Peering into the Mists of the Future: The Conclusion of Our Series

“More Brilliant than the Sun," a weekly series by Robert Stackpole, STD, Director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy 

The series so far:
PART 1: The Plan of the Heart of Jesus to Drive Back the World's Darkness
PART 2:  What Do We Really Mean By “The Heart of Jesus”?
PART 3:  Devotion to the Heart of Jesus and its Roots in Holy Scripture
PART 4: The Heart of the Savior in the New Testament
PART 5: 
 The Heart of Jesus Manifest in His Tender Affections and Compassionate Love
PART 6: 
 The Heart of Jesus in the Garden and on the Cross
PART 7:  From Easter Onward: The Heart of Jesus Lives in His Church
PART 8:  The Flowering of Love for the Heart of Jesus in the Middle Ages
PART 9:  Saint Gertrude the Great on Bringing Comfort and Joy to the Heavenly Christ
PART 10:  Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and Reparation to the Sacred Heart
PART 11:  On Consoling the Heart of Jesus
PART 12:  Saints and Servants of Consoling Reparation to the Heart of Jesus
PART 13:  The Twelve Promises — and the Great Promise — of the Sacred Heart 
PART 14:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: St. Charles De Foucauld
PART 15:  Holiness from the Heart of Jesus: Blessed Dina Bélanger
PART 16:  The Social Reign of the Sacred Heart
PART 17:  The Reign of the Heart of Jesus in Families
PART 18:  Jesus Unveils the Great Mercy of His Heart
PART 19:  Popes, Saints, and Visionaries on the Merciful Heart of Jesus
PART 20: To Console the Heart of the Merciful Savior
PART 21: Trust Completely in Divine Mercy, and Be Merciful to Others
PART 22: Winning the World for Christ: The Merciful Hear of Jesus and the New Evangelization

PART 23: Peering into the Mists of the Future

Here in the final episode of this web series, I want to gaze for a moment into the mists of the future, and share a few final reflections on the role that devotion to the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus may play in the completion of our Lord’s plan to drive back the world’s darkness.

To begin with, we need to recognize that the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus — especially as expressed in devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Divine Mercy — actually is not of primary importance. (Wait: Doesn’t that contradict everything you have said in the first 22 installments of this series! Not really; read on … !)

Remember that any devotion is merely a means, and not an end in itself. The ultimate goal our Lord had in mind in giving us these two great fountains of love and light was not primarily to multiply pious practices, profound meditations, and beautiful expressions of sacred art, but ultimately to draw all of humanity into a more close and intimate union with Himself. Only insofar as the religious practice of devotion to Christ through the symbol of His Heart achieves that end is it worth our time and attention. Some Christian souls who know little or nothing of these things will be drawn by the love of Christ into a sanctifying union with His Heart without practicing this devotion at all. Others will fulfill every aspect of it in meticulous detail, and our Lord will turn to them sadly on the Last Day and say, “I never knew you” (Mt 7:23).

That last outcome is not what Jesus wants, of course. He said to St. Faustina, “I do not want to punish aching mankind, but I desire to heal it, pressing it to My merciful Heart” (Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 1588). But consider: Where on this planet is His Merciful Heart most directly and immediately to be found? Where, above all, does He “press us to His merciful Heart”?

Two-part answer
All of the Catholic saints give us the same, two-part answer.

Saint Jerome, the patron saint of Scripture studies, famously said “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.” The Bible is not only where we learn the most about our Savior (His teachings and His deeds); it is also the privileged place where we can draw near to Him in mind and heart in meditation: dwelling with the Christ Child and the Holy Family in Bethlehem and Nazareth; joining with our Lord and His apostles on the road in Galilee; accompanying Him in the drama of Holy Week in Jerusalem, and to the foot of the Cross on Calvary; and welcoming Him in the dazzling light of the first Easter Sunday.

The best way to begin to get to know someone personally is to walk with them, day by day: to observe what they say and do, attend to what they care about most, and then (as Mary, His mother, did) to “keep all these things” in our memory, and “ponder them in our heart” (Lk 2: 19, 51). Only then can the deepest mystery of another person truly unfold before our eyes. The same holds true for our relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

The best way to begin to get to know someone personally is to walk with them, day by day: to observe what they say and do, attend to what they care about most, and then (as Mary, His mother, did) to “keep all these things” in our memory, and “ponder them in our heart” (Lk 2: 19, 51). Only then can the deepest mystery of another person truly unfold before our eyes.

The same holds true for our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the first part of every Mass is the Liturgy of the Word: a meditative encounter with God in the Bible that can kindle within us a trustful understanding of His merciful love. We meditate on what God says and does, especially through His Son, and then the mystery of who He really is begins to become clearer to us. If we prayerfully draw near to Him every day in His Word, soon we will be able to say with the psalmist, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105), and with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Lk 24:32).

