Our daily life in Our Lord Jesus Christ is a difficult struggle between pursuit of the true happiness He freely offers to us and beguilement by the false happiness marketed to us, at the cost of our freedom, by a world burdened with the effects of Original Sin. The Sacred Heart of Jesus assures us daily that only the unceasing and immeasurable love flowing from His glorious pierced Heart into our hearts brings us joy in this life, saves us from sin, and leads us safely to our true destiny, Eternal Life, the fullness of joy and peace in His company forever.
Yet, remaining heirs of the sin of our First Parents, heirs of a fallen nature, we suffer the constant temptation to close our hearts, refusing to accept the saving love, flowing from His glorious Sacred Heart. When we give way to the temptation, we commit an offense which has been repeated by the children of God in every age. We read in Sacred Scripture Our Lord’s lament over our sinfulness: “Forty years long was I offended with that generation, and I said: These always err in heart. And these men have not known my ways: so I swore in my wrath that they shall not enter into my rest” (Ps 95, 10-11; cf. Heb 3, 10). The Reproaches, the Improperia, chanted during the Liturgy of Our Lord’s Passion on Good Friday, reflect, in a particularly striking manner, our prideful and ungrateful rebellion before the pure and selfless love of God, embodied in the Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of God the Son Incarnate, Our Lord Jesus Christ. We recall the words of Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary, when he showed her His Sacred Heart: “Behold this Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to consuming itself to witness its love. And in return, I receive from most of them only ingratitude from their irreverences and their sacrileges and by the coldness and contempt that they have for Me in this sacrament of love [the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist]…” (Our Lord to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, June of 1675).
The poisonous and ultimately lethal error of closing our human heart to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, to His unceasing and immeasurable outpouring of love, leads us to a search for happiness in places where it can never be found. It leads us to abandon holiness of life in Christ, the sure way to happiness, in order to pursue our fulfillment in unholy places, places in which we are robbed of our freedom and eventually destroyed. Contemporary culture, marked so heavily by addictions – abuse of alcohol and drugs, greed, abuse of authority and power, sexual promiscuity, and so forth – , manifests the deadly poisonous fruit of our abandonment of the Lord and His way of blessedness. A supposed happiness which is totally severed from the source of Divine Love is no happiness at all. It is the beguilement of Satan who, as Our Lord Himself teaches us, is “a murderer from the beginning” and “the Father of Lies” (Jn 8, 44). The allurement to abandon Our Lord and His Way can only harm us. Indeed, it is diabolical.
A society which rebels against God’s plan for the world and for us, claiming to provide for us security and peace apart from Divine Law, offers us only unhappiness and violence. It is anti-life and anti-marriage and anti-family, refusing to honor the inviolable dignity of innocent and defenseless human life and the integrity of its cradle in marriage and the family it forms. The Father of Lies is, above all, seductive. He appears in many appealing guises. He uses attractive language which is, in fact, duplicitous. If we are so foolish as to let ourselves be beguiled by his false glamour, we will find no peace, no happiness. His agents who are themselves without peace and joy are constantly sowing the seeds of confusion and error about the natural desire for happiness that God has placed in the human heart in order to draw all people to Himself (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1718). Saint Augustine of Hippo, a man well familiar with the deadly results of following the erroneous ways of the world, addressed these words to Our Lord at the beginning of his Confessions: “You move us to delight in praising You; for You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You” (Chapter One). It is necessary for us, as our Lord teaches us, to keep our minds and hearts attentive to confusion and error: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12, 35-36).
The good order that God has placed in the human heart uncovers for us our call to happiness, to a life of blessedness or beatitude. This happiness or beatitude is revealed fully to us in the Redemptive Incarnation of God the Son, in Jesus Christ, Who teaches us the reality of our daily calling to conversion of life in Him, to the “narrow way” (Mt 7, 13-14) which leads us unfailingly to the fullness of blessedness at the end of our earthly pilgrimage. The “narrow way” in no respect diminishes our nature or limits our freedom. It rather permits our nature to express its fullness, procuring for us freedom and peace, leading us to our eternal destiny, our lasting home with God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in Heaven, in the company of the angels and all the saints. Christ alone is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14, 6). We only find peace by living in Christ. Christ alone gives us peace (Jn 14, 27) during our earthly pilgrimage, a foretaste of the perfect peace of our home with Him in Heaven. The “blood and water” which flows from His glorious pierced Heart into our hearts, above all through the Sacraments, purifies us of all that is false, hateful and deadly (Jn 19, 34). It animates us with Divine Truth and Love, so that, as Our Lord promised, “rivers of living water” will flow from our hearts (Jn 7, 38) as a blessing for others and for the world.
Our Lord summarized His entire teaching, His way, in the Sermon on the Mount and, above all, in the Beatitudes (Mt 5, 1-12; Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1716). He taught us what it means to engage daily the struggle of living in Him, so as to share with Him eternal glory. Each Beatitude helps us to seek God above all else and, thereby, to think, speak and act in a way that rejects the false promises of the world, that limits always more the misery of the cultural situation in our day – a situation marked by the deepest confusion and error about the most fundamental truths of the moral law and of our faith, a confusion and error which manifests itself in the corruption of the Christian life. How timely are the inspired words of the Psalmist: “These always err in heart” (Ps 95, 10).
The life of the Beatitudes purifies our hearts of rebellious attitudes, thoughts and actions. At their core is the declaration and promise: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8). By means of a pure heart, we give our hearts completely into the Heart of God which became flesh in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By means of a pure heart, that is a heart completely united to the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus, we find true happiness and peace. By means of a pure heart, we rest our hearts in the Heart of Jesus, so that we can be purified of the sins of pride and rebellion, and can be fortified with His pure and selfless love.
We see the model of union of heart with the Heart of Jesus in the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In her maternal love, she is constantly leading us in the way of total conformity of heart with the Heart of her Divine Son: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2, 5). Saint Joseph, with paternal care for us, especially for our holy death, shows us the purity and justice of one who would serve Christ alone. He is ever ready to intercede for us in times of great trial and temptation, so that we remain in the truth and love of Christ. Even the pagan Pharaoh under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit commanded the people in their time of distress: “Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do” (Gen 41, 55). The Patriarch Joseph foreshadowed the mission and vocation of Saint Joseph, Foster-Father of Jesus and True Spouse of the Virgin Mary. Thus, too, we follow the command: “Go to Joseph”, “Ite ad Ioseph.”
In my next newsletter, which will be published in the first week of February, I wish to explore more deeply the meaning of being pure in heart as the Church prepares to enter the Season of Lent, the season of strong grace for the conversion of our lives.
Imploring Our Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to bless you, your homes, your families, and all your labors, I remain
Yours in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and in the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph,