By Mac Donald Lyngdoh, s.j.
As we are entering further into the Holy Week, we are getting closer into the darkest hour of Jesus, his agony, his suffering, and his death. After he had died, the soldier pierced his side with a lance and there flowed water and blood. I tried to search for some more references to this passage but found nowhere else but in John’s alone. I wondered why only John mentioned this scene and not the other gospel writers. One of the reasons might be because he was the only one present from among the gospel writers. The other reason, which I personally feel to be true, might be because John was the one who recline at the breast of Christ at the Last Supper. May be he heard those tender heart beat of Christ, beating with love for us. May be he heard the fearful palpitations of Christ as he neared his death. At Calvary, the soldier pierced his side with a lance and from there flowed water and blood. John later reminds us: “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.” St Thomas Aquinas said that through that pierced side, we all now have a door to enter from. He further said, “Your purification is that water and your redemption is that blood.”
I find that there is a very deep connection between the Pierced Side and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Pierced Side has been a subject of contemplation for many people. This eventually led them to the Heart of Jesus. Even before the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became widely accepted, St. Gertrude and St. Peter Canisius were already devoted to the Heart of Jesus. It was only with the coming of St. Margaret Mary Alacouqe that the Devotion to the Sacred Heart gained ground. With the three main apparitions she received from Jesus: first, like St. Gertrude, Margaret Mary too reclined at the breast of Jesus and she heard those tender beatings of love of humanity; second, Jesus revealed to her the ingratitude he received from men; and finally, he wanted his Heart to be adored, and the world be consecrated to himself. A Jesuit, name Claude de la Columbierre, Margaret Mary’s spiritual father, assisted in propagating this devotion. With the 26th General Congregation of 1915, the propagation of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became the mission of the whole Society.
This devotion has been a great aid to many Jesuits. In the 50th anniversary of the papal document Horiatis Aquas, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that our life takes its meaning from “fixing our gaze on our pierced Redeemer.” This Sacred Heart shows us the physical heart of Jesus representing the divine love of Christ for humanity. It lays an emphasis on the love, the compassion and the suffering heart of Christ for us humans. This Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an act of reparation to the heart of Jesus represented as a heart pierced by a lance, encircled by a crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and blazing with fire and divine light.
Whenever we speak of the heart, don’t you think that we are dealing with something very deep and personal, something very sentimental and touching us at our core? On the one hand, physically speaking, the heart purifies the blood and pumps it all over the body. On the other hand, the heart is like the source of every virtue and vice; the core generator of the attitude of man. It looks like the content of the whole person is concentrated in the heart. St. John de Brebeuf, a missionary to the Huron, was a man of virtue and a man of mission. He was a courageous man. He was loyal and faithful to Christ even to the point of death. When he was killed, the Red Indians took out his heart and ate it. He was a brave man they said. They believed that if the ate his heart, they would be as brave as he was. Jesus calls us to communion with him and his Father invites us to be like him who is meek and humble at heart. He is loving, compassionate, merciful and forgiving. What else can we ask of him more valuable than his heart? I personally find that our every grace that we beseech, every blessing, every desire, and every prayer of petition is condensed in this one sentenced: ‘Make our hearts like unto Yours.’
However, our desire should not be only in asking for his Heart but also in giving our own. Swami Vivekananda, when speaking about Christianity, he said, “If I meet this man Jesus, I’ll wash his feet with the blood of my heart.” What else could a mortal man give God more valuable than his heart? What we give God is only a glass of water; He gives us a spring of water. We give God only our short lifetime; He gives us eternity. We ask of him for pardon; He gives us both his pardon and friendship. Let us be generous in giving our hearts to Jesus in exchange with His Sacred Heart. Let us beg him like Teilhard de Chardin did by asking Jesus to take us into his heart and when he has us there, to burn and purify us for his pleasure till the total annihilation of ourselves.
Let me conclude with a story from a movie called ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ A woman wanted to divorce her husband and marry another man. She forced her husband to sign the divorce papers. On the day of her second marriage, her lawyer came and informed her that her husband had finally signed the papers. “It’s good news but there’s a problem. You haven’t signed it yet,” the lawyer told her. There she realized and felt that there was something missing in her. After a while, she turned to her supposed-to-be-husband and said, “I have given my heart to somebody else a long time ago and I never got it back.” Then she ran back to her husband.
I wish that we too would be able to say something like this, “I have given my heart to Jesus and I never got it back.”