THE ENCOUNTER WITH THE
EUCHARISTIC HEART FORMS WITNESSES TO LOVE
For private use
In his Apostolic Letter, Novo
Millennio Ineunte, His Holiness John Paul II invites the entire
Church to enter in this Third Millennium with a clear conviction:
only those who are witnesses to love will be effective in the New
Evangelization. Love is the identity of the Christian who is
authentic, and love is the force of all evangelization. In this
historical moment the Holy Spirit desires to form great witnesses to
love. This love includes the disposition to embrace great
sacrifices, to take great risks and to fulfill God’s designs of
love, designs that are only built upon renunciation and the
generosity of donating one’s life so that others may have life.
Only this kind
of love will heal and restore today’s world, converting it into a
civilization of love and life. “Only love creates,” as St.
Maximilian would say.
True love is, in
fact, the very heart of the Church because love is born of the
Pierced Heart of Christ. Charity is truly the heart of the Church
as St. Therese of Lisieux came to understand: “I understood that the
Church had a Heart and that this Heart was aflame with Love. I
understood that Love alone stirred the members of the Church to
act... I understood that Love encompassed all vocations, that Love
was everything” (Story of a Soul, as quoted in NMI, 42).
Love must be the
origin and the goal of the entire mission of the Church. John Paul
II has told us that the greatest challenge of the Church in the
Third Millennium is to make the Church “the home and school of love”
(cf. NMI, 43). To bring this about, the Church has been invited to
prostrate itself before the Eucharistic Christ to learn in the
school of His Heart, so we may come to love as He has loved us.
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, School of Love
“I give you a
new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also
should love one another” (Jn 13:34). We are called to become like
Jesus, to be witnesses of love, loving as He has loved us. He is
the supreme model of love, and it is in the likeness of His Heart
that we are able to live and to testify to the fullness of love and
holiness. “It is he who teaches us that the heart of holiness is
love, which leads even to giving our lives for others (cf. Jn
15:13). Therefore, to imitate the holiness of God, as it was
made manifest in Jesus Christ his Son, ‘is nothing other than to
extend in history his love’” (John Paul II, Ecclesia in America,
30). By being witnesses to love we prolong His love in history.
To love as He
has loved us we need to enter into His Heart and to learn from Him
the true dimensions of love. We cannot conform ourselves with
living less than love, as Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the
Philippians: Have among you the same sentiments as Christ (cf.
2:5). Similarly, HH Benedict XVI said on May 13th, 2005,
“we must be true friends to him, we must have the same perception as
he has, we must want what he wants and not what he does not want”
(Address to clergy of Rome).
How does Jesus
love us? Let us listen to the words of the Sacred Heart to Saint
Margaret Mary: “Here is the Heart that has so loved man that it has
stopped at nothing to save them.” As well, St. John tells us in his
Gospel, “Having loved his own, he loved them to the extreme” (cf.
13:1). Loving to the extreme means to stop at nothing, absolutely
nothing, in order to manifest His love.
How did Jesus
In the Heart of
Jesus there is only love. Because His Heart is so large, so deep, so
wide and so high, He did not possess anything, does not possess
anything, and will never possess anything but one Love. His love is
born from His holiness, and His holiness is characterized by
“simplicity.” We are the ones who understand richness as
multiplicity, but God’s infinite richness is ordered by simplicity
and by the indivision of His love. This simplicity of the Heart of
the Lord allows His love to be a most rich and universal love that
embraces both Heaven, earth, and the entire universe. But it is
only one love – a love that is tender, passionate, obedient and
well-disposed in all things towards the Heavenly Father. Yet at the
same time, it is a pure love, abnegated, generous and sacrificial
towards men. It is two loves fused into a single love.
