'If They Would Only Give Me Some Return of Love'

The Church sets apart the month of June for devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. What does it all mean? Let's take a look:

In the 17th century, enlightened philosophers introduced the idea that God was a divine watchmaker, who created the world as one would make a watch, letting it run by its own device. This idea led them to conclude that He had no interest in our daily lives, much less any love for us. This school of thought influenced many Christians into the heresy of Jansenism, which puts too much focus on God's Divine Justice.

But the Lord intervened to dispel this illusion. He sent a powerful message of His love for us through a lowly woman, pure of heart, as He has done throughout history. The Blessed Virgin Mary, of course, shines as the most obvious example. So, too, does St. Faustina, the obscure, uneducated nun who brought the Divine Mercy devotion to the world. But centuries before Christ appeared to St. Faustina, He came to another unknown, poorly educated nun in Paray-le-Monial, France, to remind suffering humanity of the intimate love He bears for us in His Sacred Heart.

In December 1673, Christ appeared to St. Margaret Mary enveloping her in a mystical experience of His love. She said, "[Jesus] allowed me to recline for a long time on His divine breast, where He disclosed to me the marvels of His love and the unutterable secrets of His Sacred Heart."

In His second apparition, a First Friday in 1674, Christ showed St. Margaret His Heart, "more dazzling than the sun and transparent as crystal." The Cross stood above it and a crown of thorns encircled it, signifying the wounds it endured as a result of our sins.

Christ told St. Margaret that He wanted to reveal His Heart wounded by our sins because He could not stand watching as countless men and women turned away from Him. He wanted all to experience His love, mercy, and grace, and attain salvation. But we need to honor His heart - the source of His love for us. Then our weak hearts can imitate His Heart, detached from any inordinate affections.

Much as in the Divine Mercy devotion, He wanted the image of His Heart exposed so that through it, He could pour out His graces upon the world. Saint Margaret said, "This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion."

In His third apparition, Jesus revealed His five wounds, which burned with flames. She said, "[He revealed] the excess of love He had conceived for men from whom He had received nothing but ingratitude and contempt."

He told her, "This is more grievous to Me than all that I endured in my Passion. If they would only give Me some return of love, I should not reckon all that I have done for them, and I would do yet more if possible ... You, at least, can give Me the happiness of making up for their ingratitude, as much as you can."

He asked that she receive the Blessed Sacrament often, especially on the First Friday of each month. He also requested that she make a Holy Hour every Thursday at midnight to ask pardon for sinners and thus, sooth the grief He suffers as a result.

So not only does Christ love and comfort us through His Sacred Heart, but we can extend mercy back to Him to console His Heart.

In June 1675, Margaret Mary received the final Sacred Heart apparition. Christ told her to establish the Feast of the Sacred Heart on the First Friday after the octave of Corpus Christi. He wanted us to receive Holy Communion on this day in reparation "to atone for the outrages" the Blessed Sacrament has endured.

Around the same time of His appearances to St. Margaret, in another part of France, St. John Eudes was independently developing his understanding of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Opposing the Jansenist heresy, St. John Eudes championed a spirituality that demands not merely imitating Christ in our external actions, but completely surrendering to the indwelling of Christ so that He may thrive within our souls and share all His graces and virtues with us.

Together with the spirituality promoted by St. John Eudes, but especially the revelations of St. Margaret Mary, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus continues to have a powerful impact on the world. As we celebrate this month of June dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, do your part in making acts of reparation for the wounds Christ has endured for us. Receive Communion frequently, especially on First Fridays, and keep a Holy Hour. Finally, enshrine the image of Jesus in your home, so that all who enter may know that God is much more than Divine Justice.

God is love.

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