Imagine a time in your life when you truly felt loved. Take just a few moments and put yourself back in that scene, with all its joy, wonder, and mystery. Allow yourself to travel back to this moment that has formed your life in ways you can’t possibly know. True love has a life-changing and life-giving power. Notice that this love isn’t something floating in the clouds or disconnected from reality, it is real, it is physical, it is sensual. Human beings express love through their bodies. From the high school student serving at the soup kitchen, to the dad/mom feeding his/her child, to the marital act itself, we show love through our bodies, because we are our bodies. This is why I love the month of June so much, because we celebrate two of the great feasts that bring this point home, Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart.
The Incarnational Mystery
We express love bodily and God became man to give up his body for us in the most concrete and tangible act of love. The incarnation is so important to the Church, in fact, that the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1015 says, “The flesh is the hinge of salvation. We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh.”
The chasm between the human person and the grace of God that was brought about by the fall, was bridged by a human body, a human heart, and divine love. This is why Pope St. John Paul II could say, “Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology… I would say, through the main door.” (TOB 23:4)
The second person of the trinity did not become man solely to save us from sin, but also to remind us of who we are as human persons, and to be an example of who the human person should be. He elevated humanity to a level that was previously unknown and inaccessible. The Catholic Church proclaims this loudly and boldly during the easter Vigil when we hear, “O happy fault that gained for us so great a redeemer.”
This is what we celebrate during the great Feast of Corpus Christi on Thursday, June 3rd. We celebrate a “…God who became man so that we might become God” (CCC 460).
Sacred Heart Through Art
Growing up, my parents didn’t allow tattoos. I was raised in a homeschooling Catholic family so getting a tattoo of something religious checked both boxes of being a little rebellious but still showing your love for God. My brother was the first brave enough to take the leap after he graduated. He got the benedict medal on his chest and my parents were not too pleased, yet their resolve was weakened. Then I knew it was my time. I designed a Sacred Heart tattoo, but I didn’t want it to look like a Valentine’s Day heart or one of those chalk antacid candies. I wanted it to look like a real human heart with veins and arteries, while at the same time incorporating some elements of the traditional Sacred Heart images. I had my design emblazoned on my skin and after a few hours of pain, went to show my parents. My mom liked it a lot more than my brother’s, because the shock had worn off and I had gotten mine embellished with color. A clear win for me.
All this is to say, I designed my tattoo that way for a specific reason. I think when we reflect on the Sacred Heart, our minds tend to go to a fake heart image and then immediately to a fluffy sentimental love based on feelings. At least this was my line of thinking growing up. I disconnected the idea of the Sacred Heart from the powerful, real, human heart and divine love of Christ.
Close your eyes for just a moment and picture an image of the Sacred Heart. What did you see? Did you see a nice little heart shape with thorns around it and perfectly placed blood droplets? Or did you see a real heart beating as if it just met the love of its entire life? A heart that clenches every time you turn away, that speeds up every time you draw near, that gives every last drop and then keeps giving. That is the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which we celebrate on Friday, June 11th.
Now, just as Jesus became one of us in order to show us who we are, the Sacred Heart shows us how to love authentically. After all, it’s the Sacred Heart that was pierced for our sins so that God’s mercy could flow down upon us, the ultimate act of love. St. Thomas Aquinas defined love as willing the good of the other. Never in human history was love so clearly expressed as it was on the cross, the ultimate self-sacrificial act of willing the good for others.
Living it out
So how can you commemorate these feasts in your home, school, or parish? Maybe consider making June the month of incarnational love. Take this whole month
to reflect on God becoming man and loving us through his human heart with a perfect divine love and self-sacrificial action. Below are some Bible verses that you can print off and hang as a reminder of God’s love for us. Then, at some point during the month, get together for something fun like root beer floats or ice cream cones. God’s abundant love certainly is generous and overflowing! Recite the scripture passages and prayers included during your celebration.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” (John 1:14)
“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31)
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we offer you all our prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for our sins, for the intentions of all our relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen!
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Sacred heart of Jesus, have mercy on us. Body and Blood of Christ, save us. Amen!
Written by, Tommy Shultz,
Content Production Specialist at Ruah Woods Press
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