For most of our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ, the encounter with our Lord can go no further. For them, the graces that the Heart of Jesus longs to pour into human hearts must pass through the Word alone. So great is His merciful love for those who listen to His Word in the Scriptures, however, that their hearts can be radically transformed solely by means of that Word. That’s why the list of Protestants who have done great things in the name of Jesus Christ is a long and honored one (think, for example, of William Wilberforce and C.S. Lewis, of Martin Luther King Jr. and Billy Graham).

Mass movement
The Catholic Mass never stops with the Liturgy of the Word, however. It always moves us forward, deeper into Christ, right into the furnace of the Real Presence of His Heart’s love for us in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Saint Faustina wrote of the Eucharist:

O living Host, my one and only strength, fountain of love and mercy, embrace the whole world, and fortify faint souls. Oh, blessed be the instant and the moment when Jesus left us His most merciful heart! (Diary, 223)

Suppose each one of us went to Mass every Sunday believing and expecting that at the moment of reception of the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus Himself would unite us in the most intimate way with His merciful Heart. What a torrent of Divine Love would flow into our hearts and transform them, if only we were open to receiving it! Father James Kubicki, SJ, wrote in A Heart on Fire (p. 85 and 91):

In the Eucharist, we draw near, as St. John [the Apostle] did at the Last Supper, to the Heart of Jesus. Drawing near to our Lord present in the Eucharist, we draw strength from his heart just as John did. We find the courage to accept the cross as it comes to us, courage to live as Christ did. …

Nourished and transformed, we bring the Eucharist into our daily lives. We live now as a new creature with a new heart. … We go forth from the Eucharist and live it in thankful praise, offering ourselves, as St. Paul wrote to the Romans, as “a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God our spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1). With lives transformed by the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, we love as we have been loved — in a total, and self-sacrificing way.

Now, imagine if you can a secret army of souls “mercified” like this in the merciful Heart of Jesus (as Fr. George Kosicki, the great Divine Mercy evangelist, used to say). Imagine them spread throughout the whole world, and (largely unnoticed by the world, to begin with) drawing others — one at a time at first, but later one family at a time, one parish at a time, one diocese at a time, then one nation at a time — back to the Heart of our Savior. Political parties cannot do this; wars of conquest certainly cannot accomplish it; economic growth and prosperity will never approach it; and media propaganda can achieve nothing even remotely like it. A silent revolution of the heart!

Just imagine
Suppose the true friends of Jesus Christ began popping up everywhere, and where you least expect them. And when questioned by the authorities or by the press, they could only explain themselves like this:

Every time I hear anyone speak of the Sacred Heart of Jesus or of the Blessed Sacrament, I feel an indescribable joy. …

These are loving appeals from Jesus who wants me wholeheartedly there at the source of all goodness, his Sacred Heart, throbbing mysteriously behind the Eucharistic veils.

The devotion to the Heart of Jesus has grown with me all my life.

I want to serve the Sacred Heart today and always. It is to the Heart of Jesus that I must look for a solution of all my troubles.

I want the devotion to His Heart, concealed within the Sacrament of Love, to be the measure of all my spiritual progress.

I am determined to give myself no peace until I can truly say I am absorbed into the Heart of Jesus (Pope St. John XXIII, Journal of a Soul, cited in O’Donnell, Heart of the Redeemer, p. 212).

The civil authorities and the press would be utterly baffled by all this, of course. Meanwhile, such Heart-intoxicated souls — whether imprisoned and martyred for their faith, or left free to go about their business — would draw even more hearts (among family, friends, work colleagues, and even mere acquaintances), to find the same joy in the Heart of Jesus in Word and Sacrament that they did.

In article #15 in this series, we quoted the great vision of Bl. Dina Belanger of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus as the radiant center of the whole divine plan of the world’s salvation. Our Lord called out to her: “Bring souls to my Eucharistic Heart!” Thus, if you want to be part of this silent revolution; if you want to join this secret army; if you want to take your part in His plan to overcome the world’s sin and misery — indeed, to magnify and hasten the day of the triumph of the Sacred Heart over all the forces of evil in the world — then bring yourself, bring your family and friends, bring anyone you can to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and He will do the rest.

Trust Him
Utilize the great and blessed traditions of devotion to His Sacred Heart and His Divine Mercy to get you there, of course, but whether or not you do it that way is not of first importance. After all, everything else in the whole of the Christian faith is about Him — but the Eucharist, uniquely, is Him! It is the living presence of the Crucified and Risen Lord, who promised to be with us always (see Mt 28:20). The thing of first importance is to receive Him there, as often as you can, with an open heart, full of trust in His merciful love.

Seek Him and find Him every day in the tabernacle in every Catholic Church throughout the world, and in every time of Eucharistic Adoration; reverence and receive Him as often as you can in Holy Communion.

At the end of the day, it is only the Heart of Jesus Himself, living and overflowing with heart-transforming, soul-sanctifying, merciful love for us in the Eucharist that can drive back the world’s darkness, and prepare the world for His Second Coming. His strategy for winning the world back to His Sacred Heart is really as simple as that.

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