Living the Truth in Love: The Heart of the Year of Mercy

During the month of June we are at the midpoint of the year.  June’s centrality is evident in its containing the longest day of the year in terms of daylight.  In this regard, it is significant that June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  As we celebrate this Year of Mercy during the month of June, it is especially significant to understand the Sacred Heart of Jesus as central to the expression of God's mercy for each and every one of us.  In his Angelus message of June 9, 2013, at the very beginning of his papacy, Pope Francis beautifully stated that, "The Heart of Jesus is the ultimate symbol of God's mercy - but it is not an imaginary symbol, it is a real symbol, which represents the center, the source from which salvation for all humanity gushed forth."  There is no more living and moving expression of God's merciful love than that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 


The Gospels make several references to the Heart of Jesus which are helpful in understanding the centrality of His mercy.  We are told that, "At the sight of the crowds, His heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt 9:36).  This compassionate mercy of Jesus is constantly expressed in the Gospels as He pours out His Heart to all those whom he encounters.  This compassion is expressed in the simplest matters of food and hunger when the Lord states, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat.  I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse along the way" (Mt 15:32).  Perhaps the most moving words of the Lord in regard to His Heart are "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light" (Mt 11:28 - 30).  Jesus truly is revealed as one who is meek and humble of heart.


The humble Heart of Jesus was truly filled with joy but also with sorrow and pain on many occasions.  As Jesus hung upon the Cross and His Heart was pierced with a sword, He physically felt that pain which went to the very center of His being.  How many times the humble Heart of Jesus was filled with pain as His disciples misunderstood His words and many turned away from Him and His merciful Heart.  The Lord felt excruciating pain as Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him and His disciples fled from Him at the Cross.  Before His death on the Cross, His Heart was filled with not only the pain of the piercing sword but also the pain of those who rejected Him and fled from Him.


The merciful Heart of Jesus certainly knew what was in the heart of people.  He knew the good and He knew the evil.  It was the evil which came out of men and women which hurt His Heart in the deepest way.  The Lord came to call the heart of each and every person to Himself in order that their heart might be free from evil and know the joy which only the Lord can give. It was to give that freedom of heart that the Lord allowed His Heart to be filled with pain and to be pierced with a sword.  Truly the Lord invites all of us to His humble Heart because it is there that we find the rest that only He can give us.  During this month of June as we reflect upon the Lord's merciful Heart, especially during this Year of Mercy, we turn our hearts more and more to Him always knowing that He never turns His Heart away from us.


The perfect heart which the Lord encountered was that of His Mother, Mary.  Her heart knew no evil but only the goodness of the Lord Himself.  While her heart knew the pain of suffering, especially through that of her Son, she always trusted in the Lord and therefore experienced the rest which only He could give.  Mary truly knew the "easy yoke" and "burden light" of her Son.  When Mary presented Jesus in the temple shortly after His birth, Simeon prophesied to her that a sword would pierce her heart and it surely did.  However, it was Mary who treasured in her heart all the beautiful mysteries of the Lord’s life as well as of His words in a manner which gave her tremendous joy.  Because of what she treasured in her heart, she was able to hand over to the apostles her own joy and peace in a manner similar to the Lord.  Indeed, the heart of Mary knew the mercy of the Heart of Jesus as no one else.  She experienced His free gifts in her heart as well as the merciful forgiveness he bestowed upon the hearts of others.


It is most appropriate to reflect upon the heart of Mary during this month of the Sacred Heart and this Year of Mercy as the hearts of Mary and Jesus are one.  It was from the human heart of Mary that the human Heart of Jesus literally came into existence.  The Heart of Jesus is from the heart of Mary.  The love which Jesus expressed from the depths of His being to others truly was a reflection of the love which Mary expressed to Jesus from the depths of her being.  The Heart of God, in His human existence, is intimately bound to the heart of Mary and that Heart is now bound to Mary in the fullness of life in heaven, where she has been bodily assumed, as she exists as the Queen.


I have made reference on several occasions to a beautiful altarpiece of the Middle Ages to which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI recently drew attention.  It is a depiction of the Trinity referred to as the Throne of Mercy and is so fitting for this Year of Mercy.  The Trinity is symbolized showing the Father holding His Son with His pierced heart on the cross as His greatest gift of love to the world.  Between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove.  It truly is an expression of the infinite love of God giving Himself to us from the very depth of His being.  It is an image of what the Sacred Heart of Jesus is all about.  I was very impressed to come upon a medieval sculpture of Mary serenely sitting with great peace.  As one looks upon it, one is immediately drawn to the spiritual gaze of Mary.  This particular sculpture opens up so that one is able to see what is inside of Mary as if one were looking into the heart of Mary.  Inside this sculpture is the carving of the Trinity as the Throne of Mercy.  It is so appropriate that this particular sculpture of Mary holds the heart of the Trinity within her own.  She reflected upon the mercy of God in her heart as no one else.


During this month of the Sacred Heart, we look upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we reflect upon His mercy during this Year of Mercy.  As the Lord looks into our hearts, He experiences many good things but also many distressful things which turn us away from His Heart.  Because of those evils within us the Lord is drawn even more to us so that we might come to know His merciful love as did the heart of Mary our Mother.  There is a beautiful litany of the Sacred Heart composed by a great Churchman, Cardinal Merry Del Val, who was Secretary of State to St. Pope Pius X.  It is a litany which calls upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus to turn us away from those things which prevent us from being humble and calls us to become more alive to the Sacred Heart of Christ.  It is a very fitting prayer during this month of the Sacred Heart and Year of Mercy.  The opening of the litany has been refashioned in a simple and merciful prayer which can easily be said at any time, "Jesus meek and humble of Heart, make my heart like unto thine."  May we know the Heart of Jesus and may our hearts become more like His.

Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
June 10, 2016