Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. While traditional depictions of the Sacred Heart have never moved me, the essence of this feast day does. Fr. James Martin’s tweet this morning expresses why:
On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, we are reminded that Jesus’s love is a sacrificial love. He reveals this most of all on the Cross. Love takes work; love is often not rewarded; and many times love is hard. The asceticism of love is the most important spiritual discipline.
The love we celebrate today is not the warm fuzzy feeling we have toward those we feel close to, not a tender emotion. Rather, the agapic love we are reminded of today is, in Aquinas’ words, “the effective willing of the good of the other.” Agapic love is a choice we make – it is to will the good of another in such as way that we effect that good for the other. It is willing the good of the other person and acting to make that good real for him. It is really a choice, rather than a feeling. It is the choice to see other people as God sees them.
It is not great challenge to feel love toward those who are good to us. But the love we celebrate today – the self-sacrificial love for the sake of the other, a love that is not necessarily returned or rewarded in any other way – is not easy and takes work.