Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

Made public today was a Letter from Benedict XVI to Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), for the 50th anniversary of Pope Pius XII's Encyclical "Haurietis aquas" on devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Highlighting the fact that the Jesuits "have always been very active in promoting this fundamental form of devotion," the Pope writes: "Fifty years on, Christians still have the ever present task of continuing to deepen their relationship with the Heart of Jesus so as to revive, within themselves, faith in God's salvific love."

"The pierced side of the Redeemer, " the Letter says, "is the source from which ... we must draw in order to achieve a true knowledge of Jesus, ... understand what it means to know the love of God in Jesus Christ, experience it fixing our gaze on Him, live completely on that experience of His love, and bear witness of it to others."

"This mystery of God's love for us," Pope Benedict continues, "not only constitutes the content of veneration and devotion for the Heart of Jesus, it is, in the same way, the content of all true Christian spirituality and devotion. ... In fact, being Christian is only possible with our gaze fixed on the cross of our Redeemer."

"The deepest significance of this veneration for the love of God appears only when we give closer consideration to its contribution, not only to knowledge, but also and above all to the personal experience of that love in faithful dedication and service."

"Faith, understood as the fruit of the experience of God's love, is a grace, a gift of God. ... Whoever accepts God's love within himself, is formed by it. The experience of God's love is lived by man as a 'call' to which he must respond. ... The gifts received from [Jesus'] open side, from which 'blood and water' flowed, ensure that our lives become for others a source from which 'shall flow rivers of living water.' The experience of love we gain through veneration for the pierced side of the Redeemer, safeguards us from the risk of closing in on ourselves, and makes us open to a life lived for others."

"The response to the commandment of love is made possible only by the experience that this love was first given us by God. The veneration of the love made manifest in the mystery of the Cross, re-presented in each Eucharistic celebration, is, then, the foundation that enables us to become individuals capable of love and of giving ourselves. ... This openness to the will of God, however, must be constantly renewed. 'Love is never finished and complete'."

The Holy Father concludes his letter: "Gazing at the side pierced by the lance, where shines God's boundless will for salvation, cannot then be considered as a passing form of veneration or devotion. The adoration of God's love, which found historical-devotional expression in the symbol of the pierced heart, remains irreplaceable for a living relationship with God."

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