BEFORE THE CROSS | The heart’s emotions and passions are a path to union with God

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

In the heart of Jesus, the center of Christianity is set before us." So wrote Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI). It's a fitting point as we celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 23.

Why should the feast of the Sacred Heart matter? One reason is because of the 12 promises made by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque regarding those who practice devotion to the Sacred Heart. The promises are listed in the accompanying box.

Another reason is given to us by Pope Benedict XVI. Commenting on Pope Pius XII's 1956 encyclical on the Sacred Heart, he wrote: "The encyclical 'Haurietis aquas' sees the passions of Jesus, which are summed up and set forth in the Heart, as the basis, as the reason why, the human heart, i.e. the capacity for feeling, the emotional side of love, must be drawn into man's relationship with God."

That means that our emotions, passions, desires and feelings aren't something we have to lay aside in order to approach Jesus. Rather, those elements of the heart become a path to union with Him.

So the question becomes: To what extent have we let Jesus into our hearts?

There are two two important dimensions of that.

First • Have we let Jesus into the beautiful places in our hearts? Sometimes we're tempted to separate our human loves and passions from Jesus. But if we begin to practice that separation now, where will it end up? We will be separating our hearts from Jesus by our own free will. We should share with Jesus what is most precious to us, and ask Him to share with us what is most precious to Him.

Second • Have we let Jesus into the ugly places in our hearts? Sometimes we're tempted to try to hide those from Him. We want to get cleaned up before we receive Him as our heart's guest. But the truth is that only Jesus can bring light into those dark places. Sooner or later we have to let Him in, or be left to wrestle alone with the darkness forever.

The Catechism states, "The heart is ... the place of truth, where we choose life or death" (CCC 2563). When we invite Jesus to share in our hearts, and ask Him to give us a share in His Heart, we choose the beginning of eternal life. When we don't open our hearts to Him, or don't ask him to place His Heart in us, we're making a choice for death.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like unto thine! 


Promises made by Jesus to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque regarding those who practice devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus:

1. I will give them all the graces necessary for their state of life.

2. I will give peace in their families.

3. I will console them in all their troubles.

4. I will be their refuge in life and especially in death.

5. I will abundantly bless all their undertakings.

6. Sinners shall find in my Heart the source and infinite ocean of mercy.

7. Tepid souls shall become fervent.

8. Fervent souls shall rise speedily to great perfection.

9. I will bless those places wherein the image of My Sacred Heart shall be exposed and venerated.

10. I will give to priests the power to touch the most hardened hearts.

11. Persons who propagate this devotion shall have their names eternally written in my Heart.

12. 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. 

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