Sermon for the solemnity of the Sacred Heart
Cathedral Christ the King, Atlanta
Paray-le-Monial is a pretty little town in the South of Burgundy, surrounded by the Saone River and the vineyards which make this place quiet peaceful and pleasant. There, one can enjoy the charms of the provincial life, a life for which France has the secret. We should say that Burgundy, which is famous all over the world for the finest wines, is also an old land rich in tradition, and is considered to be one of the main roots of France and even Europe. Her influence has been profound for many centuries, to such a point that even the King of France could fear her at the time when she was allied to England. Saint Jeanne of Arc would learn this at the expense of her life.
Burgundy is also an old Christian land. A visitor will be amazed by the great number of churches, priories and monasteries that punctuate her soil. Who doesn’t know the name of Cluny which was a thriving spiritual, cultural and even political center during the Middle Ages? Paray-le-Monial is one of the numerous fruits of Cluny.
Around the year one thousand, some monks from Cluny founded a priory there. Restored in the XIX century, this church is a finial of the Romanesque architecture with its octagonal bell tower which symbolizes the eighth day, the Day of the Resurrection. In 1632 a community of the Visitation, Order founded by Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Jeanne de Chantal, settled in Paray-le-Monial. 45 years later, a young woman took her religious vows in this community. She is named Marguerite Alacoque and would become famous as Saint Marguerite-Marie. Jesus has chosen her to reveal the mysteries of His Sacred Heart to the world. Paray-le-Monial had to become the city of the Sacred Heart.
It is true that the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus knew a great impulse after the apparitions of Paray-le-Monial, but this devotion had existed previously. I would say it started with Saint John who rested his head on the Heart of Jesus. Later, Saint Catherine of Sienna said that the disciple, hearing the beating of this Heart, experimented the depth of love by which Jesus saves the humanity. The same Saint John, the only one faithful Apostle during the agony of Our Lord, saw the Heart of Jesus pierced by the soldier’s spear, “ and immediately there came out blood and water.” Saint Augustine has these wonderful words to explain this verse. The side of Jesus has been opened. “ Actually, the door of the life had to be opened at the place where the Sacraments of the Church rose. Without the Sacraments, it is impossible to get the life, which is the only one veritable. This blood has been shed for the remission of sins; this water is a salutary liquid because it is used as a bath and a beverage.”
And then Saint Augustine shows how this event was prefigured a long time ago. “God had announced this event when He gave to Noah the order to open a door in the side of the ark. By this door, the animals destined to not die had to enter. These animals prefigured the Church. This is also the reason why the first woman has been draw from the side of Adam while he was sleeping. This is the reason why she received the name of the life and of mother of the living. The second Adam, Jesus-Christ, after bending his head, fell asleep on the Cross, so that a spouse was given to Him. During His sleep, this spouse came out of His side.” Saint John, faithful Apostle, was witness of the birth of the Church, born from the Heart of Jesus.
Then, during the Middle-Ages, the devotion to the Sacred Heart, was carried mainly by the German and Flemish mystics, and also Saint Catherine of Sienna in Italy. In 1246, Saint Lutgarde had a vision of Jesus who asked for her heart. She answered: “Give to my heart the love of Thy own Heart. May my heart be well protected in Thee, forever under Thy protection.” Let us also mention Saint Mechtilde of Magdeburg and Saint Gertrude who were both presented with revelations of the Sacred Heart.
But that was not enough for Our Lord who is thirsty of love. His Heart had to be more known and more loved. Saint Marguerite-Marie would be the instrument of propagation for a renew of the devotion to the Sacred Heart. By December 27th 1673, Jesus told her: “ My Divine Heart is so heated of love for men of for you especially, that It can no longer restrain in Itself the flames of Its ardent charity. It has to spread them by your means and to show up to men in order to enrich them by Its precious treasure that I reveal to you.”
Then, came the great revelation of June 1675, during the Octave of Corpus Christi. that you probably already know: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself to prove to them its love.In return, I receive from the greater number nothing but ingratitude, contempt, irreverence, sacrilege, and coldness in this Sacrament of my love.But what I feel still more is that there are hearts consecrated to me who use me thus. ”
The message is clear. Jesus loves us and His love has no limit. But He is not loved and He will be less and less loved. After the XVII century will come the century of Lights, which is the prelude of the French Revolution. The Catholic order must be destroyed and Satan launches his troops in the world. For being the Eldest Daughter of the Church, France is at the center of the battlefield. Our Lord gave also a message to Saint Marguerite-Marie for the King Louis XIV. She might inform the King of France, "Eldest son of His Sacred Heart," that the Sacred Heart claims "to reign in his palace, to be painted on his standard, to be engraved on his arms"; and that it will make him "triumphant over all the enemies of Holy Church." Either Louis XIV never received the letter or he refused to reply, we don’t know. It has never been done, and instead of triumphing over the enemies of the Church, France sank into the horrors of the Revolution. Many Catholics, and first the King-Martyr Louis XVI, many priests and religious paid it with their life. Once the temporal order destroyed, it would be more easy to annihilate the spiritual order.
