The Word: The heart of Jesus

Published 10:28 am Saturday, July 6, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In the mid 1670’s, a young French nun named Margaret Alacoque lived in a convent in eastern France. A humble woman, her daily task was to work in the infirmary, but she also had a broader mission for which she is now remembered. She spread devotion to what Catholics call the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Although the term “Sacred (or ‘holy’) Heart” may strike us as odd at first, it simply focuses us on the love of Christ and helps us give Him ours in return.

What do we mean by a “Heart”? When a man and a woman say to each other, “I give you my heart,” we know their meaning instinctively. They give their love, of course, but also, in a way, their whole life: their willingness to sacrifice, their money, their home, their deepest desires, their dreams, their preferences. Can you imagine, for instance, a man who has declared to a woman that his heart is entirely hers, and yet who refuses to try to please her, or refuses a sacrifice needed for her well-being (like donating blood for her, for example)? Clearly, the gift of a heart is incompatible with selfish reserves. If it doesn’t mean actual abandonment of all worldy goods, it indicates a detachment and willingness to give up anything, if that is what is asked. When Christ gives us His Heart, He gives everything.

Of course, Christ continues to love us, even if we hold reserves or refuse to love Him back, but the gift must be reciprocal in order for the friendship to flourish and grow. Just as in human relationships, we cannot have full union with Him unless we also give Him our own hearts in return.

Email newsletter signup

The realization that the Person to Whom we give everything is a real God-Man Who loves us, Who knows all things, and Who only does what is good for us helps to ease the natural trepidation we feel at giving away our hearts. Especially when we contemplate Him dying with unspeakable suffering on the cross, and remember that He came from an obscure background of poverty, rejection, and persecution, we realize poignantly that He held nothing back and saved nothing for Himself. In other words, He gave us His Heart. Setting aside some time every day to reflect on this and to speak to Christ about it will be a huge help to us in the lifelong task of giving Him our own hearts.

All the depth, all the completeness, all the pain, all the reaching down into one’s soul that are summed up when a human says, “I give you my heart” are mere shadows compared to what Jesus gives us. When Catholics venerate images of Christ’s Sacred Heart, they honor and devote themselves to the unreserved, tender love of Christ that leads Him to give up Himself – His life, His love, His suffering – for our salvation.

Br. Maximilian Watner is on the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at