by Sr Silvana Dallanegra
Five days ago, our churches were able to open their doors for the first time in three months, albeit with necessary restrictions and doorkeepers. Some have been able to visit, with joy; others have stayed away, housebound or still needing to shield. So, it’s lovely that today we celebrate the Sacred Heart, which is always open, in generously loving, merciful welcome; with absolutely no restrictions, queues or doorkeepers!
This Heart is a space wide and deep enough for everyone who wishes to enter for solace or simply to be, and for all the anguish, brokenness and pain being poured into it, alongside all the beauty and joy.
In this year’s Gospel, Jesus invites us to come to him, especially if we are overburdened and in need of rest, and to learn from his gentle and humble Heart (Mt. 11:25-30). And those words Come to me… learn from me… are said to each one of us now, with longing and love and open arms, turning them into a daily invitation. Here, now, the Heart of Jesus is a place of refuge and welcome, a shelter, a safe place, a place of healing and peace, where every burden is laid down, every fear put to rest.
And here, vitally, we’re invited to the intimacy which lies at the heart of devotion to the Sacred Heart: not to gaze on Jesus from afar, but to come as close as possible; to feel his heartbeat, to touch his wounds; to enter into and remain in the depths of his Heart. And crucially, to enter into the dispositions of his Heart: to learn from Jesus’ attitudes and ways of relating; to discover his Heart, wholly given to God and to all people, and to make those dispositions our own. In our intimacy with Jesus we can increasingly know and draw love from his Heart, for ourselves and our world. This is what widens our capacity to love; what opens our hearts, especially to wherever there is pain and suffering.
This year especially we might come to this feast, and to the Heart of Jesus, feeling weary and heavy-laden, and greatly in need of rest. We come from a world filled with disease, anger and fear, and so much which breaks our hearts on a daily basis, to say nothing of our own wounds, struggles, fragility and losses. But we come, and can celebrate, because however much pain is poured into Jesus' Heart, it cannot drown out the unmeasured streams of tenderness, compassion and deep love which already fill it and, overflowing, pour out.
Here lies the source of the hope we need, to sustain us in these difficult times: a hope centred in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which believes that redemption, new life and transformation are always possible. This hope, and the tender, healing love of the Sacred Heart, are his gifts to us, and can be our gift to each other.
Sr Silvana Dallanegra RSCJ is a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which first came to this diocese in 1893, opening what is now Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith. Sr Silvana works for Caritas Westminster as the Development Worker for West London.