Friday, June 27, 2014

The Sacred Heart of Jesus--More Vatican II Than You Might Think

Today is the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a devotion that while it is associated with Saint Mary Margaret Alacoque  (1647-1690) but which actually goes back much further to Saint Lutgarde (d. 1246), Saint Mechtilde (d. 1298) and Saint Gertrude (d. 1302).  It is a devotion that grew in popularity among Catholics while condemned by both the Protestant Calvinists and their Catholic “cousins”, the Jansenists, because it places an emphasis on the humanity of Christ and the universality of his mercy.  Ironically it is a favorite of many modern-day Jansenists who have interpreted the theological focus of the doctrine far more narrowly, confining the mercy to those who “are worthy” of it through their repentance and acts of penitent reparation for their sins and for the sins of others.  This stands in distinct contradiction to the prayers of the Roman Rite Missal (the Sacred Heart is not celebrated in the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church) which stress the unconditionality of the Love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus.  I noticed in several parishes of the Arlington Diocese that the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) or what we call “the extraordinary form” was being used for today’s feast.  This allows the “faithful” to avoid being confronted with the mystery of God’s universal and irrevocable love.  This, in turn, highlights how the TLM is used to mask the faith of the Church by removing the catechetical dimension of the Liturgy to the unintelligibility of Latin and require that it be filtered through the homiletic bias of the priest-preacher.  This allows neo-trad clergy to shape the faith of their congregants according to their own beliefs rather than let the Church speak to them directly through the Liturgy.  Doctrines—such as the unconditional love and mercy of God or the gratuity of grace—can be concealed and the faithful can be molded into the semi-Jansenism (or full-blown Jansenism) of their “pastors” rather than confronted with authentic Catholicism. 
In the homily I heard at Mass this morning, the preacher began with a quote from the March 17, 2013 homily of the newly elected Pope Francis:
I think we too are the people who, on the one hand, want to listen to Jesus, but on the other hand, at times, like to find a stick to beat others with, to condemn others. And Jesus has this message for us: mercy. I think — and I say it with humility — that this is the Lord's most powerful message: mercy.
Those who want a stick with which to beat others—same sex couples, those practicing artificial contraception, those conceiving with IVF, those married outside the Church, or those who do not adhere to Church teaching on immigration, or capital punishment, or just distribution of wealth—fail to appreciate the mercy of God which is embodied in the mystery of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  It is something for us all to think about.  A non-Christian source for reflection on this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but one that only confirms on a natural level what has been revealed supernaturally in the Scripture and Tradition of the Church, is the following quote from the Dalai Lama.

Finally I would like to point out that the purpose of religion is not to build beautiful churches or temples; it is to cultivate positive human qualities such as tolerance, generosity, and love.  Fundamental to Buddhism and Christianity, indeed to every major world religion, is the belief that we must reduce our selfishness and save others. [i]
This is what the Sacred Heart of Jesus reveals to us: the transformation of our hearts into his heart; the infusion in our human hearts of the Divine Compassion that fills the heart of Jesus.  As the liturgy tells us: …may we come to share in the divinity of him who humbled himself to share in our humanity.  Beautiful churches and splendid liturgies are all well enough in their place (when not meant to distract us from genuine faith), but they are not the reason that Jesus hung on the Cross for us.   That we might be crucified with Christ and that it may no longer be we who live but Christ Jesus—in all his compassion—who lives in us is the mystery of our faith. 

[i] H.H. The Dalai Lama, Spiritual Advice for Buddhists and Christians, edited by Donald W. Mitchell, New York: Continuum, 1998, p. 98

1 comment:

  1. This was a very well-writen article. I have come to appreciate you website quite a bit lately. The Sacred Heart is one of my dear images as well. I have a sepia toned and very old picture in my home that goes back to my German great grandparents. Hank you for your wonderful effort.