This is one of our most powerful feasts, but it has not always been well served by the “artists” who make and sell religious objects. Jesus with blood dripping from his heart does not stimulate my devotion, anyway. Likewise, some of the prayers connected with devotion to the Sacred Heart strike me as putting the focus on ourselves—human sin and wrong-doing—rather than on God and the redeeming power of that love poured out in Jesus.
If we really mean love when we talk of God’s relationship with us human beings, then it must be mutual—not just giving, but receiving as well. God is not a sugar daddy in the sky, but one who wants mutuality, wants to be in relationship with us. That means that God becomes vulnerable to our not loving back. In choosing to love us God chooses to feel the pain of our selfishness, indifference, and rejection. This is the reality that underlies even the worst representations of the Sacred Heart.
There is more. God is vulnerable to the pain of our not loving back, but God’s love will not tolerate vengeance or striking back in any way. So God absorbs the violence of our failure to love, and so refuses to take part in the vicious cycles of violence that plague human relationships.
And ourselves? Nourished by his body and blood we, the church born from his pierced heart, get the courage and great-heartedness to do the same. We are strengthened to absorb the violence of our world and respond with love and forgiveness rather than vengeance. In this way we really do become God’s gift to our world.
By Gerry Stockhausen