Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

We can make a beginning at understanding the heart of Jesus by understanding our own. When the very center of the self is deeply affected, (as happens, for instance, to a young person when he or she falls deeply in love for the first time), one’s whole way of thinking about the world, as well as one’s whole way of feeling it, is profoundly and permanently altered. No part of us is exempt from such an experience. We are touched in depths we did not know we had, but whose reality we cannot possibly doubt. That is why the heart has always been symbolized by a wound (the heart is often pictured with an arrow through it). The person we were before has, to some degree, ceased to exist–and so has the world we used to live in.

The self is affected; the experience is called “affection.” It is the affection in the heart of Jesus that we celebrate today.

Affections, pleasant and unpleasant, were balanced in the heart of Jesus against His understanding of the Father and His creatures and creation. Affections, such as motives, desires, and preferences, compete with ones understanding for priority in deciding how to live. Our wills are attracted to our greatest good and that good is influenced more by affections than thought-out judgments.

It is the character of Jesus that we see in His Sacred Heart. We see His affection for the Father and His will as the glue that holds together His own will and His understanding. When His strongest affection is for “One Thing” it unifies and organizes His character. When we imitate Christ, we imitate His affections.

It is the aim of the monastic way of life to live in this purity of heart; to make our hearts like that of Jesus Christ. He commanded us to live this way. To the hyper-macho cynic, it may seem romantic to think we can aim at having the heart of Christ. It does not seem that way to those who have lived any portion of their lives with their heart set on lesser things. It does not seem that way to the one sinner who has been brought back…and knows it.

What affects us moves us. It makes us act. Duties make us act. Prohibitions make us refrain from acting. Everything else we do is permissible and up to one’s choice. We choose to act for a reason. It is that reason, that affection, that value one pursues that makes us respond (or not) to Jesus Christ. It is the orientation of the heart.

It was the reasons, the movement of the heart that brought each of us here. The gospels and the Rue of Benedict helped us do what a follower should do by giving us a story and practices to live out in a community. They thus organize our world ahead of our actions. Their purpose is not to help us perform well for political positioning. It is to let the affections of Jesus Christ for the Father have priority in our hearts.

In that Sacred Heart there is more joy over one sinner who returns because the sinner has been affected by God’s merciful love.