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REFLECTION : THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS (June 8, 2018)

THE FEAST OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

The Pierced Heart(John 19:30-37).

 

Bible Passage

 

(30) When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit. (31) Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down. (32) So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. (33) But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, (34) but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (35) An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe. (36) For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken.” (37) And again another passage says: “They will look upon him whom they have pierced.”

 

Interpretation

 

The devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is to be understood in the Biblical, historical and symbolical perspective.

 

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND OF DEVOTION TO THE SACRED HEART

 

(30) When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

 

After accomplishing the mission that his Father entrusted to him, Jesus died on the cross.

 

(31) Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and they be taken down.

 

Only John, who was at the foot of the cross of Jesus, recorded the piercing of Jesus’ heart. He gives the reason for the piercing. Though Romans allowed to leave the dead body on the cross, the Jews could not do that. “If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not remain on the tree overnight. You must bury it the same day; anyone who is hanged is a curse of God. You shall not defile the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage.” (Deut. 21:22-23). Besides, the following day was a great sabbath of the Passover feast. The breaking of the legs of the crucified by clubs was to speed up the death of the person though it was also another Roman punishment.

 

(32) So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. (33) But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs,

 

Out of the three who were crucified, Jesus died first and there was no need to break his legs.

 

(34) but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.

 

The purpose of piercing the side of Jesus with spear was not to kill him because he was already dead. The soldier or centurion, who is named as Longinus in the non-canonical books, wanted to confirm that he was dead. The water that flowed was believed to be the watery lymph from the pericardium and blood from the heart. The human heart is on the left side of the body. However, artists make this wound on the right. The soldier might have pierced from the right side from below to bypass the ribs and to push the heart against the ribs on the left side. This, by divine providence, assured that his rib was not broken and that he was dead before taken down from the cross proving beyond any doubt that he had risen from the dead.

 

Symbolic interpretations are given for the water and blood that came from the heart of Jesus. Water represents baptism and blood stands for the Holy Eucharist. This interpretation was confirmed in the vision to Sr. Faustina who was instrumental in propagating the Divine Mercy. Some believe that just was Adam’s side was opened to create Eve, God opened the side of Jesus to generate the church. Church uses water (baptism) and blood (Holy Eucharist) of Jesus to give spiritual birth and to initiate to Christian life. Through the baptismal water, Jesus cleans the stains of original sins and through the Eucharistic body and blood, he nourishes our soul for eternal life.

 

(35) An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may [come to] believe.

 

John the Evangelist was eyewitness to the events that happened at the crucifixion of Jesus because he was present there with Mary, the mother of Jesus. He assured the truth of what he had recorded.

 

(36) For this happened so that the scripture passage might be fulfilled: “Not a bone of it will be broken.”

 

John found the fulfillment of scripture passage in not breaking any bone of Jesus. According to Exodus 12:46, when the Israelites killed the Passover lamb, they were asked not to break any of the bones of the Passover lamb. The same instruction is repeated in Numbers 9:12. In Psalm 34:21, we read, “He watches over all his bones; not one of them shall be broken.” Jesus is presented here as the perfect lamb that was slain for the forgiveness of our sins

 

(37) And again another passage says: “They will look upon him whom they have pierced.”

 

John here quotes from Zechariah 12:10.

 

HISTORIAL BACKGROUND OF THE FEAST

 

The heart is considered as the center of feeling and stands for love, compassion, understanding and seat of emotions. Devotion to the heart of Jesus is a human response to the love of God manifested through the sacrificial love of Jesus to humanity. The central theme of the salvation history is the love of God for people who are the only beings created in his own image and likeness. God made special covenant with Israelites and selected them as his firstborn son (Exodus 4:22). At Mount Sinai, God declared to Moses: “The LORD, the LORD, a God gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love and fidelity, continuing his love for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7). Even when Israelites sinned against God, God was faithful to his covenant and continued loving and forgiving them.

 

God’s great love is expressed in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” St. John the Evangelist is associated with the devotion of Sacred Heart of Jesus because he was “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23).

