Behold This Heart Which Has Loved So Much

Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, D.D. Bishop of St. Catharines

June is traditionally a month that is dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Our Lord appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation Sister, at Paray-le-Monial, France, from 1673 until 1675. Jesus revealed to her his Sacred Heart with the words, “Behold my heart that has loved so much and yet is loved so little.”

In 1928, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical, Misserentissimus Redemptor, which attested to the authenticity of these apparitions. He stated that Jesus “promised her (St. Margaret Mary) that all those who rendered honour to his heart would be endowed with an abundance of heavenly graces.” The image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus signifies the love of God for us.

In his encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), Pope Benedict XVI quotes from (1 John 4:16) “We have come to believe in God’s love”. He then states, “In these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

So when we encounter God’s love in our lives, we should be radically changed because God is love. When we open our hearts to divine love, we grow in our love for God and neighbour. Jesus states, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)
Our Lord reminds us that we cannot say that we love God and refuse to love our brothers and sisters. Divine love moves us to love God and those around us and to act on their behalf, especially those most in need. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta reminds us that not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. We can do incredible things in God’s name when we are motivated by God’s love; however, there is a force in the world that is not happy with this reality.

The Screwtape Letters is one of the more popular works of Christian apologist and author C.S. Lewis. The novel is about a senior devil named Screwtape whose job is to bring misery to humanity. He is in charge of his nephew, a novice devil named Wormword.

The novel consists of a series of letters in which Screwtape instructs his nephew in the art of temptation and deception in order to corrupt a soul. One of the greatest laments of Screwtape is that God actually loves the ‘human vermin’. God’s love is something that he cannot fully comprehend.

C.S. Lewis captures a fundamental truth that should never be forgotten. Satan hates humanity and does not want us to succeed. He cannot tolerate the fact that God loves us. So the prince of lies tries to convince us otherwise by sowing the seeds of doubt.

Do we really believe that God loves us?

If we did it would make an incredible difference in our lives. We would respond to that love with true passion and that would become the motivation for all of our actions. We would come to Mass on Sunday so that we could be near the one we love and hear his Word and receive his Body and Blood. We would pray each day in order to speak with the One we love. We would follow his commandments because we know this is what pleases the One we love. We would care for others because we know that whatever we do for the least of our brothers and sisters we do to the One we love.

All that we do would be acts of love in response to the One who loved us first.
The greatest tool that Satan has in his arsenal to use against us is to tempt us to doubt God’s love for us. We must avoid thoughts that make us believe that we cannot be loved because of some sin, weakness, limitation, or imperfection because these thoughts are destructive. If we begin to doubt God’s love then it negatively impacts everything else in our lives. This is something we must never forget.

As a visible reminder of divine love, I have commissioned a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the front of the Diocesan Catholic Centre. I am grateful to the benefactors who helped to make this possible. Under the statue you will find the words, “Behold this heart which loves so much.”

It is my hope and prayer that this statue will be a constant reminder to those who enter the Diocesan Catholic Centre, drive by, or walk by on route to Brock University, that God is love. May the outstretched arms of Jesus and his visible heart be an invitation for all to come and share a deeper communion with him, his Church and others.

May this reflection on God’s love also help us to prepare for the coming Holy Year of Mercy that Pope Francis has recently announced. It is precisely because God loves us that we receive the outpouring of Divine Mercy.

In his Papal Bull announcing the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote, “The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters. Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instils in us the courage to look to the future with hope.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 10)

In October, I will be publishing a pastoral letter for the coming Holy Year of Mercy in which I will describe how the diocese plans to ‘take up the joyful call to mercy once more’. It will contain specific ways we can celebrate the gift of God’s mercy and love during the holy year. We are fortunate because in preparation we are already doing this in the month of June as we honour the Sacred Heart.

(Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.)