroy every living soul as I have done." - Genesis 8:21.
Here we see that our Lord turns his own Heart unto patience in the presence of the sweet savour of sacrifice, even while still seeing that the broken human heart is prone to evil. It is sacrifice which turns the most Sacred Heart into our sure refuge and source of grace.
When we avail ourselves of this grace when we bring our own broken human hearts, in contrition and humility before our Lord as we are told in the psalms, our own spirits afflicted after the instruction of our Lord to the Daughters of Jerusalem, and we can offer our very selves as a sacrifice unto God Himself, in union with the perfect Sacrifice of the Cross.
And what do we see when we look upon that perfect Sacrifice?
We see the accomplishment of the great work of redemption by our Divine Lord Himself upon the life-giving Cross! We see the summit of all sacrifice in the perfect Sacrifice of the Son of God. And we see the consummation of every work of the Law, and the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God unto the remission of sin.
"When Jesus, therefore, had taken the vinegar, he said; It is consummated. And bowing his head, he gave up the ghost." - Gospel according to Saint John 19:30
"It is consummated." These are the final words spoken by our blessed Lord before he gave up the ghost. And even then, this is not enough for our Lord in his most Sacred Heart! Let us hear the further words of Saint John:
"The soldiers, therefore, came; and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But when they were come to Jesus, as they saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers opened his side with a spear, and immediately there came out blood and water." - Gospel according to Saint John 19:32-34
Notice the immense bounty and limitless charity of the Sacred Heart! Even after the consummation of the great work of redemption, even after the ex-spiration of the King of Heaven and Earth, still our Lord gives even more of Himself.
"Immediately there came out blood and water."
The fathers attest that just as Eve was taken from the side of Adam while he reposed in Eden, here the immaculate bride of Christ, the Church, is here taken from the side of the new Adam reposed upon the Cross.
And just as the water and the blood flow into the world from the pierced Heart of our Divine Lord, so also the grace of the sacred mysteries flow into the Church, as Saint John Chrysostom attests:
Hence it is, that the sacred mysteries flow; as often, therefore, as thou approachest the awful cup, approach it as if thou wert going to drink from thy Saviour's sacred side. (St. Chrysostom, Hom. LXXXIV in Joan.)
Finally, having first seen the Heart of our Lord turned to forgiveness through sacrifice, and thereafter having seen our Lord open his own Sacred Heart to give grace even beyond the consummation of his perfect Sacrifice of the Cross, we can now see its effect within us.
What grace are we to receive? What are we to do?
Quite simply put, we are to have a new heart, a clean heart, a pure heart created within us.
"Create a clean heart in me, O God!" - Psalm 50:12.
Thus we can truly fulfill the commandments of our Lord:
"Now the end of the commandment is charity from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith,"- 1 Tim. 1:5, working all things in ways according to the ways of the Sacred Heart,
"Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men:" - Col. 3:23
Thus working in union with and in imitation of the Sacred Heart, continually having a clean heart created within us through the action of the Holy Ghost, the very face of the earth can be renewed:
"Thou shalt send forth thy spirit, and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth," Psalm 103:30.
And in the work, through it, throughout it, and ultimately in the Kingdom of Heaven, having been thus renewed, we will behold Him whose Sacred Heart calls to us, creates us, forever forms us, and forever seeks us, for
"Blessed are the clean of heart: they shall see God!" - Gospel according to Saint Matthew 5:8
How Many Are Saved ?
“For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)
We shall consider three important points, which we shall go over now so you do not get discouraged.
The first point is that few adult Christians go to heaven.
The second is that all adult Christians can go to heaven.
And the last point is a brief discussion of the infallible means of making sure you are one of the few, the humble, the true Christians.
“So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” (Matthew 20:16)
Saint Alphonsus expresses the common opinion that the majority of adult Catholics damn themselves to hell. He follows Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and the Saints in expressing this opinion.
In the past century and a half some have tried to minimize this and even proclaim that the majority of people go to heaven. And yes, we are talking about Catholics, several of whom are well loved for their writings, who have reached the conclusion that the majority are saved.
However, there is a major problem with thinking that the majority are saved. It causes us to relax, as if we do not need to do as much in order to be saved, In fact, it is easy to adopt ideas that are more likely to be found amongst those in hell, than in the saints in heaven.
“Wherefore, brethren, labour the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election.” (II Peter 1:10)
If we believe that few are saved, then we will strive harder to be amongst that few. Let us look at this from two angles. Let us say we decide that the majority are saved, and take a lax view of life. At the end of the world we find out, we are wrong and find out we did not do enough to be saved. Do we want to take a chance on eternal misery? Now let us say, we believe few are saved, and we do a great deal to make sure we are one of those few. Now at the day of judgment we find out that actually far more are saved than we thought. Should we be unhappy that we did more and now have more glory in heaven? Those who are unhappy about this are those who want to be just as worldly as they can be, and yet go to heaven. As the saying goes, they want to have their cake and eat it to. And even the world tells us this is crazy.
