RICHMOND, VA. (Catholic Online) - By Christian tradition, June is the month that Holy Mother Church dedicates to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, even if due to Easter's late occurrence this year, the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart falls at the beginning of July.  Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has specified that his general prayer intention for the month of June to be "that priests, united to the Heart of Christ, may always be true witnesses of the caring and merciful love of God".  Certainly, priests are called to such union with the Heart of Christ so that they might serve as leaders and models for all Christian believers to do the same, those who share in the common priesthood of the Faithful as emphasized in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Lumen Gentium 10).

The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is connected intimately to the celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ that we recently celebrated in the Church's liturgical calendar.  The Sacred Heart of Jesus is central to the Church's theology of Corpus Christi as the Heart of Jesus embodies Christ's expression of God's divine love for us.  Jesus allows our sins to pierce the Body of His Sacred Heart in order that the Blood of His divine Love may pour forth upon us, cleansing us Baptismally and fortifying us Eucharistically.  This complete gift of self by our Lord to all mankind gives birth to a new body, the Church, to which all of the Christian faithful belong and in which each member shares in communion with God and neighbor.

In his recent speech to the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family  on its 30th anniversary (May 13, 2011), Pope Benedict XVI provides important insight concerning the sacredness of the Body of Christ as it relates to our own calling from God to live in the holiness of God's love through, with and in Christ Jesus:

"This journey of creation finds its fullness in the Incarnation, in the coming of Christ. God took a body, revealed himself in it. The upward movement of the body is hence integrated in another, more original movement, the humble movement of God who lowers himself towards the body, in order to raise it to him. As Son, he received a filial body in gratitude and in listening to the Father, and he gave this body for us, by so doing to generate the new body of the Church. The liturgy of the Feast of the Ascension sings the story of the flesh, sinner in Adam, assumed and redeemed by Christ. It is a flesh that becomes ever filled increasingly with light and the Spirit, filled with God."

In his homily on the Feast of Corpus Christi, Pope Benedict likewise emphasizes that the feast of the Body and Blood of our Lord "openly manifests what Jesus has given us in the intimacy of the Last Supper, because the love of Christ is not confined to the few, but is intended for all." 

On Corpus Christi, Benedict XVI also unfolded how the feast leads the Christian faithful to be transfigured by the Heart of Jesus, the feast of which we soon commemorate: Everything starts, you might say, from the heart of Christ, who at the Last Supper on the eve of his passion, thanked and praised God and, in doing so, with the power of his love transformed the meaning of death . the Body and Blood of Christ is the fruit of the gift that Christ made of himself, a gift of a love stronger than death, divine love that brought him to rise from the dead . The heart of Christ is immersed in this love; because of this he knows how to thank and praise God even in the face of betrayal and violence, and thus changes things, people and the world.

In actuality, when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, it is we who are changed by the Blessed Sacrament.  When we receive the Body of Christ and drink the Blood of Christ into our bodies, we acknowledge implicitly that we desire for God to reign as King throughout our entire being.  We express by our communing with God that we truly hunger to have His Heart in the core of our very selves, and we thirst for His Love to flow within our veins.

Citing the teaching of Saint Augustine (cf. Confessions, VII, 10, 18), Benedict XVI refers to the Eucharist as "the food of the mature" that we do not change into ourselves, but rather Who changes us into Christ:  "We do not assimilate it, but it assimilates us to itself, so that we become conformed to Jesus Christ and members of his body, one with him. This is a decisive passage." 

In our personal encounter with the living Lord Jesus through Holy Communion, the believer's individuality is opened up and transformed by Christ, and we come to reflect more authentically the embodied love of Jesus in His Sacred Heart.  Through the Holy Eucharist, God frees us from our selfishness and self-centeredness as He places us into His Sacred Heart,

where we find the love of the Triune God fully enfleshed. 

When we allow ourselves to discover fully the genuine love in Christ, only one possible outcome may result:  We grow in love of God and neighbor.  God's Love has a transformative effect, changing us more intimately into the authentic image and likeness of our Lord Himself in His Love.  We then cannot help but love more, as it is God Who lives within us and makes us enthusiastic in love for God and neighbor (cf. Greek enthousiazein, which literally means "to have the god within"). 

Our Holy Father shares in this manner that "we open ourselves to others making us members one of another: We are no longer divided, but one thing in him. Eucharistic communion unites me to the person next to me, and to the one with whom perhaps I might not even have a good relationship, but also to my brothers and sisters who are far away, in every corner of the world."  May the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ lead us to experience the passionate love of our Lord Jesus, setting our hearts aflame as we pursue to live always in His holy Love!


Fr. Gregory Gresko, OSB, is a Benedictine Monk at Mary Mother of the Church Abbey in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his S.T.B. from the Pontificial Athenaeum of Sant'Anselmo in Rome and his S.T.L. magna cum laude in Moral Theology (Marriage and Family Studies) in 2008 from the Pontifical Lateran University, John Paul II Institute (Vatican City).  His S.T.L. dissertation was entitled, "Educating to Love: Foundational Pedagogy in Light of Karol Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility". Fr. Gregory is working on his doctoral dissertation for the same Vatican institute, on "The Consecration of the Family to the Heart of Jesus in Light of the Pastoral Ministry of Père Mateo Crawley-Boevey"