Today, the Church celebrates the beautiful Solemnity in honor of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The “heart” represents the central reality of a person or the essential core of an idea, as shown by the myriad ways we use the word in our culture: “the heart of the matter,” “don’t take it to heart,” “you’re breaking my heart,” “my heart sings,” etc. We realize that when we refer to the “heart” of someone, we are really talking about their very essence, the innermost dwelling place of their identity. Often we have very little real understanding or access to this inner level of a person.

Who can know the Heart of God? The Church and the Scriptures teach us that we can know the Heart of God because the Father has revealed himself in the incarnation of his Son and has filled us with his Holy Spirit. When we contemplate the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are approaching the unfathomable depth and breadth of God’s own inner life and his divine love for us. We know that the Heart of Jesus is the ocean of his love for humanity, his will for each person’s eternal salvation, and his infinite mercy. We know that his Heart is Love itself, because God is Love. The readings today all touch on these aspects of God’s unending love.

In the first reading, Moses tells the people of Israel that they have been chosen from every other nation on earth to be God’s special people: “You are a people sacred to the LORD, your God…. The LORD set his heart on you and chose you.” Moses impresses upon them that they have not received God’s favor because of their large size, for they are actually very small, and not because of any other qualification either. The reason they were chosen lies solely in God’s love and his fidelity to his promises.

God chooses each and every one of us for the same “reason” – not because of our “size” in health, wealth, talent, success, or any other human measure. He has set his merciful gaze on each of us simply because he loves us and will forever honor his covenant. Today’s feast is all about God’s love for us – which is something we often find hard to grasp, believe and accept because we know our sins and our unworthiness. But God is ever merciful! We see this throughout salvation history. Time and again, he forgives those who sincerely repent of their sins. No one can measure the dimensions of God’s love for us, the divine love which is most fully revealed in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The deepest longing of Jesus’ Heart is that we discover how much he loves us. In the Gospel, we read his loving and comforting words: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” In these words, Jesus sweetly invites us to yoke ourselves to him so that he can guide us, refresh our souls, and carry our burdens with us.

The Lord wants us to know that it is not to “the wise and the learned” that he has revealed his love. He loves everyone, but not everyone is as open to being loved. Those who are interiorly “little” have an advantage in discovering the way into the Heart of God. Just as when Moses assured Israel that God’s love for them was not because they were a large nation, Jesus tells us that God has especially opened his Kingdom of love to the “little ones.” It is the poor in spirit who accept Jesus’ invitation to come to him, who discover the boundless love in his Sacred Heart.

Sadly, all too often do we reject the love of God. This was the lament of Jesus when he revealed his Sacred Heart to St. Margaret Mary: “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming itself, in order to testify its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part of humanity only ingratitude, by their irreverence and many sacrileges, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in the Sacrament of Love.” The more modern society turns away from the love of God, the more “heartless” we become. We have “lost heart” in so many ways – abortion, euthanasia, violence, hatred, despair, immorality – all because of our rejection of the love of God. Still, as we celebrate in today’s feast, his love never changes. Jesus’ Heart still beats with love for us.

In the second reading, St. John reminds us that, “whoever is without love does not know God,” and then expresses the beautiful truth that “God is Love.” When we experience God’s love, we can begin to love one another in a new way. Knowing God’s love changes us profoundly. When we come to know the Heart of God, a kind of love that we never knew before is planted in our hearts. This love is all that we need. It is all that the world needs. O Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

What are my inner reflections when I ponder on the merciful love pouring out of the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Why do I hesitate to attach myself to Jesus so that he can guide me, refresh my soul, and carry my burdens? When I experience God’s love, what profound changes occur in my relationships with others?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.