Heaven tried to warn us. Our Blessed Mother visited us many times at Lourdes, Pontmain, La Salette and Fatima where She promised the victory of Her Immaculate Heart, so intimately united to the Sacred heart of Her Son. Yet, the world turns a deaf ear. Today, the Sacred Heart is probably less loved than ever. More than ever, we must do reparation. And the way to make reparation, which has been given to us by Jesus, is the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. Remember, the great revelation took place during the Octave of Corpus Christi. Our Lord said to Saint Marguerite: “ Therefore I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of the Blessed Sacrament be kept as a special festival in honor of my Heart, to make reparation for the indignities offered to It and as a Communion day, in order to atone for the unworthy treatment It has received when exposed upon the altars.I also promise that my Heart shall shed in abundance the influence of Its Divine love on all those who shall honor It or cause It to be so honored."
Saint John Eudes, a great apostle of the Sacred Heart composed an Office and a Mass of the Sacred Heart. In 1856, Pius IX established this feast as a first class one for the Universal Church. In spite of the hostility of the Governments and of all anticlerical laws in France since the Revolution, the Devotion to the Sacred Heart knew a great growth, especially during World War I. The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Montmartre in Paris is one of its most visible fruits in Europe as the huge statue of Rio de Janeiro is in the New World. And how many invisible fruits cannot we count in so many souls all over the world?
My dear Brethren, we are here tonight, in this Cathedral of Atlanta, to celebrate the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We are here to try to bring more love to Jesus, abandoned too often in so many places throughout the world. It is very sad to see so many churches closed in Europe and everywhere else. There are no longer priests in a great number of parishes. Consequentially, there are no more faithful. Saint John Mary Vianney used to say that if a parish remains a few years without a priest, then people will worship animals. Look! What do people worship today? Money, sport, themselves etc… But who cares about God, and especially God in the Sacrament of the Eucharist? In 1675 Jesus said that He received from “the greater number nothing but ingratitude, contempt, irreverence, sacrilege, and coldness in this Sacrament of my love.” And what about today?
Dear brethren, members and friends of the Alliance of the two Hearts, it is our mission and our duty to be the apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and consequently of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Remaining passive would make us cowards and deserters at this time of struggle. What are the means by which we must do this? It is simple: prayers, sacrifice and Sacrament. In other words, we must be saints so that Our Lord Jesus Christ will be more loved. And I would like to insist on the Sacrament of the Eucharist. We must receive communion in reparation for sins. Listen to the twelfth promise of Jesus to Saint Marguerite-Marie: “In the excess of the mercy of my Heart, I promise you that my all powerful love will grant to all those who will receive Communion on the First Fridays, for nine consecutive months, the grace of final repentance: they will not die in my displeasure, nor without receiving the sacraments; and my Heart will be their secure refuge in that last hour.” How unbelievable is this promise, fruit of the excess of the Divine Mercy! Don’t you hear the call of your Savior who wants you to receive Him in this great Sacrament? The love of the Sacred Heart is inseparable from the love of the Sacrament of the Altar. One who loves the Sacred Heart is thirsty to receive the Holy Eucharist.
Logically and consequently the love of the Sacred Heart and of the Eucharist goes with the love of priesthood. It was again Saint John Mary Vianney who told in so beautiful words: “Priesthood is the love of the Heart of Jesus.” I wish, we, priests, could understand what that means with all its practical consequences. I wish you too, dear Christian faithful, could understand.
So go to the priests! Receive from them the Sacraments, especially at the communion rails – at least in the churches where the iconoclastic madness has not removed them – and in the confessionals. Sacraments are the gifts from the Heart of Jesus crucified. Go to the priest and ask them to come to your homes for the solemn enthronement of the Sacred Heart in your families. There are so many graces to receive from that. Go to the priests and hear from them the teaching of our good Master who wants nothing but our love. And if they, perchance, teach a new gospel as it happens sometimes, or maybe often, then tell them with charity that they might be on the wrong path and pray for them. Finally, pray for the vocations. And don’t pray to obtain good priests, but pray for holy priests. They will demand more from you, but it is for your own good. They will not tolerate your faults and your wild behavior, because tolerance is not the virtue of the saints, and sometime they will correct or reprimand you, but it is for your own good. They have better than tolerance to give you. They are the ministers of the mercy of God. Most of all, they will give you Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ, because they are priests just for this reason. Priests are the elect chosen by God to dispense the treasures of grace of the Heart of Jesus.
And Jesus is the Son of predilection loved by the Father from all eternity. Nevertheless the Father sent Him to death, because He also loves us. What a great mystery is the love of God for us! “For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”
Dear brethren, let us not be resistant to such a love. Let us love as Jesus loves us, with no limit. You may think that it is not possible. Yet, it is possible, with the help of grace.
May the Immaculate Heart of Mary lead us to the Heart of Jesus so that we can be witness of the love of God for men.
Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.