I really love this image of the Sacred Heart. It was a gift of a Jesuit priest to my family when I was growing up. He was a wonderful friend to our family, a warm, compassionate man with a great sense of humor. Next to my dad, he was my mother's best friend. They were an amazing team in getting lots of things done for the parish, particularly for people in need. This picture was on the wall, at the end of the hall, near my bedroom, for as long as I can remember, and it is on the wall in my bedroom now. It reminds me of the powerful faith of my mom and dad and Fr. Mac. It also reminds me of the Lord and friend I encountered in the Spiritual Exercises.
Part of the beginning of our formation as a Jesuit is to make a 30 day retreat based upon the religious experience of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which he preserved in a book for directors of people making that retreat, called the Spiritual Exercises. In that retreat, one comes to know God's profound love for us and experiences the call of Jesus to be his companion in living out his own mission from the Father - to save the world from the power of sin and death by completely entering into this world and, out of obedient love, becoming one with all who suffer and die. In the Exercises, we get to know Jesus more intimately by watching him and using our imagination to let his very personality touch us deeply. The more we watch him, the more we fall in love with him and the more we want to be with, and even like, the one we love.
I came to understand later that Ignatius was a lay person when he experienced these Exercises and that he gave them to others as a lay person. When he founded the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), one of the central ministries of the Society was to share these Exercises with others. That is why, when we developed this web site, we translated the Exercises into an online experience of deep intimacy with Jesus that anyone in the world can be a part of in the midst of a very busy life. [The Online Retreat.]
Jesus on the cross is a powerful image of this unconditional love of God for us. The image of the Sacred Heart also captures it all wonderfully. Here we see Jesus saying, "See my heart. It is on fire with love for you and for the whole world. My heart bears the wounds of my becoming completely one with you."
Jesus shows us his love - in these images of the Sacred Heard - but he shows us his love most clearly in the Gospels, in the Eucharist, and in the community of those on fire with his Spirit. The Gospels show us his tender compassion and mercy, his fearless confrontation of false piety and hypocritical judmentalism, and his joy at being with the poor and marginal. In the Eucharist, we are gathered to celebrate his self-sacrificing love - broken and poured out for us, and we are missioned to share it with the whole world. And, it is his community, enkindled with the fire of his love, that we experience and participate in the Holy Spirit's presence among us to make us those whose love renews the face of the earth.
Jesus asks us to show the world our hearts. We start by showing our hearts on fire for our family and friends and those who most need our love. We read the news and act with responsible citizenship with hearts transformed by our Lord's love for us. It's a daily offering. It's all about love.
When I was a young boy, I used to love to watch my dad shave in the morning. On the mirror in the bathroom, was "The Morning Offering" prayer, which he said as he began to shave. It still works pretty well today.
Sacred Heart picture by Fanelli order form
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