Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Each year the Church celebrates the month of June as the Month of the Sacred Heart. We honor the Heart of Jesus through the liturgy, prayers, devotions, acts of consecration and reparation. The Sacred Heart of Jesus draws us into God’s infinite love and urges us to make that same love present in our world. Indeed, a world weary by the ongoing pandemic, wounded by violence, broken by individualism and battered by challenges to the faith such as ours today, is in desperate need of a devotion like this, which encourages people to look outward and show true love to one another.
Beyond being an important visual sign of the love of Christ, the heart, both in Scripture and in literature throughout human history, represents the innermost sanctuary of our human self. The heart is a natural sign of love: it is hidden, steady, and reliable. As it constantly beats, it keeps us alive and well. Thus, for the Christian faithful, the love signified by the Sacred Heart is the steady, reliable, faithful, life-giving love of God. It represents true love, not a passing emotion, a sentiment that deceives or a sentimentality that changes over time.
The image of the Sacred Heart is rich with symbolism. The heart of Jesus is always portrayed along with the symbol of the cross which signifies the sacrificial love for others; the flames which represent the glory of that love, shining in a world darkened by sin and needs to be set ablaze by the fire of the Holy Spirit; and the crown of thorns which surrounds the bleeding, wounded heart. This reminds us of a scriptural reference to heart of Jesus being pierced on the cross (John 19:34). It also reminds us of the doubting Thomas being invited to put his hands into the Risen Lord’s wounds (John 20:24-29), and of the image of the victorious Lamb who was slain (Revelation 5:6). All of these features are meant to show us that the love of Christ is not some theoretical love, but a real, faithful, totally committed love that is willing to suffer for the beloved. At the same time, they are meant to remind us in a powerful way that each of us was commissioned to make present that kind of love in the world when we were baptized into Christ.
In his pastoral letter last year, “Heart Speaks to Heart,” Cardinal Thomas Collin, the Archbishop of Toronto, comments on this point: “If we only act in order to attract applause, and shift our principles to guarantee that approval, we will never truly live or love at all, and we will lose our very self. Real love is inseparable from integrity, and may well include a crown of thorns, which reminds us of the cost of discipleship. It also reminds us that whenever people are mocked, marginalized, bullied or rejected in any way, the disciple of Jesus must be with them to care for them with the compassion of Christ.” Devotion to the Sacred Heart thus leads us to ponder the sacred humanity of Jesus, God with us. Using the universally accepted symbol of the heart as the sign of the center of who we are, this devotion focuses on Jesus as the man for others, who shows human beings how to love as God loves.
How does one practice devotion to the Sacred Heart? Through adoration of the Eucharistic Lord, especially on Friday, the day of the crucifixion when the love of Christ is fully revealed. It is no coincidence that each year the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart occurs on the Friday following the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
Many elements of the Sacred Heart devotion come from the mystical visions of Jesus which Saint Margaret Mary experienced between 1673 and 1675, in which the Lord spoke to her about the mysteries of His Sacred Heart. As a parish with a strong connection to St. Margaret Mary, it is fitting that we foster this devotion. I highly recommend making time for a few moments of adoration before the Eucharist; mediating on the Gospel reading daily; participating in the Holy Mass whenever possible; and honoring an image of the Sacred Heart in your home. In our parish, it has been a long custom to have exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on every first Friday of the month, which takes place right after the 8:00AM Mass and concludes with Solemn Benediction before the start of the 12 Noon Mass. In addition, we also have a sung Holy Hour at 6:30PM and a Holy Mass in Spanish at 7:30PM on every first Friday of the month.
Let us devote this month of June to foster a greater devotion to the Sacred Heart and deepen our commitment to imitate His love, a love that reaches out to the lonely, to the isolated, to the sick and to all those who are rejected. Meditating on the divine love represented by the Sacred Heart will lead each of us to become not a superficial Christian, but a devoted and intentional Christian, on fire for the Lord and for His mission in the world.
With Christ’s choicest blessings,
Msgr. Cuong M. Pham