Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. In the words of Pope Benedict,
The essential nucleus of Christianity is expressed in the Heart of Jesus; in Christ the whole of the revolutionary newness of the Gospel was revealed and given to us: the Love that saves us and already makes us live in God’s eternity. Even our shortcomings, our limitations, and our weaknesses must lead us back to the Heart of Jesus. His divine Heart calls to our hearts, inviting us to come out of ourselves, to abandon our human certainties to trust in him.”
Invitation. As I read the words of Benedict, a picture comes into my mind.
At the top of the long driveway into St. Ignatius Retreat House in New York, my spiritual home for so many years, is a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a large, almost life-sized, white statue of Jesus with his arms outstretched in welcome, looking almost as though he is about to embrace whoever is approaching him.
I still remember the first time I drove into the retreat house. It was the Monday after 9/11 and my heart was filled with grief. As I started up the driveway and saw the statue, I felt the tension in my body begin to dissipate. The anxiety drained and I felt invited, welcomed. I knew it was right to have come there.
I have the same experience each time I go to St. Igantius. Whatever I happen to be feeling at the time – fatigue, irritation, anxiety, I pull into the driveway, see that statute, and smile broadly as I feel something release in my body as I approach. I feel Christ’s presence there and hear extended to me the same invitation He extended to his disciples, “Come away to a quiet place and rest a while.”
That is the invitation extended to all of us by the Sacred Heart of Jesus.