The heart represents the center or essence of a person or an idea. We say such things as, “take it to heart,” “get to the heart of the matter,” “don’t break my heart,” and other phrases. We speak of the heart as the wellspring of love and the seat of all that we value. The Church celebrates today The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, devoting itself to the essence and love of Jesus Christ himself. In the readings, we see how the heart of God yearns for us, opens for us, and provides for us in every way. Through the water and Blood that flowed from the pierced Heart of Jesus, we find our very life – in the saving waters of Baptism and the Precious Blood of the Eucharist. Thus today’s feast is intimately connected with Corpus Christi, which we celebrated on Sunday.

The Gospel reading on Corpus Christi took us to Holy Thursday; today’s Gospel takes us to Good Friday. The Jews did not want the bodies of the three crucified men to remain on the crosses during the sabbath, so the Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two other men to hasten their death. Jesus, however, was already dead. One soldier “thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.” It was as if crucifying Jesus had not been cruel enough; now his dead body was run through with a spear. It is a horrifying scene to imagine, and it is easy to stand in judgment of those brutal soldiers. But it reveals the response of Jesus to all our sins. When we resist, mock, reject – even pierce him – he pours himself out all the more for our salvation. His Heart empties itself out for us, to give us life.

The Blood and water that poured out of the body of Jesus showed that he was truly dead, that he truly laid down his life for us out of love and obedience to the Father. The piercing of his Heart is also a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy foretelling our place before the Cross, looking upon him whom we have pierced by our sins. We realize that the Blood and water flowing from his side are not only evidence of his actual death but also a symbol of our new life in him. Divine Love was poured out for each of us so that we could become new creatures in Christ, so that we could be changed forever, and so that we could have eternal life. What gifts come from the Blood and water that flow from his side!

“You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” This is the refrain we repeat in today’s Psalm – actually a canticle from the prophet Isaiah. The true spring of salvation is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. From it we draw the abundant waters of mercy, regeneration, and new life in the Holy Spirit. From his Heart flows the Sacrament of Baptism, through which we are reborn, receiving a new spiritual life. From his Heart pours the Blood of the New Covenant, given to us in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The Blood of Jesus is offered to us so that we can grow in communion with him, become part of him, and be changed by him from the inside out. Through these beautiful Sacraments of the Church, Christ touches our hearts, and we touch his.

In the first reading the prophet Hosea expresses the tenderness, the care, and the mercy of the Lord’s heart. The Lord laments: “Though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.” He grieves to see how we break our covenant with him. As much as the heart can hold joy, it can also hold sorrow, and we break God’s heart with sorrow when we turn away from him by our sin. How often we take for granted God’s love for us, and all that he does for us in every moment of every day. We forget to praise him, thank him, even recognize him in the circumstances of our daily lives. Ignoring God, forgetting that he is our healer, keeps the door of our hearts closed to him. In the famous painting of Christ knocking at the door, there is no handle on the outside of that door. So it is with the door to our hearts: the handle to open the door to Christ is on the inside.

St. Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians tells them that he kneels before the Father praying that “Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” He yearns for them to “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” This is exactly what we want for our own hearts, to be filled with this “strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth” of the love of God. This is what we want for the hearts of all our loved ones, and for the hearts of all people. And this is the gift Jesus gives us in giving us his Sacred Heart.

Why do I sometimes keep the door of my heart closed to God’s love? How does my pride prevent me from living new life in Christ Jesus? How can I show myself more willing to open my heart to the Lord each day?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.