Yesterday we honored the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus with a joyful celebration. Today we celebrate a “companion feast” which is really a continuation of yesterday’s feast. We continue to love, honor, and praise the Heart of Jesus, but we do so with a greater awareness that we are together with Mary our Mother. In loving him, we are doing what she is doing. So today we honor the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Again, we understand the symbol of the heart to represent the whole person of Mary, especially her interior life.
These two feasts bring to a glorious conclusion the series of major feasts that flow from Pentecost: Holy Trinity, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart, and Immaculate Heart. The Sacred Heart reveals the undeserved and unmatched love of God for man. The Immaculate Heart reveals the finest human response of love to this divine love. Mary responded to the gift of Jesus’ love with perfect love, “immaculate” love.
Like the devotion to the Heart of Jesus, devotion to the Heart of Mary has developed over the centuries. Mary herself gave it a special encouragement when she appeared to the three little shepherds of Fatima and told them, “To save poor sinners, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart.” This devotion is rooted in the Scriptures. We find two references to Mary’s Heart in the Gospel of Luke: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk 2:19); and, “His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Lk 2:51).
What do we find when we look deeply into the Heart of Mary? We find a fully human response, but unblemished by sin. We find everything that should be part of our own response to God. It is like a great storehouse, a treasury, where the mysteries of God are kept and continually pondered. If St. Paul can say, “the love of Christ impels us,” how much more can we find Christ’s love impelling the Heart of Mary to live, not for herself, “but for him who for [our] sake died and was raised”! Mary’s Heart is a pure channel of the infinite love of God – which is why St. Louis de Montfort teaches the spiritual path “to Jesus through Mary.” She wants nothing more than for us to be one heart with him, as she is.
Today’s Gospel reveals some of the inner dispositions in the Heart of Mary as we follow her back to Jerusalem looking for her twelve-year-old Son. She is a mother who searches in sorrow for the child she has lost. After she finds him in the Temple, she continues to ponder why he has done this, and, still not fully understanding his answers, she continues to search out the meaning of his sometimes contradictory ways. We all “lose” Jesus at times because of our sins, weaknesses, or fears, our lack of love, or simply because we are so easily distracted. Mary teaches us that when we lose Jesus, we must make a diligent effort to find him. She shows us how and where to find him, in the temple – that is, the temple of our own hearts, where God dwells.
One of Mary’s truly devoted sons, St. John Paul II, wrote about her Heart in his first encyclical, The Redeemer of Man:
The mystery of the Redemption took shape beneath the heart of the Virgin of Nazareth when she pronounced her “fiat.” From then on, under the special influence of the Holy Spirit, this heart, the heart of both a virgin and a mother, has always followed the work of her Son and has gone out to all those whom Christ has embraced and continues to embrace with inexhaustible love. For that reason her heart must also have the inexhaustibility of a mother (Redemptor Hominis, 22).
“The inexhaustibility of a mother” – what a wonderful expression of what a mother’s love is like! This is what we find in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The love she has for Jesus she now has for us, her spiritual children. As she searched for him, she searches for us. She draws us to the temple of her Heart, so that we may find and love what she herself treasures, the Heart of Jesus.
Do I look deeply into the heart of Mary to experience her perfect love of Jesus? How? When I lose Jesus in the turmoil of the day, how do I find him in the temple of my heart? Why do I hesitate to entrust my heart to Mary, who has the “inexhaustibility of a mother”?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.