Our parish Church – like almost every other Catholic Church – has a side altar dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the solemnity of which is celebrated today. Our side altar has stained glass which references some of the great documents of the Church – such as Haurietis Aquas – which are concerned with the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this way, our little altar becomes something of a lesson regarding the devotion.
Stemming from the revelations given to Saint Margaret Mary at Paray-le-Monial, France, beginning toward the end of 1673, we are all now very familiar with this image of Jesus exposing to us His Sacred Heart, which bears upon It the wound inflicted at the Crucifixion. In the course of the Lord’s appearances to this Saint, He gave twelve promises concerning the devotion to His Sacred Heart and there is one amongst these which I want to look at here.
The sixth of the twelve promises reads –
Sinners shall find in My Heart an ocean of mercy
This promise, then, is for each and every one of us – for we are are, without exception, sinners. No matter how good we might consider ourselves to be, and no matter the goodness of the life we lead or try to lead – still we are sinners. Each one of us is in need of salvation and redemption – and therefore we are in need of a Saviour, a Redeemer. And we find this in Christ alone.
Christianity can sometimes be viewed as a harsh faith, one which asks a lot of its adherents – and it is true that it does indeed ask a lot. But it also recognises that while the ideals of the faith are high, our living out of them may not be quite so high. In other words, we all fail in one way or another – and often, we fail over and over again. There is a temptation for this to lead to a sense of discouragement and – God forbid – even to despair. Because of these two, we can feel overwhelmed in the recognition of our failure, our misery, our sinfulness. And this is why this sixth promise of the Sacred Heart is such an important one.
This promise is the encouraging embrace of the Lord who loves us infinitely – and our personal sinfulness neither changes nor diminishes this. Remember that Saint Paul attests that Christ died for us “even while we were sinners”. He died not only for some but for all of us. On the Cross, His arms were opened wide for every single human being without exception – especially sinners.
There is something very visual, very visceral, about then image of the human heart. We speak of ‘giving our heart’ to another and of having a ‘broken heart’ – the heart is where we feel; we consider the heart to be the seat of our emotions, the centre of the person, from which we love, and from which we give love. So it is with Christ – His human Heart is the fountain of His love for us, a love that is offered to all. However, our sinfulness can lead to our forgetting this, to imagining that we are in some way personally excluded from that love – and yet, nothing could be further from the truth. No matter who we are, no matter what we are, without any exception whatsoever – He loves us with an infinite love. And He desires that we return that love.
The greatest attribute of the Lord is His mercy – and His Sacred Heart is the sign, the symbol and the real expression of this truth.
No matter who you are, no matter how poorly you think you are living your life and with whatever sins are part of that life – still, go to Him without fear and with complete trust and confidence, like that of a child. He loves all of us and He is waiting for us.