“Sacred Heart of Jesus” (detail) by Chambers

“Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise.” (Psalm 51:15)

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a glimpse into the heart of God because Jesus taught us that when we see Him, we see the Father. The veil is pulled aside, and when we gaze upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus which bears the marks of the passion and inflamed with the love of God, we glimpse the heart of the Father for His children. And now, after the Ascension, Jesus stands at the right hand of the Father, eternally interceding on our behalf.

Before the hour of Christ’s passion, the hour of His glory, Christ prayed to the Father on our behalf. In this prayer, we glimpse His eternal prayer of intercession for us. We hear the conversation between the Son and the Father, and they are speaking about His disciples, about us: “I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them” (John 17: 6-9).

Christ is speaking of His disciples—those who always stood by Him, always kept His word. They accepted and understood everything He taught them… at this moment, those of us who are familiar with Scripture may stop and think—wait, which disciples is Jesus talking about? Could he possibly be speaking of those whom he repeatedly called “men of little faith” (Mt 8:26, Mt 14:31, Lk 8:25)?  In the gospels, He is continually challenging His apostles, who did not understand, and who were constantly missing His point. They misinterpreted His words, thinking only on a natural level. When His disciples began to argue over which of them was the best, Jesus “perceived the thoughts of their hearts” (Luke 9:47). And when He was entering into His darkest hour, Peter swore to follow Him, even unto death. But Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him three times, and that rest of them would scatter (Lk 22:33-34). Even after His resurrection, His disciples still did not recognize Him (Lk 24:16). They continued doubting, their hearts were troubled, and full of questions (Lk 24:38). They wanted to follow Him, but they were utterly human, weak and slow to understand. “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me?” He asked Philip (Jn 14). Perhaps He could ask each of us the same question.

Indeed, the entire history of salvation, every page of scripture, is saturated with the faithfulness of God in the face of a capricious, covenant-breaking people. God pledges His faithful love, and His people turn away, seeking themselves and other gods, again and again. And Christ, before He enters into His passion, drawing near to Jerusalem, sees in one sweep this divine unrequited love story, and weeps.

This certainly does not sound like disciples who have always kept His word, who have accepted and understood everything He taught them. Yet, Christ prays for them. We can understand their brokenness. We who are striving to follow after Jesus have begun to see our weakness, and recognize in ourselves in the words, “Oh, you of little faith.” Perhaps we would expect His prayer to sound something more like “Father, even though they have failed over and over, even though they have not understood, even though they have not responded to your grace, I pray for them.” Yet, both for the Apostles, as for us, Christ’s eternal prayer before the Father is not an eternal apology for our behavior, minimizing our weakness. Instead we glimpse, through the Sacred Heart of Jesus, that the reality of the Resurrection is a power infinitely able to transform us.

We are weak, and we fail, and fall, and misunderstand Him, again and again. But Christ is strong; He is our strength, and He has triumphed over sin and hell by His own death and resurrection. He does not just cover us with His strength—as if we were Luther’s dung heap covered in snow. The transformation of Christ is real, and it changes every fiber of our being. His victory is not a deletion of our sins, like our library fines being cancelled. His victory is an invitation to a total transformation.  Christ died so that we can be transformed on ever deeper levels than we can dream. We are transformed by His faithfulness, trust, and obedience to the Father, and when we come into contact with this Divine Life, we are changed. We are weak and sinful, but if we are willing to place even our weakness and sin into His hands, it is transformed, so that by His own Goodness, by His own victory, He can truly pray to the Father: “They have kept your word… they have truly understood and accepted… they have believed. I pray for them.” And slowly, little by little, our lives begin to conform to the reality of our identity in Him.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus proclaims the triumph of the resurrection. Still bearing the wounds of the passion, and eternally inflamed with love, the Sacred Heart of Jesus eternally declares the transformative power of God. By His Goodness, we are changed. By His Wholeness, we are made whole. By His Love, we are transformed, and our hearts become more and more conformed to His Sacred Heart.

By Sister Teresa Christine of the Cross, O.C.D.

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