June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart being celebrated on Friday, June 16. But why is the Sacred Heart of Jesus important? And how we can our families best celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart in our families? Richard Budd, the Diocese of Lansing’s Director of Marriage & Family Life, now explains. He writes:
A little while ago, I was listening to a homily at Mass and the celebrant was speaking to us of God’s love. As he repeated the message that God loved us, he said, “But, I bet you’re thinking, if I were God, I wouldn’t love me.”
I teared up on the spot, because, honestly, it was true. I know my sins. I know the ways I let pride, vanity, and selfishness creep into the ways I interact with others. And I know how often I should be praying, but I’m scrolling on Twitter or Instagram instead. Let’s face it, I’m a crummy dude and I’ll be lucky to make it to heaven. Every time I go to confession, I repeat the same sins. I’m sure God gets frustrated with forgiving me. It’s really hard, and I’m failing miserably.
With that being said, June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, with the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart falling on June 16 this year. The feast is one of the most important ones on the yearly calendar, so much so, it takes the designation of a Solemnity. But before we talk about how to celebrate, a little background is in order.
In the early 1600s there was a popular heresy going around in the Church called Jansenism. Jansenists held several different positions, but among them were the idea that some of God’s commandments are just too hard for people to follow, even if they wanted to, and God decides not to give them the grace to follow the commandments either; that only perfect contrition was sufficient to receive the forgiveness of your sins; and since you couldn’t be sure that your contrition was perfect enough, you should avoid going to Communion. To be sure, this was a harsh heresy, and many Jansenist priests would refuse absolution of sins in the confessional because the penitent wasn’t “sorry enough”.
Obviously, this led to an understanding of God as a harsh judge and a loss of any sense that God loved us. We are miserable sinners, and we’re probably going to hell.
Pope Innocent X tried to squash this heretical movement in 1653, but his message that God was a loving father didn’t get much traction. So Jesus himself stepped in, and through a series of apparitions to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, revealed to her the depth of his love. Jesus told St. Margaret that it was true that sin offends God, but our sin was to God an unrequited love. Jesus told St. Margaret that his love spares nothing to bring sinners home to him. Sin wasn’t caused by a lack of his grace, but because the person failed to receive such grace and abandon themselves to God’s providence. His heart burns to pour out forgiveness on a soul and bring them to Father saving them in his love.
So, in one way, the Jansenists were right, sin is a serious problem, it distances us from God. But what they got wrong is that God is the perfect father, he doesn’t then respond back in frustrated rage with our sin, he responds by pouring out his love even more to aid us and pursue us in undying love.
And this is what the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is all about. When we look at ourselves and say, “if I were God I wouldn’t love me” we’re looking at ourselves through sin-darkened glasses and all we see is our sin. We get caught up looking at ourselves and get tunnel vision. Standing in sin, all we see is sin. When Jesus looks at us, he sees our true graced nature as children of God and heirs of Heaven, lavished with love from the Father and temples of the Holy Spirit. Through God’s love, Genesis tells us we were created good and St. Paul teaches that through God’s love we were remade good and new in the Sacrament of Baptism. Jesus loves you, he’s spared nothing in seeking you out and helping you to respond to his love. Trust that love!
* Two ways to celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart in your homes:
1. Feast! And you can eat meat! The day is a solemnity which dispenses us from our obligation to abstain from meat or another penance on Fridays during the year. One of the most human ways to celebrate is through feasting, so make a special dinner with the family, have desert, a favorite drink, etc.
2. Enthrone an image of the Sacred Heart in your home. There are plenty of resources and images available online to help with this, but essentially, you hang an image of the Sacred Heart in a central place in your home as a constant reminder of God’s love and you dedicate yourself and your whole family to loving God in return.