On the night before Our Lord suffered and died, He took comfort in the consolation offered by His beloved disciple, St. John the Evangelist, who reclined on His Sacred Heart. In less than twenty-four hours, the Heart that once beat in the womb of Our Lady in Bethlehem, would beat no more. Instead, the Sacred Heart would be pierced by a lance, spilling forth every last drop of blood for mere men. But for now, the Evangelist wanted to hear His Master’s heartbeat one last time.
Advent is a good time for us to consider this beating heart that so loves the world.
Our Lord invites each of us to such closeness, but only few seek it. To seek His Heart, we must follow Him to Bethlehem and then to Calvary to console Him. But we, helpless and weak creatures, prefer to sometimes be consoled in other ways. Dryness, distractions, comforts and pleasures can easily lead us to abandon our prayer lives. And therefore, we become like the rest of the apostles who fled in the face of suffering.
By our holy baptism, we have become beloved sons and daughters of God. But for those seeking the way of perfection, this is only the beginning. We yearn for so much more—we long for the same intimacy that St. John the Evangelist experienced. We wish to speak heart to heart with Christ, Who holds not only the world in His hands, but especially our hearts. In prayer we put ourselves at the scene of Bethlehem when Christ was born, or the Last Supper scene next to Christ at the table.
Or even better, we give Him our heart after Holy Communion with endearment. “Take my heart Lord and give me Thine instead. Speak to me in recesses of my heart.” We long to know the secrets of Our Lord’s Heart, but often we don’t know how or don’t feel worthy. As a result, we follow Our Lord from a distance like St. Peter rather than recline like St. John on Our Lord’s chest. We allow pride and fear, especially the fear of suffering to keep Our Lord as a “distant” friend. And yet, Our Lord wishes to pour out His Heart to us if we are receptive to His grace.
Our Lord makes it clear that He does not tell secrets or at least to those who are not His true friends. He once declared, “I have spoken openly to the world: I have always taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither all the Jews resort; and in secret I have spoken nothing” (John 18:20). Our Lord does not wish to withhold anything from His apostles or any person, especially concerning our salvation. He holds back nothing, including His very self and His Mother.
There is one truth that Our Lord wishes to share with His beloved brothers and sisters in every generation. But only those who are willing to draw near to the Cross are worthy to hear such sublime words. Yes, this profound truth was communicated to Our Lady, St. John, St. Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary, who all stood courageously at the foot of the Cross. And this truth was revealed in the twelfth century by one of the greatest saints and doctors of the Church, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, when he mystically proclaimed, “The secrets of His heart are revealed through the wounds of His body.”
Perhaps Our Lord didn’t want to experience betrayal ahead of time, so He kept the secrets of His Heart from Judas and others. He knew Judas was going to betray Him and St. Peter deny Him, but maybe if He revealed everything to them, the pain would be even greater. And so now was not the time to reveal the secrets of His Sacred Heart. His hour had not come. And only one of His apostles, the one who reclined at His Breast, could handle this revelation. The other apostles did not avail themselves of it because only the closest friends are worthy of such knowledge.
From St. Bernard’s words, it clear that Our Lord willed that His five visible wounds be the channels to access the depths of His Heart, which is the hidden treasury of grace and mercy. Yes, the five wounds are like sacred streams which flow to the ocean of His Sacred Heart. And what do these wounds point to except a Heart devoid of pride and selfishness—a Heart that is completely vulnerable.
Christ’s guard was down on the Cross and still is in the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is a Heart that is beating for love, but is often treated only with coldness and indifference, especially by those closest to Him. It is no surprise that scientific tests from Eucharistic miracles reveal a heart under great distress. It is our sins that cause such distress, but especially the betrayal and irreverence by Our Lord’s consecrated souls.
Just as St. Teresa of Calcutta had the words, “I thirst,” written on every convent chapel in her order, so too might every home have St. Bernard’s words placarded next to their family crucifix. Christ’s marks in both hands and feet, and the piercing in His side are the portals to His Sacred Heart. Every devout Christian ought to know the secrets of Our Lord’s Heart and St. Bernard has revealed the way, albeit Our Lord’s wounds.
Through His Sacred Wounds—the streams of infinite mercy and love that pour forth every time we confess our sins in the sacrament of confession, receive Holy Communion, or gaze upon the Cross—Our Lord draws us into His Heart. These wounds are the narrow gate, for only those who are wounded by Love, can pass through. Hence Our Lord cannot share His deepest secrets with us if we are not willing to meditate frequently on His Blessed Wounds and console Him. The Wounded Healer cannot heal hearts that are not willing to drink from His chalice or whose hearts are full of pride.
What then are the secrets of His Sacred Heart? In contemplating Christ’s Wounds and embracing our own crosses, we dispose ourselves to hear the secrets of His Heart. And we can never exhaust such secrets. Yes, His wounds and our wounds are the only path to His Heart, the road to intimacy.
A priest once said that when we die, Our Lord will show us His wounds and He will then ask to see our wounds. Our spiritual life is a perpetual battlefield. Thankfully, there are infinite opportunities to be conformed to Christ Crucified. And through each liturgical season, especially the readings and saints feast days during Advent, the Church offers graces and lights to acquire our badges of honor, not mere medals, but heroic virtue as we await the coming of the Messiah. In the process, we must not be afraid to be wounded.
The world and even those within the Church will persecute us for preaching the truth, friends and family will desert us for staying true to Christ and His Church, and temptations and sufferings will test our fidelity. But nothing compares to gazing upon Our Lord in His splendor for all eternity, receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist in a state of grace, or having Him be born again in our hearts this Christmas.
In the Roman Liturgy, there is a prayer called the secreta or “the secret.” It is a prayer said in a low voice at the end of the offertory by the priest. It is said over the bread and wine, and it is whispered, so no one else can hear it. This is also said in a faint voice because the choir is singing at the same time during High Mass. In this moment, the priest stands as a mediator directly to God. The secret changes based on the liturgical calendar. But at the heart of the prayer, the priest asks God to receive these gifts and sanctify them. On a supernatural level, there is something so profound as if Jesus is whispering to the Father. Although it is not a secret in the strictest sense, it represents a level of intimacy with Jesus (the priest) and His Father.
Our Lord wishes for every follower to be caught up in His Trinitarian Love, not an indifferent and selfish love that has captured our world. Our cruel world treats people as objects rather than persons. Our cruel world mutilates its bodies and children in the womb. Our cruel world has many bishops and priests more concerned about this passing life than eternal life. Our cruel world has spouses using one another rather than loving one another. Our cruel world has parents showing little affection to their children. And the list goes on. But the Sacred Heart came to change all that, so that we might love as He loves us.
Soon the Babe of Bethlehem will come into our hearts and reveal His peace, love, poverty, humility, and joy. Two thousand years ago, Our Lady looked upon her precious Son with both love and sorrow, for the Child was born to die. She knew His tiny fingers, tiny toes, and tiny heart would one day be pierced by nails and a lance. But for now, she wanted to adore and love her Infant God, her King, and her beautiful Boy. And therefore, Our Lady may have immediately opened the frankincense and myrrh from the Three Kings and anointed her Son’s sacred hands, feet, and chest for she knew that such wounds were the gateway to the secrets of the Sacred Heart.