BEFORE THE CROSS | Jesus reveals His Sacred Heart by seeking out those needing mercy

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

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This week we celebrate the Sacred Heart of Jesus (June 8) and the Immaculate Heart of Mary (June 9). Both of their hearts provide a lesson and a challenge for us.

First, consider Jesus' instinct to turn toward the people who most need mercy. When Jesus was criticized for this tendency, He responded simply: "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do" (Mark 2:17). His heart drew Him to be in the midst of sickness, because that's where a physician does the most good.

Jesus not only turned toward people who need mercy, He also turned very deliberately toward the places in their lives where they needed mercy. So, when He was with the Samaritan woman at the well, He asked about her husband — relationships were where she most needed mercy. And, when the leper asked for healing, notice that Jesus touched Him before healing Him — so he knew he was worthy of human contact even in his sickness; this was where he most needed mercy.

Jesus' instinct to turn toward sinners and sin is a revelation of His heart. It's also a challenge to us. Very often our instinct is to turn away from people who need mercy; or, even if we turn toward them, we turn away from the places in their lives where they need mercy. Maybe this year, to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we will turn toward the places where people need mercy, rather than turning away.

Jesus constantly reaches out. He responded when people came to Him, but He didn't wait for them to come. He was constantly on the move, initiating contact with people and starting conversations.

That's another challenge for us. In our parishes we often talk of providing a "welcoming community." That's certainly a positive value. But there's a danger of complacency in it, too. Sometimes we sit around in Church and wait for people to come to us with their questions. We're ready to welcome them when they come, because we have answers. But what if they don't come? (Which, increasingly, is what's happening.) We have to be better at going out like Jesus — not just waiting for people to come, but initiating relationships and starting conversations. Usually those relationships and conversations allow the questions to arise. The answer to these questions is Jesus.

Finally, consider the heart of Mary. Scripture notes how Mary kept these things in her heart. What she kept there were the events of Jesus' life. What do we keep in our hearts?

We often keep resentments and bad news. We turn them over, and consider them from every angle, until they take hold of us and come to define the landscape of our hearts. But, like Mary, God's love comes to us in many ways every day. Will we become more like her, keeping God's love as the first thing in our hearts?

The eternal Son revealed His heart by going out from heaven to find sinners. Mary pondered the mysteries of His life in her heart. This year, as we honor the hearts of Jesus and Mary, let's try to have hearts more like theirs.

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

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