Bishop Hying

This Lent, enter into a deeper relationship of love and trust with the Lord Jesus through his Sacred Heart

As published in the Northwest Indiana Catholic on February 24, 2019


      Even though Lent is late this year, it is already just around the corner, with Ash Wednesday falling on March 6. Like many of you, I am pondering what to do this year during our holy season of prayer and penance, as we prepare to celebrate the great Paschal Mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. In addition to the usual “giving up” of things, I really want to focus on prayer this Lent.

      As we continue to move forward in the implementation of the synod, which heartens and inspires me as I learn about all the wonderful things happening in our parishes, we need to remember that the ultimate goal is not programs and activities. My deepest desire, one I know you share, is the transformation of hearts and spirits, that all of our people fall in love with the Lord, encountering Jesus Christ, applying his teachings and wisdom to their lives, giving themselves more generously in love and service to others, and finding salvation and life in abundance.

      Prayer is the fundamental spiritual practice which builds our relationship with God and fuels the mission of the Church; prayer moves our hearts and opens our souls to the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit. Without prayer, our faith dissolves into a collection of ethical directives; without prayer, Jesus becomes a historical figure remote from our own experience. Our culture suffers a crisis of prayerlessness where the center does not hold, because God is not the focus and passion of our common daily existence.

      This Lent, I am focusing my prayer on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because the Heart of the Lord is the blazing furnace of God’s mercy, the sacramental center of Christ’s life and mission, the point of reference for the nature and look of sacrificial love - this Heart, wounded, bleeding, crowned with thorns. This Heart which beats forever, pulsating out the life, forgiveness and resurrection won for us on the cross!

      In the Gospels, we see the unconditional love of God manifested in every word, action and gesture of Jesus.  His Heart is moved with pity for the crowds, he weeps at the death of Lazarus, his parables speak of tender mercy and extraordinary love; he is constantly healing, forgiving and blessing. Christ wants every person to know the radiance of the Father shining through his own Heart.

      Ponder Jesus’ Heart during the Passion, pierced, crushed, bleeding and dying. The Preface for the Votive Mass of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus says it beautifully: “For raised up high on the Cross, he gave himself up for us with a wonderful love and poured out Blood and water from his pierced side, the wellspring of the Church’s sacraments, so that, won over to the open Heart of the Savior all might draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” 

      This Divine Heart, conceived in the womb of the Virgin, loving humanity with an unconditional power, ceased to beat in the horror of Good Friday, yet came to life again in the wonder of the Resurrection and lives forever. This fiery heart at the center of the universe!

      The heart is a symbol of our affections, feelings, love and suffering. We speak of broken hearts, joyful hearts and hearts given away to another. The heart represents the deepest part of a person, that secret inner chamber of hope, desire, pain, joy and sorrow. To say, “I love you with all my heart” is a significant statement, or “My heart is not in it” speaks of a profound disconnection. The heart is a sign of promise, possibility, tenderness and emotion beyond words.

      In this theological and poetic context, how significant to enter into a deeper relationship of love and trust with the Lord Jesus through His Sacred Heart. I invite you this Lent to join me in focusing our prayer, service and penance on the Heart of the Lord, praying for an outpouring of God’s merciful love upon our diocese and our synod efforts, especially the call to boldly proclaim and zealously spread the Gospel through the joyful work of evangelization. 

      I will be offering reflections on the Sacred Heart of Jesus in this column, in my daily videos, in homilies and other reflections. Soon, we will offer a specially-written prayer to the Sacred Heart, which you may use during Lent and beyond. I ask our parishes, schools, priests, deacons, pastoral leaders, religious communities and lay faithful to join in this prayer during these upcoming days of spiritual preparation for the Paschal Mystery. 

      Studying Scripture, performing acts of charity and service, fasting and sacrificing, forgiving and encouraging, celebrating the sacraments and spending time with the Lord, all done through the radiant prism of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, can only deepen our life-long process of falling in love with God and knowing the abiding presence of Christ within our flesh and spirit.

      Jesus wants to place his Heart within ours, so that we speak, act and love as extensions of his radiant presence in the world. In John 7:35, Jesus says, “Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says: Rivers of living water will flow from within him.”

      The more we allow the Lord to truly take possession of us, the greater will be the force of that overflowing fountain of the Holy Spirit, blessing and anointing everyone around us. My prayer is that this Lent, all of us will enter more deeply into the Heart of Christ, even as he has entered into us!


       + Donald J. Hying

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