My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Over the past year, I have used this column to teach about what it means to be a disciple of Christ. In my last column, I encouraged you to surrender your life into Christ’s hands and receive the love he literally died to offer you.
The Catholic spiritual tradition is filled with historical events which teach us in different ways how much Christ desires to be a part of our lives. The devotion to the Sacred Heart is an example of Jesus reaching out personally to a young French woman, Margaret Mary Alacoque. This invitation came at a time in the history of the church that the love of God had been replaced by a more rigoristic interpretation of holiness, in which people must earn God’s love. In a series of visions, Jesus told Margaret that he is bursting with love for mankind. He is searching for the lost and he wants to make known his massive love for each person.
The process of accepting this love is called devotion to the Sacred Heart, a tradition that has been a part of the church since the 17th century. While this devotion is just one of many ways to pray, many people since that time have found a great deal of spiritual benefit in it. I would especially recommend it for anyone who struggles to feel God’s love for them.
The point is that the Holy Spirit is reaching out to people of our time, one by one, through the work and example of others, to help people to open their minds and hearts to Jesus, who is knocking at the door.
Let me repeat that beautiful quote of St. Mother Teresa again so that you might read it anew. “The personal love Christ has for you is infinite. You are special to God. He is waiting for you to come to him in prayer. He wants to honor you with his presence. Jesus loves you tenderly, you are precious to him, turn to Jesus with great trust and allow yourself to be loved by him.”
Perhaps you are reading these words, and think that God could not love you that way. Perhaps you think that you have made too many mistakes in your past or that you are not “holy enough.” Perhaps you think that you must earn God’s love and that God will only accept you once you get your life in order.
If you believe those things, please read the following words slowly and carefully. God doesn’t expect you to be perfect to be in relationship with him. God wants to be in relationship with you so that he can love you into glory. God sees your mistakes and weaknesses and loves you in spite of them. And the heart of Jesus, which drove him to accept the cross out of love for you, burns with that same love for you, and desires to bring healing and relief to your soul.
Jesus cries out to each of us, “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.” May we all cling to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that burns with love for each and every one of us!
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter at @BpDavidRicken.