Sometime ago I blogged quoting Servant of God Catherine Doherty's comments about Christianity as a love affair between God and humanity. (HERE) It is a powerful passage from her great book, The Gospel Without Compromise:
Catherine Doherty, The Gospel Without Compromise, Ave Maria Press, Notre Dame. 1976, p77
The Sacred Heart is in its most simple terms an image representing God's love affair with us : each and everyone of us! Today the Pope urged us all this Lent to 'make a space' for God in our lives. As Vatican Radio reported during morning mass today at Casa Santa Marta Francis reminds us that God loves us : he dreams about us and dreams about re-creating us. He reminds us that, as Christians, we believe that God is in love with us. That is the amazing thing!
Taking his cue from the first letter of the prophet Isaiah in which the Lord says He is “about to create new heavens and a new earth”, Pope Francis said that God’s second creation is even more “wonderful” than the first because when he makes the world over he does so in Jesus Christ. He renews everything and manifests his immense joy:
“We find that the Lord has so much enthusiasm: he speaks of joy and says ‘I will exult in my people’. The Lord thinks of what He will do and of how He will rejoice with His people. It’s almost as if he has a dream. He has a dream. His dream is about us. ‘Oh, how beautiful it will be when we are all together, when this and that person will walk with me… I will exult in that moment!’ To bring you an example that can help us better understand, it’s like when a girl or a boy think of their beloved: ‘when we will be together, when we marry…’. It’s God’s ‘dream’”.
“God – the Pope continued – thinks of each of us and loves each of us. He ‘dreams’ about us. He dreams of how He will rejoice with us. That’s why the Lord wants to ‘re-create’ us, He wants to renew our hearts so that joy can triumph:
“Have you thought about it? The Lord dreams of me! He thinks of me! I am in the Lord’s mind and in His heart! The Lord can change my life! And he has many projects: ‘we will build houses and plant vineyards, we will share our meals’… these are the dreams of someone who is in love…. Thus we can see that the Lord is in love with his people. And when he says to his people: ‘I haven’t chosen you because you are the strongest, the biggest, the most powerful. I have chosen you because you are the smallest of them all. You could add: the most miserable. This is whom I have chosen’. This is love”.
God “is in love with us” – Francis repeated, as he commented on the Gospel reading that speaks of the miraculous healing of the son of a Royal official:
“I don’t think a theologian exists who can explain this: it is impossible to explain. We can only think about it, we can feel, we can cry with joy. The Lord can change us. ‘And what must I do?’ Believe. I must believe that the Lord can change me, that He has the power to do so: just like the man in the Gospel whose son was sick. ‘Sir, come down before my child dies’. ‘You may go (Jesus said to him). Your son will live!’ That man believed in the words of Jesus and had set off. He believed. He believed that Jesus had the power to change his child, the health of his child. And he won. To have faith is to make space for God’s love, to make space for his power, for God’s power. Not for the power of a powerful person, but for the power of one who loves me, who is in love with me and who wants to rejoice with me. This is faith. This is believing: making space for the Lord so that he can come and change me”.
Reflecting on the icon, I think it is significant that the image of Jesus opening his heart to us is also one which references Isaiah 65:17-21. In the icon we see God making a new heaven and a new earth. The old universe is being rolled up and an Angel is measuring the walls of the New Jerusalem. The Pope's words remind us that God desires to re-create us. God dreams of making us new. The Sacred Heart is imploring us to make a space in our hearts for the love of God - a love that will utterly transform us. ' O Sacred Heart of Jesus, make our hearts like yours.'.