Heart to heart

Images of St Margaret Mary, whose feast we celebrated yesterday, tend to emphasise a gulf between her and the Sacred Heart, the centre of the visions and messages she received for about eighteen months. She is invariably kneeling in prayer, gazing up at the Sacred Heart, who is somewhere above and beyond her, either floating or on an altar. There are a few images in which they are closer, but - even in the most modern ones - there's no touching or sense of intimacy. Margaret Mary may well be rapt with love and wonder, but there's a definite boundary between her and Jesus, so that they communicate from a somewhat respectful distance.

But it wasn't necessarily so! Margaret Mary herself tells us that her visions began, on the feast of the Beloved Disciple, 1763, when Jesus allowed her to rest her head upon his Heart, and then revealed to her the wonders of his love, which she was to make known to all humanity. And this, surely, is the moment captured in this painting by the artist Stephen B Whatley, which I came across yesterday, and am now using with his permission.

Gazing at this painting I saw the intimacy which lies at the heart of true devotion to the Sacred Heart: far more than prayers and practices, it's about going heart-to-heart with Jesus, in contemplation and personal experience. And this lies at the heart of being a Religious of the Sacred Heart. We aren't called to gaze on Jesus from afar, but to come as close as possible; to feel his heartbeat, to touch his wounds; to enter into and remain in the depths of his Heart. And as I reflected on this, from somewhere within me I heard these words from our Constitutions: Jesus calls us to a personal encounter with Him. He wants to make known to us the feelings and the preferences of His Heart... 

The feelings and preferences of his Heart... When Jesus invited Margaret Mary to nestle up to his Heart it wasn't only for her benefit; rather, this opened her own heart to the world, as Jesus told her of his immense and unconditional love for all. And so it is for us - in our intimacy with Jesus we come to know and draw love from his Heart; for ourselves and our world. And it is this that widens our capacity to love; that opens our hearts, especially to wherever there is pain and suffering, and sends us out, to share and make known the depth, the strength and the tenderness of this love, especially to people and in situations where love is most needed.

As he was for Margaret Mary, so now, Jesus is here with us, not floating around or on a high and distant altar, but at our level, arms and Heart wide open, inviting us in. Do we dare to respond, to feel the beat of his Heart, and allow ours to beat in time with his...?


Post a Comment