When I was a boy I used to call people by what they did. My older brothers used to laugh when I said I had seen Mr Postman, Mr Builder, Mr Plumber or Mr Dustman. I suppose the idea came from my favourite radio program ‘Toy Town’. Everybody was called by what they did. It was Mr Mayor, Mr Policeman, Mr Inventor, Mr Magician and even Mr Grouser! When the Parish priest visited and pointed to the picture of the Sacred Heart, he asked me who he was. I answered, “Mr Loving.” Once again my older brothers laughed, but the parish priest didn’t laugh. He said that I was absolutely right . However, when he asked me who had told me, I said nothing, because I knew my bothers would laugh at me again if I said it was from my favourite radio program, ‘Toy Town’.
Although pictures or statues of the Sacred Heart depict Christ dressed as he might have been while he was on earth, a closer look reveals that he is actually depicted as he is now in heaven. For instance, you can see the marks on his hands made when he was crucified, the crown of thorns around his heart, which is now flaming with a love fully ignited after being reunited with his Father. I say ‘after he had been reunited with his Father’, because for a whole eternity before he came to earth he had been locked into a loving relationship with his Father that had no beginning and would have no end.
When human beings love their love is both physical and spiritual at the same time. However, God has no body, so when he loves his loving is purely spiritual. Out of respect we have learnt to refer to God’s Love as his Holy Spirit. This is the love that, after Jesus had returned to heaven, embraced him as before, but with a difference. Because now he has a human body that was also locked into the same loving embrace that bonded the Three in One together from all eternity. This meant that the human but glorified body of Jesus could now be used to transmit the love of God to other human beings – all other human beings. Now the Risen Lord has been raised outside of space and time he can transmit the love that now filled him, to every other human being who would receive him, in the space and time world that he once inhabited himself.
On the day after our primary school had enjoyed a day at the seaside, Mary Walsh had a question for our teacher. “Why is the sea so salty?” In those days teachers used to tell stories, sometime fairy stories, to answer difficult questions that would later be explained in the science class. So Miss Holt told the story of Prince charming who was given a golden goblet for his twenty-first birthday. It was a magic goblet that once filled would never cease to pour out its contents to the end of time. At first Prince charming wanted to fill it with gold, until his fairy god-mother told him to fill it with something far more precious than gold. In those days salt was more precious than gold because it could, not only make things taste nicer, but it could preserve food and make it possible to eat well and live through the longest winters. It could also treat many illnesses particularly of the skin and help heal wounds received in battle and keep infection away. It was far more precious than gold. However, when Prince charming was on his was to meet his bride his ship was wrecked and his golden goblet was lost in the ocean, where to this day it pours out its contents to make the sea salty to the end of time.
“It is just like Jesus!” said Mary Walsh, pointing at the picture of the Sacred Heart on the classroom wall. “You are so right,” said Miss Holt, who had just learnt a lesson from the youngest girl in her class. But it wasn’t salt, but love that poured out from his loving heart and would pour out of it to the end of time.
Unlike the sea however, that cannot help receiving the salt that is continually being poured out, love is different. Love cannot be forced on anyone, and if that is true of our love, it is the same with God’s love that is at all times being poured out from the loving heart of the Risen Christ. That is why the first question asked from the very beginning by all the great saints, mystics and spiritual leaders is not, “How do we love God?” but, “What must we do to receive the love of God that Jesus offers us.” The answer might be simple, but it takes a lifetime and more to practise it. You have to turn, no, keep turning to God’s love, while at the same time trying to make room for it in a heart that is full of self-love. The more self-love is moved out then the more God’s love moves in to make his home within us, as Jesus promised at the Last Supper. Gradually, in years rather than months, his love begins to suffuse our love with his love in such a way that it can rise, as it were, to take us up and into the Risen Lord through whom God’s love has been reaching out to us. It is here that we enter into a new world where love reigns supreme and unites together all who pass through death into eternal life.
Remember, when St Paul, or should I say Saul, first came to realise this profound truth. It was when he was thrown to the ground by a blinding light on the road to Damascus and heard the words of the Risen Lord speaking to him. “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” The blindness that now affected him was a sign of his spiritual blindness. Long before he reached Damascus he had begun to realise that the Christians whom he had been persecuting, were part of the Jesus he thought had been put to death. They were in fact alive and part of the Risen One, and so also were those whom he had put to death. Later he would be told of the words Jesus had spoken before his death, “When you do it one of these the least of my brethren, you do it to me.” They were all within the body of Christ, that later came to be called the Mystical Body. All together in him they shared in the love that he received from his Father from eternity. Nor had they come to the end of their spiritual journey, because the more they received love then the more they became their true selves as the selfishness that had corrupted them before was stripped away.
The French Jesuit mystic, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “Love differentiates.” This means that, as we journey on into the fullness of love we all become our true selves, and in becoming our true selves we all become different from one another. The more we become different, the more perfectly we become unrepeatable masterpieces created by the love of God to manifest his glory in as many different ways as possible. This has been God’s plan for us from the beginning. It is what St Paul called God’s secret plan, or to use the Greek word that he chose to use, the Mysterion. As this plan is being brought to fulfilment our differences make us, not separate, but complimentary to each other, as the different pieces of a jig-saw. As this happens we see the whole picture as never before; in short, God’s secret plan for us from the beginning, the Mysterion. So the love that draws us on, in, with and through Christ, simultaneously draws us all together as one as we contemplate the God who sent his Son to redeem us. The Sacred Heart is a reminder to us of the supra-cosmic pull of supernatural gravity, that comes, not from something physical, but from Someone spiritual, who transcends space and time, where we are to find our ultimate destiny in the All who is in all. Our hearts may well be yearning for this our completion, but without beginning now to respond to the One who stands at the door and knocks, then we are going nowhere!