“It is always inflamed with love for man, always sensibly touched by our misfortunes.”
Image: The Mocking of Christ, Wiki Commons Public Domain
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To mark the month of June, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, this is the third of three extracts from Fr John Croiset SJ’s 1691 book Devotion to the Sacred Heart. This translation is from the 1863 edition.
Fr Croiset wrote this book almost in collaboration with St Margaret Mary, and published it the year after her death. The saint asked him to write this book, and assured him that Christ would give him special assistance. When it was nearly complete, she said that it was in accord with what Our Lord wanted and that no changes at all would be necessary.
Nonetheless she promised him many trials – which are, of course, the gifts which Christ bestows on those whom he loves.
Why We Should Love the Sacred Heart – Fr John Croiset SJ
How just and reasonable is the devotion to the Sacred Heart of our Lord Jesus Christ
Part III: The extreme ingratitude of men towards Jesus Christ.
However incredible may appear the love which the Son of God shows us in the Adorable Eucharist, there is something else yet more surprising.
It is the ingratitude with which we repay so great a love.
It is marvellous, indeed, that Jesus Christ should take delight in loving man. But it is most unaccountable that man should not love Jesus Christ, and that no motive, no benefit, no excess of love can inspire him with the least feeling of gratitude. Jesus Christ may perhaps have some reason for loving men. They are His work. In them He loves His own gifts. In loving them He loves Himself. But can we have any reason for not loving Jesus Christ, for loving Him only in a small degree, for loving anything together with Him? Is there anything, then, in Him, that keeps you from Him? Has He not yet done sufficient to merit our love? Should we ever have dared to desire, or ever have been able to imagine, all that He has deigned to do, in this adorable mystery, in order to gain our hearts? And yet all this has not been enough to oblige men to have an ardent love for Jesus Christ.
What advantage has Jesus Christ derived from so wonderful an abasement? It might in some sense be said that all the other mysteries, the effects of His love, have been accompanied by circumstances so glorious, and prodigies so striking, as to show clearly, that in taking care of our interests, He did not entirely overlook His own glory. But in this most amiable Sacrament, it seems as if Jesus Christ had altogether forgotten all these advantages, and that it was His love alone that engaged Him therein. Ought not, then, so wonderful an excess of love to excite an excessive love in the hearts of all men. Alas! it is quite the contrary. It seems as though Jesus Christ would have been more loved had He loved us less. I shudder with horror, oh my God! at the mere thought of the indignities and outrages which the impiety of wicked Christians, and the fury of heretics, have committed against this august Sacrament. With what horrible sacrileges have not our Altars and our Churches been profaned? With what repeated insults, impiety and infamy, has not the Body of Jesus Christ been treated? Can any Christian reflect on such impiety, without conceiving an ardent desire to repair by every possible means these cruel outrages? Is it possible, then, that he should live without giving it a thought?
If, amidst the impiety which Jesus Christ meets with at the hands of heretics, He at least were honoured and ardently loved by the faithful, we might in some degree console ourselves for the outrages of the one, by the love and sincere homage of the other. But alas! where are we to look for that crowd of adorers, earnestly bent on honouring Jesus Christ in our Churches? Are not our Churches deserted? Can there be greater coldness and indifference than what is shown towards Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament? The scanty number that are to be seen in our Churches during the greater part of the day, are they not a visible proof of the forgetfulness and want of love of almost all Christians? Those who approach our Altars most frequently, familiarise themselves with these most august mysteries. It may be said, that there are Priests, whose familiarity with Jesus Christ goes so far as to grow into indifference and contempt. How many amongst them are there, who, by offering Him daily, increase in love for Him? How many who celebrate these divine mysteries, like persons who truly believe in them?
We perhaps think that Jesus Christ is insensible to such bad treatment. But can we ourselves think on the treatment which He receives, and be insensible, and not seek to make reparation by every means in our power? How can anyone reflect a little on these truths, and not dedicate himself wholly to the love of this Man-God, who alone has a right to the hearts of all. If we do not love Him, it must either be that we do not know Him, or that we are worse than that wicked demon spoken of in the life of St. Catherine of Genoa, who did not complain of the flames that consumed him, nor of the other pains which he endured, but only of being devoid of love — of that love which so many souls know nothing of, or refuse to exercise, to their eternal loss.
Let us remember, that the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament has still, as far as can be, the same sentiments It always had. It is always inflamed with love for man, always sensibly touched by our misfortunes, always urged by the desire to make us partakers of Its treasures and to give Itself to us, always disposed to receive us, and to serve as a dwelling and a paradise for us, even in this life, and above all, as a refuge at the hour of death. And, for all this, what sentiments of gratitude does He find in the hearts of men? what solicitude? what love?
He loves, and He is not loved. We do not even know His love, because we do not condescend to receive the gifts by which He would show it to us, nor listen to the tender and secret declarations that He would make of it to our hearts. Is not this a motive powerful enough to touch the hearts of all who are at all reasonable, and who have some little tenderness for Jesus Christ? Our loving Saviour, in instituting this Sacrament of love, foresaw clearly all the ingratitude of mankind. He felt by anticipation in His Sacred Heart, all the grief which it was to cause Him. Yet all this could not keep Him at a distance, nor prevent Him from showing us the excess of His love, in the institution of this adorable mystery.
Is it not just, amidst so much incredulity and coldness, so many profanations and outrages, that this God of love should find at least some friends of His Sacred Heart, who should be pained by the little love felt for Him, feel the injuries offered Him, be faithful and assiduous in adoring Him in the holy Eucharist, and neglect nothing in order to repair, by their love, by their adorations, and by every kind of homage, all the outrages to which the excess of His love daily exposes Him, in this august Sacrament?
This is the end which we aim at in this devotion, in honouring this Sacred Heart, which ought to he infinitely dearer to us than our own. The act of atonement and of oblation, the visits to the Blessed Sacrament, the prayers, the Communions, and all the other practices, tend only to render us more grateful and more faithful, by giving us an ardent love for Jesus Christ. There is no devotion, then, more just or reasonable. We shall see, in like manner, that there is no devotion more useful for our salvation and perfection.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – Have Mercy on us!
Why We Should Love the Sacred Heart – Fr John Croiset SJ
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