Thursday, 28 February 2013

Benedict's departure: Making reparation for the sins of the Church

On this historic day when  Benedict XVI concludes his Pontificate  I think it is appropriate to recall that,   like many his predecessors, Benedict has been a Pope of the Sacred Heart.   We can only hope and pray that the Sacred Heart will be close to the heart of the next Pope.   In the light of the problems that have to be addressed by the new Pope, we should remember that a central aspect of the devotion is to seek to make reparation for our sins.  There are many who have made the Lord weep:  the Church, led by the new Pope, must make reparation for the grave sins committed by some of our leaders.  And this is what this crisis is about. It is a crisis of leadership, rather than one of faith.  Please God, that we will have a Pope with the strength and energy to give the Church the leadership the faithful so desire.  In all of this, we ask Sacred Heart to have mercy on us.  The Heart of the Saviour has been pierced and wounded by those who were charged with feeding his sheep.

So we can recall some of the words of Benedict on those most important devotion of the Church.

After the tearing of the Temple curtain and the opening of the heart of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified, do we still need sacred space, sacred time, mediating symbols? Yes, we do need them, precisely so that, through the 'image', through the sign, we learn to see the openness of heaven. We need them to give us the capacity to know the mystery of God in the pierced heart of the Crucified.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, p61

In the Heart of Jesus, the center of Christianity is set before us. It expresses everything, all that is genuinely new and revolutionary in the New Covenant. This Heart calls to our heart. It invites us to step forth out of the futile attempt of self-preservation and, by joining in the task of love, by handing ourselves over to him and with him, to discover the fullness of love which alone is eternity and which alone sustains the world. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, (Behold the Pierced One, 1981)

In the pierced heart of the Crucified, God's own heart is opened up; here we see who God is and what he is like. Heaven is no longer locked up. God has stepped out of his hiddenness. That is why St John sums up both the meaning of the Cross and the nature of the new worship of God in the mysterious promise made through the prophet Zechariah (cf. 12:10). 'They shall look on him whom they have pierced' (Jn 19.37). Joseph Cardinal Ratizinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 2000, p48


the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: only in this inexhaustible source of love will you be able to find the necessary energy for your mission.
The Church was born from the Heart of the Redeemer, from his pierced side, and she is ceaselessly renewed in the sacraments.
May it be your concern to draw spiritual nourishment from prayer and an intense sacramental life; deepen your personal knowledge of Christ and strive with all your might for the "high standard of ordinary Christian living" which is what holiness is, as our beloved John Paul II used to say.


To the Most Reverend Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J.
Superior General of the Society of Jesus
By encouraging devotion to the Heart of Jesus, the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas exhorted believers to open themselves to the mystery of God and of his love and to allow themselves to be transformed by it. After 50 years, it is still a fitting task for Christians to continue to deepen their relationship with the Heart of Jesus, in such a way as to revive their faith in the saving love of God and to welcome him ever better into their lives.
The Redeemer's pierced side is the source to which the Encyclical Haurietis Aquas refers us:  we must draw from this source to attain true knowledge of Jesus Christ and a deeper experience of his love.
Thus, we will be able to understand better what it means to know God's love in Jesus Christ, to experience him, keeping our gaze fixed on him to the point that we live entirely on the experience of his love, so that we can subsequently witness to it to others.
Indeed, to take up a saying of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, "In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbour".
Thus:  "The true reparation asked by the Heart of the Saviour will come when the civilization of the Heart of Christ can be built upon the ruins heaped up by hatred and violence" (Letter to Fr Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, Superior General of the Society of Jesus for the Beatification of Bl. Claude de la Colombière, 5 Moreover, not only does this mystery of God's love for us constitute the content of the worship of and devotion to the Heart of Jesus, but in the same way it is likewise the content of all true spirituality and Christian devotion. It is consequently important to stress that the basis of the devotion is as old as Christianity itself.

The deepest meaning of this devotion to God's love is revealed solely through a more attentive consideration of its contribution not only to the knowledge, but also and especially to the personal experience of this love in trusting dedication to its service …
…When we practise this devotion, not only do we recognize God's love with gratitude but we continue to open ourselves to this love so that our lives are ever more closely patterned upon it. God, who poured out his love "into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (cf. Rom 5: 5), invites us tirelessly to accept his love. The main aim of the invitation to give ourselves entirely to the saving love of Christ and to consecrate ourselves to it (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 4) is, consequently, to bring about our relationship with God.
This explains why the devotion, which is totally oriented to the love of God who sacrificed himself for us, has an irreplaceable importance for our faith and for our life in love.

Whoever inwardly accepts God is moulded by him. The experience of God's love should be lived by men and women as a "calling" to which they must respond. Fixing our gaze on the Lord, who "took our infirmities and bore our diseases" (Mt 8: 17), helps us to become more attentive to the suffering and need of others.
Adoring contemplation of the side pierced by the spear makes us sensitive to God's salvific will. It enables us to entrust ourselves to his saving and merciful love, and at the same time strengthens us in the desire to take part in his work of salvation, becoming his instruments.
The gifts received from the open side, from which "blood and water" flowed (cf. Jn 19: 34), ensure that our lives will also become for others a source from which "rivers of living water" flow (Jn 7: 38; cf. Deus Caritas Est, n. 7).
…Thus, looking at the "side pierced by the spear" from which shines forth God's boundless desire for our salvation cannot be considered a transitory form of worship or devotion:  the adoration of God's love, whose historical and devotional expression is found in the symbol of the "pierced heart", remains indispensable for a living relationship with God (cf. Haurietis Aquas, n. 62).
As I express the wish that the 50th anniversary will give rise to an ever more fervent response to love of the Heart of Christ in numerous hearts, I impart a special Apostolic Blessing to you, Most Reverend Father, and to all the Religious of the Society of Jesus, who are still very active in promoting this fundamental devotion.

Given the importance of the Sacred Heart to Benedict,  his last 'tweet' is of some significance. Benedict  asks us to put Christ at the centre of our lives.   The whole of the devotion can be summed up in those few words.  The heart is a way of describing our very centre- our core.  In our devotion we strive to make the Heart of Christ dwell in our heart.   Which is why Benedict wisely called the devotion to the Sacred Heart a 'fundamental devotion'. When Christ is the centre of our life, He lives in our hearts. We experience joy.  On the other hand, when human beings put themselves at the centre of their lives, the result is inevitably a joyless existence.

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