The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is Friday, June 14.

WE OWE A great debt of gratitude to the Jesuits for promoting devotion to Jesus under the aegis of the Sacred Heart. It also cannot be forgotten that many saints and blesseds (St. Gertrude, Bl. Henry Suso, O.P., among others)—before St. Margaret Mary and her Jesuit confessor St. Claude de la Colombiere— played a key role in developing the devotion. Why does Church teaching make so much of it? Why did Pius XII say it is essential to Catholic faith and practice?

The Sacred Heart is a sign of Christ's emotional love for us as individuals whether we be terrible sinners or saints. Nothing we can do against Him will undermine his tender love for us. We believe that Christ possesses infused knowledge about us individually, and thus know that He can understand and love us on a very personal level, something no mere human being could ever do. We can only love people in groups or think of them one at a time. Jesus, in His humanity, can think of and love each of us simultaneously. This often neglected truth of the Catholic faith is crucial in an age that has produced so many children who are either over- or under-affirmed. And anger, when virtuous, is based upon a deep love because it defends against what is destructive. So God may permit afflictions in our lives when we are ruining something very beautiful in us—namely, His image and likeness—by sin.

Second, the Sacred Heart symbolizes Jesus’ specifically intellectual and volitional love for us. He tailors His grace to our individual or specific needs, depending upon our personal vocation, responsibilities, and particular challenges. All of the graces we need for our salvation come from Him and through Him, as the priest proclaims in the Eucharistic rite.

Third, the Sacred Heart symbolizes the Divine love which Jesus, as God, has for us, which means that nothing ever happens to us by chance. There is a plan for the kingdom of God and for each one of us. We may not always cooperate with that plan and sometimes it seems painfully slow in being accomplished. But God's eternal decrees are meant to bring what is the very best for us, though we do not always understand how much, even less why. God is both Creator and Redeemer of creation. His saving work on earth is the saving of our wounded natures and the world around us.

Finally, the Sacred Heart is an icon of the most Blessed Trinity. True, Jesus is the second person of the Blessed Trinity but where there is one Person, the other two are present, too. Neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit became incarnate, yet they were in time—and presently are in eternity—with Jesus. Living in the state of sanctifying grace means that we possess the Trinity in the depths of our being. By baptism we are also sharers in Jesus’ unique Sonship. By thinking of the Sacred Heart of Jesus then, we are constantly reminded of our identity as “sons in the Son,” possessing a share of the divine life that animates the “heart” of the Trinity. We're thus reminded to remain faithful to the merciful love of Jesus when times seem bleak and hopeless. It is then especially that we need to surrender to the truth that we are deeply loved by the Holy Trinity, through Jesus’ Sacred Heart.

Father Basil Cole, O.P., is a member of the Western Dominican Preaching Team which gives parish missions and renewals.