“And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? But he was silent. Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:11-14)
We can all have the wedding garment of sanctifying grace. God provides us all of the grace we need and the opportunities we need to save our own souls. If we don't save our soul, it is our own fault.
“Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (I Timothy 2:4)
And so God wills that all of us go to heaven. Then the question is, do we will it?
Because God will not drag us kicking and screaming into heaven against our will. No, we have to give our heart to God.
"For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will." (Philippians 2:13)
It is our duty to open our hearts to Almighty God, so that He can work in them.
"And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh." (Ezechiel 36:26)
It is easy for us to harden our hearts. And this brings on a condition of spiritual heart disease. And this disease is eternally deadly.
This is why we pray that God will remove our hard heart and replace it with a heart of flesh that is loving and can be molded by Almighty God as He wills.
“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
This is the first step on the road to heaven. If we can search the Scriptures, we can find the truth. Read and live by the Sermon on the Mount and the other sayings of Jesus. And the Church teaches us through the basic catechism. God's law is not hard to understand. We try to complicate it, because we want to find a loophole to justify our pet sin. And this is why few are saved. It is time to accept the truth as it is and live by it.
Christianity is a way of life.
“Afterwards, Jesus findeth him in the temple, and saith to him: Behold thou art made whole: sin no more, lest some worse thing happen to thee.” (John 5:14)
And Jesus advised the woman taken in adultery: “Go, and now sin no more.” (John 8:11) Very simple, give up sin.
Pray (as we discussed last month) in the Olive Tree.
“They have laid it waste, and it hath mourned for me. With desolation is all the land made desolate; because there is none that considereth in the heart.” (Jeremias 12:11)
Considering in the heart and soul is mental prayer, and it is so easy that even a child can do it.
Saint Alphonsus quotes Jeremias and then proposes that all who meditate, that is consider in the heart save their souls. He states that we will either give up sin or we will give up prayer. We can consider mental prayer as a form of heaven insurance. If we persevere until the end of the world in mental prayer, we shall be saved. The end of the world for us is that day on which the world ends in regard to us, the day of our death.
Two Hearts That Beat As One
The story is told of a doctor who told this rich, old man that he was going to die if he didn't get a new heart soon.
The old man told the doctor to search the world for the best heart available, and money was no object. A few days later the doctor called the old man and said he found three hearts but they are all expensive.The old man reminded the doctor that he was filthy rich and implored him to tell him about the donors they came from.
“Well, the first one belonged to 22 year old marathon runner, never smoked, ate only the most healthy foods, was in peak condition when he was hit by a bus. No damage to the heart, of course. But it costs $100,000!”
The doctor continued, “'The second one belonged to a 16 year old long-distance swimmer, a high school kid. Lean. He drowned when he hit his head on the side of the pool. That heart'll set you back $150,000!”
The doctor continued, “The third heart belonged to a 58 year-old man, smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, weighed over 300 pounds, never exercised, drank like a fish... this heart is going for $500,000!!!”
“Five-hundred grand?!?!” the old man exclaimed, “why so expensive?”
“Well,” said the doctor, “this heart belonged to a lawyer, so it was never used!”
Please, don't get offended by my since of humor. I lead off with this joke for two reasons. One, it was funny! Two, it brings me to the subject I want to talk about.
And you, when you were dead in your offences, and sins, Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of this air, of the spirit that now worketh on the children of unbelief: In which also we all conversed in time past, in the desires of our flesh, fulfilling the will of the flesh and of our thoughts, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest: But God, (who is rich in mercy,) for his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in Christ, (by whose grace you are saved,) And hath raised us up together, and hath made us sit together in the heavenly places, through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:1-6)
St. Paul is writing to the members of the church in Ephesus, described in the opening of the epistle as the "to all the saints who are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus" These are people who had obeyed the gospel (see Acts 19 for the story); they had been baptized into Christ (the "one baptism," Ephesians 4:5), and that act of obedience is described here as God making dead people alive!
Before their response to the gospel they had been "dead in offences and sins." When these sinners heard, believed and obeyed the gospel - they were raised from the death of sin, and "quickened", that is made alive by the power of God (see also, Romans 6:1-4).
"...Wherein in time past you walked
according to the course of this world,
according to the prince of the power
of the air, the spirit who now works
in the children of unbelief."
Before responding to the gospel, these dead people had been walking "according to the course of this world," and "according to the prince of the power of the air." They just did what everybody else was doing, conforming to the fashions, practices and sinful habits of the society they lived in.
They were, at that time, obeying the devil instead of God; and the devil's influence is described here as "who now works in the children of unbelief."
This is why, though walking, they were dead.
If you just live the way everybody else lives; if your walking according to the course of this world, and follow the impulses of the flesh, YOU ARE DEAD SPIRITUALLY. You have a spiritual heart that is dead to the things of Christ. Your "prayer" is "Not Your will, but mine."
For the lost sinner, there is no such thing as a DO-IT-YOURSELF PLAN OF SALVATION!