Christ loves men
and seeks to save them because they are sons and daughters of the
Father. He loves the Father so much that He desires to return to Him
the love of His children that was lost, and He also desires to
manifest to men the love that the Father has for them. “Father,
may the love with which you have loved me be in them.” (Jn
17:26). He loves the Father, loving and caring for His children. “I
protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them”
To love as Jesus
loved is to love the Father and humanity with a single love that is
undivided and total. In this – the purity of our love – holiness
lies. Our struggles, unrest and anxieties are born from the
multiplicity of our affections that make war among themselves in our
heart. Thus, the first interior process that we must undertake to
reach the perfection of love is to tear away from our hearts all
that opposes love, all obstacles that block or destroy the
simplicity of love in us. All other affections in the human heart
need to be channeled and ordered towards the one and undivided love:
love of God and our neighbor.
TO LOVE AS
JESUS LOVES IS TO LOVE WITH A UNIVERSAL LOVE
The love of the
Heart of Jesus is radically new because it transcends the limits and
restrictions that make the idea of love narrow. In the Old
Testament, those who were considered to be neighbors were only those
who were members of one’s nation and faith.
Christ breaks the
barriers of this narrowness in our brotherhood and thus causes a
great revolution of love: His love is universal, and His
salvation is universal.
His love is so
universal that it does not even exclude His enemies: “But I say
to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes
his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on
the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:44-45).
Our love has to
be like the love of the Heart of Christ: universal, not excluding
anyone. There cannot be any indifference, coldness, or scorn
towards any person, towards any nation, race or religion. The true
love of Christians overcomes by doing good to all. Love is the
victory over division, animosity, rivalry, competition. Love is the
victory over evil. We learn this lesson in the Eucharistic Heart of
Jesus, who overcomes the sin, rejection and scorn of men, by giving
Himself up, donating Himself, voluntarily and freely to save us.
“Only love creates, only love triumphs,” St. Maximilian Kolbe
taught us because “only love has an invincible potency.”
Only the love of Christ is capable of overcoming sin, darkness, and
death. Only love is capable of overcoming the culture of death and
the selfishness of the modern world.
AS JESUS IS TO LOVE WITH A PROFOUND LOVE.
Jesus loves us
so deeply, so passionately that He has us, each one of our names,
written upon His Heart. This is why He tells us in the Song of
Songs, “Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your
arm…Deep waters cannot quench love, nor floods sweep it away”
Since love was
the reason for our salvation, He allowed His Heart to be pierced on
the Cross so that His redemptive mission would be culminated with
the seal of His love – the wound of His Heart. It is in the
depth of this wound of His Heart that He has written our names.
“Upon the palms of my hands I have written your name” (Is.
49:16). Jesus did not only want our names written on His palms;
but he allowed His Heart to be wounded so He could guard us within
“When I receive
the Eucharist, it seems to me that I hear the deep pulsing of love
of Your Heart, Jesus. It seems to me that I hear how you call me,
how you pronounce my name which you bear on the wound of love of
Your Heart” (cf. St. Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul,
chap.7). In the school of His Heart, Jesus wants to teach us how to
love deeply, how to leave behind so much superficiality. Love ought
to enter into the deepest recesses of our being; it ought to be the
motivating force behind our very existence. How easily we abandon
the path of love because we do not allow it to develop firm roots,
to seal the heart, profoundly marking it so that love becomes our
THE HEART OF
JESUS HAS LOVED US TO THE EXTREME, WITH AN ABNEGATED AND SACRIFICIAL
He has loved us
to the extreme of giving Himself freely for our salvation. He has
stopped at nothing – to the point of giving us His Body, Blood, and
His Heart on the Cross – and He continues to so in the Holy
Eucharist. The Eucharist is the gift of His self-donation and of
His sacrificial love for men. In the Last Supper, Jesus told His
apostles and the entire Church until the end of time, “This is my
Body…this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf
of many” (Mt. 26:27-28). What abnegation, what generosity! Not
only did He give His life, but He gave it voluntarily and freely
because this is the mark of authentic love. “I lay down my life…No
one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own” (Jn.10:17-18).
The heart that
forgets itself is abnegated love, which knows how to suffer for the
beloved. St. Clare of Assisi said, “Love that does not know
of suffering is not worthy of the name.” Every love must
necessarily experience a tearing of the heart if it is authentic.
