Homily on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: June 16th, 2023.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” Amid our “society of tiredness,” as philosopher Byung Chul Han defined it, these words from today’s Gospel apply to all of us. We are, in fact, tired of being human. The Post- and Trans-humanism projects, where artificial intelligence and metaverses are directed, is the result of a dread of humanness itself.
It isn’t just that our arms are tired, or that we are tired of thinking a lot or of acting by force of will. Today’s tiredness, properly speaking, is that our affectivity is tired. Our heart is tired. Life success, in our emotivist culture, consists of feeling good and peace. That is the exhausting task with which everyone is burdened nowadays, which leaves us utterly exhausted. The problem is that feelings do not answer to what we want and ask for. There are many feelings, and they rise in revolt; they even war against each other. Feelings change and become dismembered, when previously we had them all nice and orderly.
Today we celebrate the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which beautifully connects with the question our time presents. Is it possible for us to overcome, from this Heart, our tiredness regarding all that is human? Can the human be reborn from the water that gushes from Christ’s side? To answer this, it can be helpful to look at what St. Thomas Aquinas teaches about love’s effects in us. By light of this, we can examine the heart to see what beats cause its exhaustion. Is our love like that love?
- The first of love’s effects is that it touches us and wounds us. It produces a liquefaction, or melting, of the heart, that we might open up to the beloved. It is the opposite of hardening. This means that the heart is our opening point to what surpasses us. This is why anyone who wishes to model his own heart by himself will fail. The spring that Wells from His side reminds us of this: we must approach an original source of water.
The first tiredness of the heart, then, derives from our denial to be modeled by a greater love, a love that comes from the Creator: “God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts, for the mutual degradation of their bodies” (Rom 1:24). Today’s man has been handed over to this impossible task of remodeling his own body according to his own feelings.
The first step toward rest is drinking from the spring of His side. Jesus gave us the key when he asked that we should learn from Him, meek and humble. Karol Wojtyla offered this advice: “allow yourself to be modeled by love.” Even Byung Chul Han recommends, before the society of tiredness created by the quest for maximum profit, the “kind disarming of the self.”
How can we trust to open our heart and let ourselves de molded? On the feast day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we celebrate that God Himself has made love vulnerable, and has let himself be moved and affected; he has fallen in love, as today’s first reading tells us (Deut 7:7).
An aphorism by Gómez Dávila goes, “it is not hard to believe in God; what is hard is believing that we matter to Him.” Today, upon the sight of his open heart, what was hard has become easy. Today it is easy to believe that He cares about us; today it is evident that He cares about us. Precisely because He cares about us we can let God mold our life.
- Another of love’s effects —according to St. Thomas Aquinas— is our inhesion (inhaesio) in the beloved. In other words, the beloved comes into us through love, and we in him. Tiredness arises when our heart does not reach building a shared world and, having no hold to grab onto, turns on itself in a vacuum.
Jesus’ Heart gives us rest because it offers us a “yoke,” made to join two oxen together. Jesus offers us work, that is, and a shared fatigue. One heart rests upon another heart. They say love consists of the other person becoming real to us: as real as we are for our very selves. The Heart of Christ has demonstrated to us just how real our pains and suffering are to God, to the point that he dies for us; and just how real our joys are, that he rose for our sake. Our rest requires, then, that we achieve Christ being just as real to us as we are to ourselves. When our heart opens to the concerns of His Heart —which are much more profound that our own— there arises a paradox: we rest, because we aren’t carrying the weight anymore.
The rest of letting oneself be loved brings along with it another rest: that of loving with Christ. They tell of a saint whom God once conferred the world in prayer, so he might do whatever he wanted with it. The saint gave it all back untouched. This is the first kind of rest that we mentioned: allowing oneself be worked by God, in the knowledge that there are no better hands than His.
Now, that man’s prayer was transformative. He did not intervene in world affairs, because by praying he understood everything that happens in the world as coming from God’s personal love. Thus his view of the world changed, and this allowed him to transform the world. He alone who turns the world over to God’s love, can then assume responsibility for his own actions, with the surety that they form part of a greater design. Only if there is a play director can each actor develop his role as a protagonist, and even improvise.
Thus, the Heart of Jesus does not just reveal God’s love for man, but also the loving response that man gives God in Christ. Today is, then, the feast of our free collaboration with God. He lays the world in our hands, so we might transform it, united with Him. He indeed directs all events, but not by force or cunning, but rather by love, stirring love in us and inviting us to make reparation for sin and to build up the Church. This is why he sent his Son to die on the Cross, that He might draw all toward Himself.
- St. Thomas Aquinas describes other effects of love, too. On the one hand, we see what he calls “ecstasy”, since love drives us to come out of ourselves. Together with ecstasy there is also “zeal”, like a burning fire that always seeks out the beloved and removes any obstacle from the path that leads to Him. Thus, after telling us to rest in Him, Christ calls us to work: “take my yoke upon you”.
Let us call to mind the painter Henry Moore’s advice for being happy. He invited to choose just one task and devote oneself to that with all his strength every day, every month and every year. Then you would only need to be careful about one thing: that the chosen task not be impossible to achieve. This is indeed one cause of our emotive tiredness: we get tired because our viewpoint is closed off, like how we are tired by a lack of horizons in the view. The fly gets tired bumping around against the glass pane, until the window opens and it can fly. Christ’s Heart gives us rest because it places a great task before us, to which we can dedicate ourselves wholly, and ever in greater degree.
On the night of the Passover, the Jews take count of all the blessings God has given them and they profess each one of them, with the typical formula “it would have sufficed” (in Hebrew, dayenú). The Christian transposition would consist not of adding on more blessings, but rather in saying “it would not have sufficed”, for God’s human Heart is now revealed, and nothing suffices till we are one with that Heart. This desire to reach it all is what gives us strength on today’s feast.
While speaking of love’s effects in us, Saint Thomas wonders: do we do everything we do for love’s sake? He answers that we do. Today’s feast reveals what that love is, for which we do all things. Everything God does, he does through this heart, opened on the cross. And everything we do, we do to be configured to this Heart. This is the secret of our rest, to which Jesus beckons us: “Let yourself be loved! Let’s love more, to the end!” And may the human be reborn in this manner, from the heart.