By Sarah Damm
I didn’t grow up with an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in my house. I am part of a generation that did away with some of our most beautiful devotions, sometimes purposely and sometimes unknowingly. It has taken years of my adulthood to understand what my children already know, including what it means to honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
As I meditated on today’s Gospel reading (Luke 7:36-8:3), I could not help but smile at how beautifully it connects with this month’s dedication. It has quickly become a very concrete example for me of just how I can honor Jesus’ Sacred Heart.
In Luke, we meet a sinful woman, who clearly possesses strong faith in Jesus. Perhaps she has observed from afar His healing touch or His gentle smile. She knows that she needs what He so freely gives.
At the Pharisee’s house, perhaps she thinks, “It’s now or never,” and she musters up the courage to enter. She approaches Jesus with confidence in His merciful love, as she cries tears of sorrow for her past mistakes and failings. With reverence, she offers everything she has—her tears, her hair, and her ointment—to Jesus in reparation and penance. Jesus accepts her offering, and through His grace, she is cleansed and set free.
What is beautiful is that Jesus also allows her offering to console Him. She bathes his feet, and His remarks later in the Gospel tell us that they, in fact, needed to be washed. But I think this woman’s actions did more than that. This woman’s faith, her sorrow, and her love moved Jesus’ Sacred Heart to burst open and overflow with peaceful mercy toward her. He loves her, and He was able to share His love in a very profound way.
This story teaches us a lot about the immense love of Jesus’ Sacred Heart, but it also is a tangible reminder of how we can approach our Lord with love.
As I read and re-read how this woman approached Jesus, I was reminded about how I should come into His presence—with love, with reverence, and with confidence in His merciful love.
Before I even arrive at Church, am I dressed respectfully, like I am about to encounter the King of Kings, or do I look like I am heading to the beach? As I enter the Sanctuary, am I focused on Jesus in the Tabernacle or Monstrance, or am I distracted by others? Do I reverently genuflect or bow, believing in Jesus’ full presence? When I enter the confessional, am I prepared to offer everything I have done and have failed to do, to the Lord? Do I make my confession and penance like this woman did? Do I cry tears of sorrow and wipe Jesus’ feet with my hair? Is my penance so heartfelt that a beautiful aroma from my ointment of sorrow rises to Heaven?
Our Catholic devotions and prayers are pathways to love Jesus, like the woman in our Gospel loved Him. Devotions, like that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, bring richness and depth to our prayer life and our personal relationship with the Lord. They connect us to Jesus’ earthly life and place us in the story. They remind us that we are part of the entire history—past, present and future—of the Catholic Church. They bring us into the presence of God in a very real and powerful way, and for that I am grateful.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You!