Love involves the immolation of one’s desires, of one’s will; love
involves renunciation, and that is why there is pain. Abnegation
is the donation of oneself for love. St. Margaret tells us that
Jesus revealed to her how, from the moment of the Incarnation, His
Heart was marked by the Cross, saying, “Love and sacrifice were the
reason of my Incarnation.”
sacrificial – this is the love that grows and is fruitful. The more
love gives of itself, the more it grows, the more it multiples, the
more it extends. In its very essence, love grows when it is given.
precisely what the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus desires to form in
us: sacrificial hearts, willing to give one’s life for the good of
the world and of the Church. To the Venerable Conchita Armida, the
great Mexican mystic of the 1920’s, the Lord explained, “I need
an army of holy souls transformed in me, who, in becoming living
hosts, will offer themselves in complete union with the oblation of
Christ to the Father for the good of the world and of the Church.”
Conchita prophesized that there would be a second Pentecost so
needed in the world, saying, “This Pentecost will be interior; it
will be a powerful transformation of hearts formed in the sacrifice
of the Eucharistic Heart.” Love is always offering, and every
offering needs to be Eucharistic – that is, like the offering of
THE HEART OF
JESUS FORMS SAINTS AND WITNESSES TO LOVE
“How the Church
rejoices when the hearts of many are enflamed with love for the
Heart of Jesus, thereby making witnesses to love!” (cf. John Paul
II, June 23, 1985, Angelus reflection).
The Sacred Heart
of Jesus is a burning furnace of love, a burning bush aflame with
inextinguishable love. He burns us with the love that consumes Him.
Love possesses something of the nature of fire: it burns, consumes,
illuminates, melts and warms. Jesus in the Eucharist is enflamed
with love for our hearts, and that love is what consumes all the
things in our hearts that pass away – impurity, selfishness, things
that are an impediment to love.
John Paul II in
1985 told us, “Every human heart is called to beat with the rhythm
of love; this is how we measure the true dignity and the heights of
man” (cf. July 14, Angelus reflection). This measure and height is
the one the saints have reached. They have allowed themselves to
enflamed and to be consumed by the fire of the love of the
Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. They have allowed themselves to be
filled with the fullness of love and to be taken to the very heights
of love. They have allowed the love of Christ to expand the
narrowness of their hearts like we read in Isaiah: “Expand the size
of your tents, for you will grow from right to left” (cf. 54:2-3).
The Eucharistic Heart of Jesus is the treasure, model, sanctuary and
home of the great saints, of the great witnesses of love.
wrote, “One of the soldiers pierced His side with a sword and
immediately blood and water poured out. An eyewitness has testified
and his testimony is true; he knows that he says the truth so that
you also will believe” (cf. Jn.19:34-35).
Saint John was a
witness to love because he contemplated, because he saw, not only
with his eyes, but also with his heart, the mystery of the love of
Christ’s Heart. There is a manner of “seeing” that only remains on
the exterior; there is a “seeing” that is historic, united with the
moment in which it is lived, which makes one an eye-witness.
However, the witness who is at the same time apostle and disciple is
the one who is actually in the historic moment – in the precise hour
and place, and for this reason, he is able to contemplates the event
with his eyes – but even more so, he is the one who has a heart full
of faith which permits him to penetrate the deepest meaning behind
the event. Such a one contemplates love and captures its deepest
meaning, its redemptive meaning. By contemplating from within and
not only from without, he sees the mystery of love and is able to
give witness to it with his words, and more importantly, with his
contemplated the Heart that loved humanity to the point of allowing
itself to be pierced in order to give live. There at the foot of
the Cross, Saint John understood the fruitful dimensions of the
sacrificial love of the Heart of Christ, and he became a witness to
that love that is stronger than death (Song of Songs 8:6).
It is in this
love that the heart of Saint Rose of Lima was consumed.
Called “the New World's first flower of holiness” in the Apostolic
Exhortation Ecclesia in America (no.15), she would spend her
time with the Eucharistic Jesus, painting her heart with the
different features of transformation that were taking place in her
as she was exposed to the love of the Heart of Christ. “There I
learned to love,” St. Rose would say. “There I learned that love
consumes and desires to give itself, which is why I must give it to
those who suffer, to the sick. I do not fear that my dress will be
stained with the wounds of those who suffer, for in this manner I
clean the wounds of the Face of Christ.”
