June is the month dedicated to the Sacred Heart. One of the main proponents of devotion to the Sacred Heart was St Margaret Mary Alacoque who, in the 17th Century in her convent at Paray-le-Monial received visions in which Christ told her of how his heart burned with love for an ungrateful humanity. Her devotion to the sacred heart was focused on the Eucharist and on the mission of the Church to make this love of God more widely known.
It is tempting to quote the French saying, ‘plus ca change…’ The message is always the same, and it always bears repeating and especially in this Year of Mercy what we are hearing is simply a repetition of this Good News that we need to hear. In Misericordiae Vultus, No. 4 Pope Francis refers to the words of Pope John XXIII when opening the council of the need of the Church to go out to the world and bring to it the Good News. St John Paul II in his encyclical, Dives in Misericordiae No 2 said ‘The present-day mentality, more perhaps than that of people in the past, seems opposed to a God of mercy, and in fact tends to exclude from life and to remove from the human heart the very idea of mercy…. man, who, thanks to the enormous development of science and technology, never before known in history, has become the master of the earth and has subdued and dominated it (cf. Gen 1:28). This dominion over the earth, sometimes understood in a one-sided and superficial way, seems to have no room for mercy… And this is why, in the situation of the Church and the world today, many individuals and groups guided by a lively sense of faith are turning, I would say almost spontaneously, to the mercy of God”.
Gone are the days when nearly every Catholic household would have a picture of the Sacred Heart over their fireplace. Now you are more likely to see a mirror there, reflecting back the face of whoever looks into it and giving the illusion of a bigger space then there actually is. The real illusion is that through our intelligence and technology we have succeeded in dominating our world; we look to ourselves and are thrown back in on ourselves, rather than looking to the Sacred Heart and finding there a consolation of something greater than ourselves, but something that loves us.
There is somewhere in people of faith an awareness that there is something rotten in society. Something has gone far wrong in the utopia we are building and which is excluding the divine love of God and replacing it with a reflection of human love. In turning to the mercy of God we are recognising our need of something more to put things right than we can find in ourselves, we are recognising our need of that love that comes to us from the Sacred Heart. The more modern devotion to the Divine Mercy, in its phrase, ‘Jesus, I trust in You’ is again an outreach by God to his people, urging us to take hold of what is being offered to us and guiding us to find our comfort in his will. Things around us may change, but the message remains the same: God loves us and in him we will find healing for our ills.