March 27, 2015
Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart
In true love, one abandons oneself entirely to the beloved. Not only is one resigned, but also he is joyful to be at the disposition of the loved one; one abandons oneself completely in everything. The union would be incomplete and partial, if one’s will were not completely absorbed by the loved one.
It is especially in mediation on the sufferings of our Lord that we gain the necessary strength to practice abandonment in the trials of life. The contemplation of his Passion develops our love for him, and love is the means of transforming into joy what would otherwise be bitterness.
The desire of uniting oneself to the sufferings of our Lord eases the suffering that one meets in the immolation of oneself. One unites one’s sufferings to Christ’s immolation on Calvary. This desire is also a means of associating oneself to his sorrowful passion in the same spirit in which he suffered, for the love and glory of his Father and for the salvation of souls. This union of intention is very agreeable to him and its value is augmented by the love with which it is performed. Thus one has truly but one heart and one soul with him.
One rejoices in being scourged with him, in offering him the mortifications of the flesh and the humiliations of one’s pride; being crowned with thorns with him and in offering to him all the contrarieties one meets. A soul follows Jesus along the sorrowful road to Calvary when, united to him by love, it accepts the path which he would have it follow.
One is nailed to the cross with him, when one unites to his crucifixion the painful and sorrowful situations in which it pleases him to place one’s friends. One agonizes on the cross with him when one unites to his sufferings the anguish of a situation in which he places one.
One must accept trials of whatever nature they be. They need not resemble his trials physically. Whoever loves him rises above trials. Such trials are endured with Jesus by uniting to the sufferings of the Passion. A union of love identifies, in some way, these sufferings with his. What difference does it make if these sufferings are not materially identical to his! They are always similar if accepted lovingly and offered to him in union with his.
Acceptance and abandonment are the two conditions of this life of union which is animated by a generous love of our Lord.
Leo John Dehon, SCJ, The Life of Love towards the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 15th Meditation
Heart of Jesus, Fr. Dehon's favored image of God's loving concern for all creation
Christians who identify with the dominant culture in the United States will find it rather shocking to contemplate an image of Jesus as a Black African man. Yet, to depict Jesus, a Middle Eastern Jew, with fair skin, blue eyes, and blond hair is equally incongruous. However, Christians have perceived Jesus through their own experience and culture from the time of the early Church. That one group insists on its favored image while dismissing all others as inappropriate is scandalous. That Christians can delight in multi-ethnic depictions of Jesus is a grace of “catholicity,” meaning universality or inclusiveness.
This muscular and tender image of the Heart of Jesus employs the imagery popularized by the visions of Margaret Mary—an anatomical heart surrounded by thorns and flames, pierced and bleeding, to which Jesus call attention by pointing with his pierced hand. Jesus’ dark skin, facial features, and kinky hair, however, are clearly adaptations of the traditional European image.
Compassionate eyes, a glowing complexion, and a subtle smile, all framed by the energy of a halo, seem to echo the love, intensity, and willing sacrifice symbolized by the heart. Out of proportion to the rest of the image, the heart and the raised right hand are rather large. Perhaps it is the artist’s intent to suggest the connection between the heart “that has loved humanity so much” and generous acts of healing, forgiveness, and sharing that characterizes Jesus’ ministry.
Those who wish “to return love for love” will need a heart big enough to embrace every trial and hands large enough to dispense the greatest care for God’s people, especially the most defenseless.
The painting featured hangs in an SCJ parish chapel in Mombassa, Congo.
Reflection questions, seeds for personal understanding and growth
What is your experience of loving someone and desiring to show that love by your actions?
What painful or sorrowful situation in your life are you willing to unite to the sufferings of Jesus’ Passion? What difference could that make?
If you make use of images in prayer, what does Jesus look like? What can you learn from multi-ethnic images of Jesus?
Prayer, hands lifted in prayer; hands prepared to serve
In your kindness throughout the coming week, please remember in your prayer Christians, whose Black African heritage, often used by the dominant culture as an excuse for prejudice, is in reality a source of blessing for those who recognize an image and a likeness of the divine.
Fr. Leo John Dehon, SCJ, composed the following prayer, which he used to conclude the 15th meditation in his book, The Life of Love towards the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
I entrust myself, I give myself,
I abandon myself with confidence and love
to your kind Providence,
as you abandoned yourself to your Father
in your childhood, during your whole life,
and in your Passion.
Since you love me,
why should I not confide myself to your loving Heart?
You will take greater care of me
than would a mother.
Each week reflections and prayers based in the Dehonian charism are published on the Dehonian Spirituality page of the U.S. Province website of the Priests of the Sacred Heart. This is an email version of that update.
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