Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus 2018

Yesterday I made the mistake of re-reading some of my previous posts about this feast (to try not to repeat myself today) and was brought up short by the realisation that I have frequently wittered on about repository art and kitsch, especially in connection with the Sacred Heart. It is difficult for an English Catholic to avoid the topic altogether since so many of our churches were built with the pennies of the poor at a time when accommodating the largest number of worshipers was more important than anything else. The devotional art with which we filled them was indeed devotional rather than art and has not been helped by the subsequent reorderings of Vatican II and the reorderings of the reorderings that have followed since. But to harp on about tackiness when considering this feast! It shows, I have to admit, a lack of perspective. This is the great devotional feast of the Passion, as Corpus Christi is the great devotional feast of the Holy Eucharist, and it allows us to pause for a moment and reflect on the endless compassion of God, the outpouring of sacrificial love we see in Christ Jesus.

Even the most superficial glance at the headlines will show that compassion is not the most obvious quality we as human beings possess. There is too much strife, too much hardness of heart. A celebrity may obtain the freeedom of someone gaoled for what many consider to be a minor crime, but the plight of children separated from their families because they fall foul of immigration legislation, that is a ‘more difficult area’ (sic). Perhaps today we could spend a few minutes kneeling before the crucifix and pondering the last two lines of today’s first Mass reading, from Hosea 11.9,

I am the Holy One in your midst
and have no wish to destroy.
and the significance of that piercing of Christ’s side with a lance that John describes (John 19.31-7). The blood and water that poured out came from the dead body of Christ. The Fathers loved to meditate on the meaning of the blood and water, but for us there may be more to be gained from thinking about the fact that Christ had already died when his side was pierced. He, for a little while, could no longer act, only be acted upon. Sometimes compassion has to be drawn from us when we are unable to give it of ourselves. Are we ready for that? If not, this feast may help us prepare.