If you are dead in trespasses and sins, there just isn't any way you can raise yourself from that death. It takes the exceeding mighty power of God that St. Paul described in the last part of Ephesians one.
For this cause God delivered them up to shameful affections. For their women have changed the natural use into that use which is against nature. And, in like manner, the men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error. And as they liked not to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them up to a reprobate sense, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all iniquity, malice, fornication, avarice, wickedness, full of envy, murder, contention, deceit, malignity, whisperers, Detractors, hateful to God, contumelious, proud, haughty, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, foolish, dissolute, without affection, without fidelity, without mercy. Who, having known the justice of God, did not understand that they who do such things, are worthy of death; and not only they that do them, but they also that consent to them that do them. (Ephesians 1:26-32)
The power of God that raised Christ from the dead; that's the power it takes to raise sinners from spiritual death.
It is God's power that saves, through His plan, the gospel (Rom. 1:16,17).
So forget about doing this on your own! spiritually speaking a dead man can not do anything because their heart is dead. It does not pump, it has no blood flowing through it, its diseased.
But as a baptized Catholic you have been "buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection." (Romans 6: 4-5) And so St. Paul continues..." Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ:" (Romans 6:8)
In baptism we have been made alive and given a new heart.
"And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and will give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel/Ezeckiel 36:26)
"A heart of flesh", a spiritual heart that is sensitive to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a heart that wants what the Sacred Heart wants, a heart that feels the same way as the heart of Jesus feels. A heart that beats as one with the Sacred Heart!
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5)
"We have the mind of Christ." (I Corinthians 2:16)
There are wonderful examples of those saints who desired to have the heart of Jesus with in there own bossom:
According to Thomas Merton, Saint Lutgarde (d.1246), a Cistercian mystic of Aywieres, Belgium was one of the great precursors of the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A contemporary of St. Francis, she "... entered upon the mystical life with a vision of the pierced Heart of the Saviour, and had concluded her mystical espousals with the Incarnate Word by an exchange of hearts with Him." Sources say that Christ came in a visitation to Lutgarde, offering her whatever gift of grace she should desire; she asked for a better grasp of Latin, that she might better understand the word of God and sing his praise. Christ granted her request and Lutgarde’s mind was flooded with the riches of psalms, antiphons, readings and responsories. However, a painful emptiness persisted. She returned to Christ, asking to return His gift, and wondering if she might, just possibly, exchange it for another. “And for what would you exchange it?” Christ asked. “Lord, said Lutgarde, I would exchange it for your Heart.” Christ then reached into Lutgarde and, removing her heart, replaced it with His own, at the same time hiding her heart within His breast.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
Another wonderful example of this would be our Blessed Mother, Mary. From which we get the Immaculate Heart of Mary devotion.
In St. Luke's gospel, the evangelist twice reports that Mary kept all things in her heart, that there she might ponder over them. (Luke 2:19, 2:51).
Luke recounts the prophecy of Simeon that her heart would be pierced with a sword.
This was not just any kind of sword. In the New Testament there are in the Greek two swords mentioned.
- Machaira: a short sword or dagger-a short sword or dagger mainly used for stabbing.
- Rhomphaia: a large, long "broad sword" that both cuts and pierces.
copyright © 1987, 2011 by Helps Ministries, Inc.
Two types of swords were used in the biblical times, the single edge and the two-edged sword.
The single edge was used most effectively by swinging it and hitting the enemy to lacerate the flesh. The blade could be straight or curved to a great degree. In the latter case the sharp edge of the sword was on the outside of the curve.
The double-edged sword was used primarily for piercing rather than lacerating, though it could obviously be used either way if necessary.
The sword mentioned in Luke 2: 35 was the. Rhomphaia: a large, long "broad sword" that both cuts and pierces. Out side of the The Apocalypse Of Saint John (Revelation), this is the only time that this sword is mentioned. All other references for swords in the New Testament is the Machaira: a short sword or dagger-a short sword or dagger mainly used for stabbing.
By knowing this, you can see what the heart of the Blessed Virgin went through for the love of her son. It was more then just a stabbing with a Machaira, it had a lacerating, stabbing, slicing, cutting effect of the Rhomphaia.
Why did she have this "piercing of the soul"?
So she could feel as strongly as her Son felt. She felt deeply the love Jesus had for others when he wept for Jerusalem. She felt deeply the righteous anger Jesus had when he over turned the tables in the Temple. She felt deeply the pain, the thirst, the commitment Jesus had to the cross knowing that what he did would save us from our sins!
Their hearts beat as one. Her Immaculate heart was beating as one with his Sacred Heart as an example to us.
St. Augustine tells us that she was more blessed in having borne Christ in her heart than in having conceived him in the flesh.
Some words from an old secular song, "My endless love", by Lionel Richie, came to mind as I was concluding this devotion.
In the song was the phrase, "Two hearts, two hearts that beat as one".
May this be our desire and goal in our relationship with the Sacred Heart.