Feast of the Sacred Heart
Eucharist: “`Nuclear Fission' in the Depths of our Being”1
Recent Remarks of Benedict XVI Germane to this Feast
June 15: “The Redeemer's pierced side is the source to which the Encyclical `Haurietis Aquas' refers us: We must draw from this source to attain true knowledge of Jesus Christ and a deeper experience of his love. Thus, we will be able to understand better what it means to know God's love in Jesus Christ, to experience him, keeping our gaze fixed on him to the point that we live entirely on the experience of his love, so that we can subsequently witness to it to others.
“Indeed, to take up a saying of my venerable Predecessor John Paul II, `In the Heart of Christ, man's heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbor.'
“Thus: `The true preparation asked by the Heart of the Savior will come when the civilization of the Heart of Christ can be built upon the ruins heaped up by hatred and violence' (Letter to Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, superior general of the Society of Jesus for the beatification of Blessed Claude de la Colombiere, Oct. 5, 1986).
“In the Encyclical `Deus Caritas Est,' I cited the affirmation in the First Letter of St. John: `We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us,' in order to emphasize that being Christian begins with the encounter with a Person (cf. No. 1).
“Since God revealed himself most profoundly in the Incarnation of his Son in whom he made himself `visible,' it is in our relationship with Christ that we can recognize who God really is (cf. `Haurietis Aquas,' Nos. 29-41; `Deus Caritas Est,' Nos. 12-15).
"And again: since the deepest expression of God's love is found n the gift Christ made of his life for us on the Cross, the deepest expression of God's love, it is above all by looking at his suffering and his death that we can see God's infinite love for us more and more clearly: `God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life2' (Jn. 3, 16)....
“Indeed, it is only possible to be Christian by fixing our gaze on the Cross of our Redeemer, `on him whom they have pierced' (John 19, 37; cf. Zechariah 12, 10)....
“It is obvious that experience and knowledge cannot be separated: The one refers to the other. Moreover, it is essential to emphasize that true knowledge of God's love is only possible in the context of an attitude of humble prayer and generous availability."
Remarks: God is revealed to be Love (Agape). God cannot be seen and His Love cannot be known without revelation. Jesus Christ is the revelation of God. He can be known. Therefore, both God the Father and His love can be known in Christ, and Him crucified. And since Jesus Christ is the revelation of man, the human person fulfills who he is ontologically only when he loves as Christ loves. Hence, the point of Furrow 809: “Look, we must love God not with our heart only, but with His...”
Jesus Loves Us In Our Weakness
Semantically, and most beautifully, the love of Christ for us contained in the Greek interchange between Christ and Simon, son of John (before the triple denial, “Peter”):
“In Greek, the word fileo' means the love of friendship, tender but not all-encompassing; instead, the word `agapao' means love without reserve, total and unconditional. Jesus asks Peter the first time: `Simon... do you love me (agapas-me)' wit6h this total and unconditional love (Jn. 21, 15)?
“Prior to the experience of betrayal, the Apostle certainly would have said: `I love you (agapo-se) unconditionally.' Now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the drama of his own weakness, he says with humility: `Lord; you know that I love you(filo-se),' that is, `I love you with my poor human love.' Christ insists: `Simon, do you love me with this total love that I want?' And Peter repeats the response of his humble human love: `Kyrie, filo-se,' `Lord, I love you as I am able to love you.' The third time Jesus only says to Simon: `Fileis-me?' `Do you love me?'
“Simon understands that his poor love is enough for Jesus, it is the only one of which he is capable, nonetheless he is grieved that the Lord spoke to him in this way. He thus replies: 'Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you (filo-se).'
“That is to say that Jesus has put himself on the level of Peter, rather than Peter on Jesus' level! It is exactly this divine conformity that gives hope to the Disciple, who experienced the pain of infidelity.
“From here is born the trust that makes him able to follow [Christ] to the end: `This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. And after this he said to him, “Follow me”' (Jn. 21, 19).
“From that day, Peter `followed' the Master with the precise awareness of his own fragility; but this understanding did not discourage him. Indeed, he knew that he could count on the presence of the Risen One beside him.
“From the naive enthusiasm of initial acceptance, passing through the sorrowful experience of denial and the weeping of conversion, Peter succeeded in entrusting himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity of love. And in this way he shows us the way, notwithstanding all of our weakness. We know that Jesus adapts himself to this weakness of ours.
“We follow him with our poor capacity to love and we know that Jesus is good and he accepts us.
“It as a long journey for Peter that made him a trustworthy witness, `rock' of the Church, because he was constantly open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus.... the source is believing in and loving Christ with our weak abut sincere faith, notwithstanding our fragility.”3
Hence, What Is Grace?
“What is grace? This question thrusts itself upon our text. Our religious mentality has reified this concept much too much; it regards grace as a supernatural something we carry about in our soulo. And since we perceive very little of it, or nothing at all, it has gradually become irrelevant to us, an empty word belonging to Christian jargon, which seems to have lost any relationship to the lived reality of our everyday life. In reality, grace is a relational term: it does not predicate something about an I, but something about a connection between I and Thou, between God and man. `Full of grace' could therefore also be translated as: `You are full of the Holy Spirit; your life is intimately connected with God.' Peter Lombard, the author of what was the universal theological manual for approximately three centuries during the Middle Ages, propounded the thesis that grace and love are identical but that love `is the Holy Spirit.' Grace in the proper and deepest sense of the word is not some thing that comes from God; it is God himself. Redemption means that God, acting as God truly does, gives us nothing less than himself. The gift of God is God – he who as the Holy spirit is communion with us. `Full of grace' therefore means, once again, that Mary is a wholly open human being, one who has opened herself entirely, one who has placed herself in God's hands boldly, limitlessly, and without fear for her own fate. It means that she lives wholly by and in relation to god. She is a listener and a prayer, whose mind and soul are alive to the manifold ways in which the living God quietly calls to her. She is one who prays and stretches forth wholly to meet God; she is therefore a lover, who has the breadth and magnanimity of true love, but who has also its unerring powers of discernment and its readiness to suffer....
“To be in a state of grace means: to be a believer. Faith includes steadfastness, confidence, and devotion, but also obscurity. When man's relation to God, the soul's open availability for him,. Is characterized as `faith,' this word expresses the fact that the infinite distance between Creator and creature is not blurred in the relation of the human I to the divine Thou. It means that the model of `partnership,' which ha become so dear to us, breaks down when it comes to God, because it cannot sufficiently express the majesty of God and the hiddenness of his working. It is precisely the man who has been opened up entirely into God who comes to accept God's otherness and the hiddenness of his will, which can pierce our will like sword.”4
The Effect of Divine Love: “Nuclear Fission” (Self Identity and Self-Gift).
“Jesus makes himself our travel companion in the Eucharist, and, in the Eucharist... effects a `nuclear fission' in the depths of our being... Only this profound explosion of goodness that overcomes evil can give life to the other transformations necessary to change the world,' the Pope said summarizing the message he left with the young people in Cologne5
1 Benedict's Summary of Cologne, August, 24, 2005.
2 Zenit, June 15, 2006
3 Benedict XVI, General Audience, Wednesday 24 May 2006.
4 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar, “Mary, The Church at the Source” Ignatius (2006) .
5 Benedict's Summary of Cologne, August, 24, 2005.