It was the night of August 16th 1977, I was sitting watching the news with my parents. News at Ten with the bell booming out the time and the gongs corresponding to the news items had just started. We all got a shock when we heard the ITN newscaster, Reginald Bosanquet in most sombre tones pronounce The King is Dead! This was accompanied by a picture of a young Elvis Presley in a pale blue shirt. Elvis Presley was dead at the age of forty-two. As we were taking in this shock the phone starting ringing in the hallway. I ran out and answered it and a friend of mine was crying on the phone as he had just heard the news. He was a mad Elvis fan and was devastated. I sniggered a bit telling my parents about his upset and my Dad was not very impressed and said to me ‘How would you feel if it was Neil Young?’ This stopped me in my tracks. We made a plan that the following morning we would meet and with another friend go shopping for an Elvis record. After a long trek around several shops early the following morning we managed to get the last Elvis single in the last shop we tried. It was Wooden Heart. When we got back to our house and placed it on the turntable with an air of expectation mixed with reverence we discovered it was Wooden Heart. However our jaws dropped when we discovered it was in German.
Muss i denn, muss i denn Zum Staedtele hinaus,
Staedtele hinaus Und du, mein Schatz bleibst hier?
Treat me nice Treat me good, Treat me like you really should,
‘Cause I’m not made of wood, And I don’t have a wooden heart.
The month of June is the month of the Sacred Heart. It is a devotion that could easily die in the new wave of paganism. Even people I would consider quite religious consider this particular devotion at best old fashioned and at worst archaic. In some ways this is understandable and few enough people know of Margaret Mary Alacoque and the beginnings of the devotion. Having said that if we took the time to look at the picture or statue of the Sacred Heart, it’s not difficult to work out what it’s all about. Even at a glance we see the key elements, the heart, the thorns and the flames. If we have the openness and generosity of heart we might quickly see that this devotion is far from archaic or old fashioned. This devotion speaks to matters of the heart, in the thorns it speaks to our pain, suffering and longing. In the fire, or the flames it speaks to our passion. Suddenly what can easily be labelled as ancient, boring or irrelevant speaks in a fresh and meaningful way about our lives. Has the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus anything relevant to say to our lives in 2017? The short answer is a clear resounding yes. The longer answer might go something like this:
This beautiful devotion in its flame asks us who or what are you passionate about? Who or what in your life ensures that your life does not go flat, or become boring? What gets you out of bed in your morning? Despite getting older, aches and pain, energy not what used to be, what still manages to give you a spring in your step?
The flame of the Sacred Heart reminds us that the love the Lord has for us is passionate and does not end. It is an eternal flame of love.
When it comes to the heart itself we seem to have no difficulty with Cupid’s arrow piercing the heart, heart shaped chocolates, love heart sweets, pink, heart-shaped cushions and yet we do not seem to get the Heart of Jesus on fire with love for us, both individually and communally. To whom does our heart belong? Who is our heart’s desire? Can we even begin to hear the gentle knocking of the door of our heart? Could it be that the gentle tapping is Jesus, gently whispering your name?
I doubt any of us have difficulty understanding the thorns. There is certainly no shortage of thorns that will prick and cut and possibly poison you. The thorns yes will certainly bring you pain from outside, but we should not neglect the internal pain. Internal anguish takes its own toll. It might be helpful to imagine the heart of Jesus beating against the thorns. The thorns are the sins that cause the pain.
What can the devotions to the Sacred Heart do for you?
Again if we open up our own hearts to Jesus he will respond with the gift of this beautiful devotion. In a nutshell the devotion to the Sacred Heart is an opportunity to learn of the the type of love that Jesus offers us. It is a love that is passionate, selfless, fresh, warming and challenging. We can certainly place our trust in the heart of Jesus.