 

The earliest known proponent of the devotion to the Sacred Heart was St. Bernard in the 11th century. St. Gertrude the Great and St. Mechtilde were two 12th century visionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. However, the devotion of the Sacred Heart became popular after four centuries when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque had visions in 1673. Jesus showed her the now famous image of the Sacred Heart and revealed to her, his desire for a widespread devotion of his Sacred Heart. On the feast of St. John the Evangelist, St. Margaret May Alacoque had the opportunity to rest her heart upon the heart of Jesus. St. John and St. Gertrude had similar opportunities. So, it became clear that Jesus wanted to propagate not just the love but the devotion to the physical and beating heart of Jesus. The feast of Sacred Heart was first started in France in 1670. Later in 1856, Pope Pius IX extended this feast to the universal church. On June 11, 1899 Pope Leo XIII consecrated the whole mankind to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

 

This feast of Scared Heart is interconnected with the feasts of Corpus Christi, Immaculate Heart of Mary and Divine Mercy. Pope Urban IV instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi in 1264 that gives special devotion to the Body and Blood of Jesus. Blood was separated from the body of the sacrificial lamb and so was the last drop of Jesus separated with the piercing of his heart on the cross. Jesus had asked St. Margaret to have the feast of the Sacred Heart on the Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi. So, it was Jesus who selected the day and related it to the feast of Corpus Christi.

 

The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was established by Pope Pius VII in 1805. It was from Mary that Jesus received his physical heart. She was also the co-redeemer suffering with Jesus at the foot of the cross. The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is celebrated on the day after the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Thus, they are linked feasts of two hearts. St. John Eudes propagated the devotion to the two hearts together in the 17th century.

 

The Divine Mercy was established on April 22, 2001 by Pope St. John Paul II. Through vision to St. Faustina, Jesus revealed that the red and white rays on the image of the Divine Mercy signify the blood and water that flowed from the side of Jesus on the cross when his heart was pierced. Thus, the feast of the Divine Mercy is an extension of the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

 

The First Friday Devotion also evolved from the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus based on the vision of Jesus to St. Margaret Mary. It is a devotion to the Sacred Heart in reparation for the sins of mankind by attending and receiving Holy Mass on the first Friday of every month for nine consecutive months. Jesus assured special privileges for those who practice it: the grace of final penitence; death in grace, opportunity to receive sacraments at the time of death, and safe refuge in the Divine Heart at the last moment of life.

 

SYMBOLIC MEANING OF THE SACRED HEART

 

Based on her visions, St. Margaret Mary designed and produced the image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the image of the Sacred Heart, we see the heart outside the chest of Jesus, shining with divine light. It is wounded and bleeding, encircled by the crown of thorns, and with a cross on the top. The wounded hands of Jesus point to the heart.

 

The Heart represents the physical heart of Jesus and his sacrificial love for humanity.

 

The pierced and bleeding heart reminds us the piercing of his heart while he was on the cross and the last drop of blood and water that came out of his sacrifice.

 

The crown of thorns is the symbol of the real crown of sharp thrones placed on the head of Jesus to humiliate him and torture him before his crucifixion.

 

The cross on the top of the heart is representing the cross that won victory for humanity and the ladder that connects the heaven and the earth through the redemptive work of Jesus.

 

Flames on the heart is symbolic of the burning flame of love of Jesus for humanity.

 

The light surrounding the heart is representing the divine light that shines in the darkness of this world.

 

Message

 

1.     “Beloved, let us love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God’s love was revealed among us: God sent His one and only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.” (1John 4:7-9). So, let us share the flame of God’s love with one another.

 

2.     Jesus is the best model of “agape.” It is the unconditional love of God for humanity. It is the sacrificial love of Jesus who gave his life as ransom for our salvation. Others, including our family members, might hurt us. Still we must forgive them, love them and pray for them.

 

3.     Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is not a devotion to an organ of Jesus but to the heart-centered dedication of Jesus for us. Love should be mutual and should be expressed in our dealing with God’s other children who need our care.

 

4.     According to Christian myth or tradition, Longinus who pierced the side of Jesus was a centurion and became a convert. He is venerated as a saint and martyr with his feast celebrated on October 16. This shows how Jesus had forgiven and favored even those who persecuted him. Let us imitate Jesus in doing good even to our enemies.

 

5.     Priority should be given to the devotion of Jesus than to the saints. Jesus himself has introduced different devotions to him throughout the history of the Church. Let us keep the devotion to the Sacred Heart especially by our active participation in the Holy Qurbana whenever possible.


 

 

History

History of St. Thomas SyroMalabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago, established by His Holiness Pope John Paul II on March 13, 2001.

 

Liturgical Calendar

SyroMalabar Church Liturgical Seasons and Mass Readings in English and Malayalam

 

Donate

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.

 

Contact Us

Click here to contact St. Thomas SyroMalabar Diocese. Address: 372 South Prairie Ave, Elmhurst, Illinois 60126. Phone: +1-630-279-1383

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