The Spirituality of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: He loved us “to the end”

Fr. Eduardo Emilio Aguero, SCJ

Friday, June 24, 2022, is the solemn feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1956, Pope Pius XII entitled his Encyclical on the Sacred Heart of Jesus with two words: “Haurietis Aquas” (You will draw waters). These words are derived from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Is 12:3). Let us examine just a small part of what he wrote, which seems to be very relevant even in our day.

The source of living water is the Sacred Heart of the Redeemer. The greatest manifestation of God’s love is found on the Cross when from the side of Christ “flow blood and water” (Jn 19:34). The spirituality and devotion to the Sacred Heart that was promoted particularly by Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque in the 17th century, finds a significant biblical root in this text.

Tertullian associated the open side of Christ with the rock of Meribah (Nm 20:11), which Moses struck with his staff and from which flowed water to quench the thirst of the people. That is why he affirms that the pierced side of Christ is the source of Baptism (De Baptismo 4,4; SCh 35,70). Saint Ambrose went even further to indicate that, as Eve was formed from the side of the sleeping Adam, the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ who had just died on the Cross (In Luc 2, 85-89, PL 15,1666-1668). Indeed, the heart of the Savior is the greatest symbol of this “most tender, forgiving and patient love of God” (HA 29).

The spirituality of the Sacred Heart requires the desire to draw from that wellspring of salvation, the greatest gift of all of which Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you only knew the gift of God” (Jn 4:10). That is the same gift he gave up when he died on the cross: “When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘it is finished’. Then he bowed his head and gave up his Spirit” (Jn 19:30). It’s the gift of love and the mission of reconciliation the Risen Lord entrusted to his disciples – “…he breathed onto them and said to them ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them…’” (Jn 20:22-23).

As the beloved disciple, who witnessed the piercing of Jesus on the Cross, Thomas also had a deep experience of Jesus’ love when our Lord challenged him: “Put out your hand, and place it in my side” (Jn 20:27). That elicited the most daring confession of faith in all the Gospels: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

The spirituality and devotion of the Sacred Heart has nothing to do with sentimentalism (cf. HA 8), on the contrary, it demands courage and a total commitment to grow in communion and intimacy with Jesus. Christ empowers us to love as he does through the gift of the Spirit: “As you sent me into the world, so have I sent them into the world” (Jn 17:18). They too are called to give their lives in a “self-giving and sacrificial love” (cf. Jn 15:12). Accordingly, at the end of the Gospel of John, the Lord confirms Peter in his ministry, which must be based on his love for Jesus, a love “to the end” (Jn 13:1). Sharing the same love as Christ, Jesus predicts that Simon Peter will “glorify God” through his own death (Jn 21:19).

(Photo: Saint Peter’s Cathedral, London, Ontario, Canada)