“How am I not
going to give my life for love if the Heart of Jesus gives His love
daily in the Eucharist?” San Martin de Porres would often
say. This awareness that he had of the generous love of Christ in
the Eucharist moved him to become a great apostle for the sick. Br.
Christopher of Saint John testified that “he would serve the
religious who were sick on his knees, attending to them by their
bedside at night for weeks, according to the needs he saw they had.
He would lift them, lay them down, and clean them, even when their
sicknesses were most repulsive.
The power of
love of the Sacred Heart formed the missionary heart of Mother
Cabrini who, moved by this love, went forth, together with the
Missionary Order she founded, to America in order to care for the
immigrants. “If the Sacred Heart gives me the strength and the
means, I will go to distant lands to take the love of Christ to the
many who do not know him and who have forgotten Him.” The
missionary ardor of Mother Cabrini came about after an experience
she had in front of the Blessed Sacrament. “The Sacred Heart showed
Himself to me and told me, ‘Your heart is mine and my heart is
yours. From this moment all of your works will be done with the
love of my Heart.’” From that moment on, she experienced
palpitations in her heart that had no medical explanation.
As he traveled
along the many roads of Guatemala professing love, devotion and
charity, Saint Brother Pedro always demonstrated ardent love
for the Heart of Christ. “He is the one who moves my poor heart to
love. When I contemplate Him daily in my prayer, seeing how He
loves our human misery so intensely, I know I cannot conform myself
to anything less than the same.” This was the love that moved his
social works. The virtue of charity was afire in his heart. He was
peaceful, benevolent, meek, and without any guile, pride, ambition,
or anger. He suffered with those who were suffering and found joy
in truth and justice.
Teresa of the Andes, a Carmelite was often
enflamed, as she said it, “in the consuming fire of the love of
Christ.” She desired, in the silence of Carmel, to be a holocaust of
love for the Church and the world as was the Eucharistic Heart of
Jesus. “I want to proclaim, with my offering and my suffering, the
great Gospel of love.”
land of lakes, volcanoes, great mountains and beautiful seas, was
called in 1992 by John Paul II the Continent of Hope during the
Fifth Centenary of our Evangelization (Oct. 12, Inaugural address to
the Bishops during his visit to Santa Domingo, no.27). I remember
how those words strongly resonated at the same moment in which the
Lighthouse of Columbus was lit and began to illuminate in the dark
sky the Sign of the Cross.
America is the
Continent of Hope because it is called to form great witnesses of
love in the beginning of the Third Millennium. John Paul II urged
America to go forward, amidst joys and tears, towards the so desired
civilization of love. He urged us to resist the snares of evil and
the temptation to violence and to not allow ourselves to be overcome
(Message engraved in the Lighthouse of Columbus in Santa Domingo,
Oct 12, 1992).
consistently exhorted us to prepare ourselves for a new
evangelization in the loving Heart of Christ, to be witnesses in the
world to the fact that Christianity is a religion of love. The Holy
Father Benedict XVI, in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est,
called us to be witnesses of love, to never forget that love is the
essence of being Christians. “Do not forget love” were the last
words that St. Maximilian shouted to his brothers as the Nazis were
taking him prisoner to the Concentration camp.
As well, in his
message for second World Youth Day in 1987, John Paul II said, “The
building of a civilization of love requires strong and persevering
characters, ready for self-sacrifice and anxious to open up new
paths of human coexistence by overcoming divisions and the various
forms of materialism. This is a responsibility of the young people
of today who will be the men and women of tomorrow, at the dawn of
the third Christian millennium.”
founder of the Shoenstatt Movement, said, “We want to attend the
superior school of the Eucharist and learn there what the peak of a
growing love should be and how to have a spirit of sacrifice that
shows itself in its actions.” Furthermore, he said that Jesus
desires us first to demonstrate our love for Him by our actions now,
while we still have the opportunity to do so.
Christian America, Eucharistic and Marian America, now is the best
opportunity to be for the entire world, as HH Benedict XVI has asked
us, luminous witnesses to love.
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