Does anyone actually like Valentine’s Day?
To quote Jane Austen, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that every single or taken man or woman, regardless of fortune, age, or creed, does not actually enjoy corporate exploitation of one of the deepest mysteries of the universe for the sake of jacked up prices for flavorless chocolate, in the name of a Saint who is no longer even listed in the Roman Missal.”
That’s how Pride and Prejudice starts, right?
I don’t actually hate Valentine’s Day.1 It truthfully gives the Catholic Church a unique platform to share the good news of Christ’s love and the Christian call to total self-gift with a secular world. Plus, I’ve always been a sucker for puns, so Valentine cards are a pretty sweet deal.
But if we really want a day to celebrate love and give chocolate to loved ones, there is no denying that today and tomorrow are the true Hearts Days.2 Today is the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and tomorrow is the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
For starters, this Solemnity always falls on a Friday. So today, you can eat bacon on a Friday. This has been your PSA. Bacon for Jesus.
But all joking aside, today is when we ask the terrifying question: Where would we be without the Sacred Heart? Today’s Solemnity is really a liturgical immersion in the mystery of the Incarnation: God has a human body, and that changes everything.
The heart that we adore today first began to beat after Jesus was in Mary’s womb for about six weeks. Could Mary see its gentle patter as she gazed on her newborn in a manger of straw?
That little heart beat wildly as He ran through the streets of Nazareth at play. Joseph felt it against his chest as the little boy squeezed His arms around him. Divine love throbbed in Nazareth, veiled by the ribs of a tiny child.
When did the Sacred Heart first break? Was He shoved to the ground by friends? Did He witness Roman soldiers abducting a child? Perhaps that first heartbreak was at Joseph’s death. Did Jesus lay His head on His foster father’s chest, listening to Joseph’s heartbeat until it ceased?
Where would we be without the Sacred Heart, without a God who has taken on human emotion? Of course Jesus was perfect, and this means that His emotions were never disordered like ours so frequently are. But we know that Jesus rejoiced as he praised the Father. He wept before the tomb of Lazarus. Before His death, he said, “My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.” When Jesus offers His Sacred Heart to us, He offers His whole human and divine self. He offers the sweet little moments that we can only imagine on this side of heaven: the lullabies from Mary, the inside joke with a neighbor friend. He offers the little heartbreaks: the rejection, the name-calling, the loneliness.
He offers the unspeakable joys as well: the moment Jairus’ daughter opened her eyes, the moment John’s net dropped, the beauty of the repentant woman’s tears. But He also offers the horrific anguish. To follow Christ, we must embrace all of Him and all of His Cross.
I recently received a beautiful penance in Confession: “Go and ask Jesus for Him to give you His heart.”
I know I should have been skipping out of the Confessional with excitement. But that prayer revealed so much of my poverty and fear. To receive Jesus’ heart, which many scientists believe ruptured on the Cross? A heart that is completely selfless and only pours itself out in total surrender? A heart that knows and has felt the abyss of agony within the human experience?
I am a member of the Body of Christ. It is not enough to have His heart. I must become His heart.
For the last couple years the Lord has invited me to imagine myself crawling into His dead, lifeless heart that ruptured on the Cross. So often we feel like Sam Gamgee at the end of The Return of the King, torn in two. But the King Himself has had His heart torn in two. He invites us to place ourselves and all of our heartache, laughter, and faith between those ruptured pieces.
But Sam is assured, “You will be healed. You were meant to be solid and whole, and you will be.” At the Resurrection God mended His own heart and made it solid and whole. In that moment when Christ’s perfect heart, Love Itself, beat once more, all of the wounds and heartbreak of the human race were glorified and made new.
In heaven today, a human heart beats for you. That heart is often depicted with the spear wound still present. This glorified wound, this cleft in a heart that was anything but rock, is your eternal home.3
Sweet heart of Jesus, may we hold nothing back from the fire of your love.
1 – I do, however, tend to hate raspberry and cherry flavoring, and the way it just descends on dreary February America like the 11th plague simply because we fell for a marketing scheme is just twisted.
2 – Married couples, can you make this a trend? Move however y’all would usually celebrate Valentine’s Day to the Feast of the Sacred Heart? #justiceforCyrilandMethodius
3 – Song of Songs 2:14