“Incline our hearts, according to your will, O God.”
These words of prayer regularly occur in liturgical texts such as the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist. The prayer cashes in on the symbol of the human heart and speaks more than an explanation could ever tell. Oh, how we constantly struggle to live our faith!
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reminder that our human feelings, desires and inclinations—our hearts—must be inclined to God’s providential love for each and every one of us. The opening prayer for today’s liturgy expresses how the heart of Jesus is a symbol of “the wonders of his love for us” and reminds us “of the overflowing measure of grace” that comes to us through Christ.
In the history of Israel, the symbol of the human heart stands for the very core of the human person.
The daily prayer prescribed in the book of Deuteronomy 6:5-6: “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.” The prophets speak of how God will remove the “stony heart of sinners” and give them a new living heart.
When asked what was the greatest commandment (Mt 22:36-39), Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and joined it to the injunction of Leviticus 19:18: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
This teaching of Jesus is the heart of his teaching.
Christian history bears witness to how devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus appears to have offered a remedy to the harsh spirituality of the Jansenist period of the middle 17th century. The teachings of this movement so emphasized human sin and depravity that fear of hell and damnation lurked in the hearts of many Catholics, making some people scrupulous and leaving most people fearful of damnation. St. John Eudes (1602–1680) and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-90) played key roles in promoting devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The celebration of the Feast of the Sacred Heart is a great reminder of the love of God for each of us. “God so loved us that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).