Reflection - April 15, 2018

“While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed,
he asked them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’
They gave him a piece of baked fish; 
he took it and ate it in front of them.”

Before anyone can remember, my dad’s side of the family has been consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. While last week I was able to share a sketch history of the devotion to Divine Mercy, the history of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is too complex to present here.

It seems that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, devotion to the Sacred Heart began to grow. Over the centuries, religious communities promoted it, some were even founded around this devotion, a number of women religious received visions or mystical revelations about it, hymns were written and sung, it was added as a feast day to the liturgical calendar, it began to be promoted in unison with the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the whole human race was consecrated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Pope Leo XIII on June 11, 1899. Even as late as May 15, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed the importance of devotion to the Sacred Heart. As part of our family devotion, we added a simple line after our meal prayer, “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts...Sacred Heart of Jesus protect our family.

While the pierced human heart of Jesus is a symbol of God’s divine love for us, it grew as a devotion to emphasize Jesus’s humanity. The five wounds of Jesus, and especially his pierced heart, stressed that Jesus was fully human (albeit in all things but sin). The lance shoved into Jesus’s side to prove he was dead likely pierced the pericardial sack and heart, where fluid had built up during his crucifixion, medically resulting in blood and water flowing from his side. Theologically, Jesus was first the one who came by water and blood, by both his own baptism (“This is my beloved Son”) and his crucifixion (“Truly, this was the Son of God”) (cf. 1 John 5:6-8).  Secondly, Jesus comes to bring saving grace for us through all the sacraments, but especially Baptism (water) and the Eucharist (blood). This is also a connection to Divine Mercy, where we see in the sacred image a pale or blue ray and a red ray beaming from the heart of Jesus, representing water and blood, the sacrament of Baptism (and Confession, a “second” baptism), which purifies, and the sacrament of the Eucharist, which gives life. Jesus was both fully human and fully divine, his humanity the saving vehicle for our own. 

Why does Jesus eat a fish after his resurrection? Jesus did not shed his humanity like a skin after his death and resurrection. No, in being raised from the dead, his humanity is transformed and at the Ascension will be taken up to heaven in him. Jesus’s full humanity makes it possible for our full humanity to be united for eternity with God. Where he goes, we will follow. After his resurrection, Jesus wasn’t a ghost, a spirit, or a vision. He was a resurrected human being, who could eat fish. The Sacred Heart of Jesus emphasized his humanity for the same reason. It is his human heart that becomes the font of Divine Mercy, purifying and giving life. Jesus is our savior not just because he is God, but because he is both God and man. As early as the second century, Saint Irenaeus wrote, “The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.”