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Doctrines & Morals
 
 
 
Bishop's Message/Blog

ARCHBISHOP'S JUNE EXHORTATION

Jesus, Make Our Hearts Like Yours     

Dear brethren, I send you greetings in the name of our risen Lord Jesus Christ and offer you his peace as we begin the sixth month of the year. It is of course a great month, one in which the Church puts before us the two greatest hearts – the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary and requests of us to model our hearts on the virtues embodied by these two hearts. Therefore, in response to the Church’s request and our desire to abandon the human nature of our hearts and be transformed we trustingly pray; Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours. When we ask Jesus to make our hearts like his, we seek to give up our hearts in order to receive from him hearts which are firm in faith and merciful, attentive and generous, hearts which are not shut to the cries of others; hearts that are thankful and obedient. And most importantly, hearts which love both God and neighbor.

In the Heart of Jesus, we see the highest expression of love. This is why the Sacred Heart of Jesus defines itself as the “fount of love and mercy.” The heart of Jesus is “Sacred” or “Holy” because it is the real symbol of the Father’s love for humanity as the Scriptures reveal in John 3:16. This love of God for us made manifest in Jesus was the moving force of all he did and continues to do for us.

Out of love he died to save us and after his earthly life he sits at the Father’s right hand interceding for us. The Heart of Jesus never ceases to love us. He sanctifies us through the Sacraments. These are inexhaustible fountains of grace and holiness which have their source in the boundless ocean of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus

When we explore the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we will find love unfathomable to our human intellect. Yes, Jesus is the manifestation of God’s love; he is divine love personified and his Most Sacred Heart is the embodiment of this unmatched love. He totally emptied himself for our sake and even had to die on the cross to show his love as he says, “a man has no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).

But before laying down his life in demonstrable love, he had lived amongst the people to teach and show in concrete terms the love that issue from his Heart. In the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 5-7), he teaches of true blessedness founded on love and the fear of God: poverty in spirit, mourning, meekness, hunger and thirst, mercifulness, purity of heart, peacemaking, persecution, being salt and light to the world, anger being murder, lust adultery, the indissolubility of marriage, oaths, revenge and loving even our enemies. Also, giving to the needy and not judging others. In his whole life he not only taught how to love, but he practiced it.

The Heart of Jesus is meek and humble. It is a heart that is gentle and caring. Aware of the nature of his Heart, he desires that our hearts be like his so that we would find rest and peace. Out of love he invites us to have a share in the nature of his heart where he says, "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt 11:28-29). All those who were weighed down by different burden found rest when they met him: the healing of the leper in Galilee (Matt. 8:1-4), the paralytic at Capernaum (Lk. 5:17-26), and the woman with the issue of blood (Matt. 9:20-22). We find his meekness in his gently saying to the outrageous but penitent sinner amidst wide condemnation from the people while at meal in the Pharisee’s house, “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Your faith has saved you; go in peace” (Luke 7:48.50).

In humility, Jesus submitted to the Father’s will and sought not his glory. Out of humility, he associated with the despised and outcast in Matthew 9:10 and Luke 15:1-2. The same virtue of his heart is seen in his silence in the face of suffering, “He was insulted and did not retaliate with insults; when he was suffering he made no threats but put his trust in the upright judge” (1 Peter 2:23). He did same in the face of false accusation, “We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of tribute to Caesar” (Lk. 23:2). Out of humility, Jesus chose to serve rather than be served (John 13:4-5), took up the nature of a servant and did not cling to his equality with God (Philippians 2:6-7).  

While he walked the earth, Jesus proved he had a peaceful and merciful heart. At Gethsemane, when one of those who were with him stretched out his hand, drew his sword and struck the slave of the high priest cutting off his ear; he did not only stop him but even healed his adversary. Surely, Jesus knew they had come to capture him; did not he himself say, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?” (Matthew 26:55), yet he remained calm and still showed himself as the Prince of peace. What a peaceful and merciful heart! When the soldiers spit in his face, and even slapped him; he did not retaliate but forgave them. His is indeed a peaceful and merciful heart.

He was deeply guided by compassion for others. This is a reflection of his incredible love for sinful, suffering humanity. It is in reference to his compassionate nature that Saint Paul writes, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus’ sympathetic understanding of our weak nature does not mean he condones our failings but that in full acquaintance with our nature and the woes of this world he readily comes to our aid. So when we struggle against temptations, we may be sure that there is one who understands our difficulty and is sympathetic with us, and will be compassionate to us should we turn to him. In Mark 1:41, Jesus showed his emotion for a poor man who was afflicted with the dreaded disease, leprosy. He met Jesus, and kneeling before him, begged “If you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus, “moved with compassion” responded, “I will”, and after a touch the man was instantly cleansed. This was, still is the very nature of his Heart in his relationship with us.

Our Hearts Like Jesus’ Heart

Having experienced the nature of the Heart of Jesus in the passages above, we can see that clearly, our human hearts are different from his. Ours are subject to continual changes due to human weakness. At one time we are glad, at another sad, sometimes calm, at other times troubled, and at times filled with love, at other times filled with hate. His Sacred Heart understands all of these and would make our hearts be like his. Then, we would experience a great and enduring calm, peace, and love for both God and neighbour.

For, if our hearts are in union with his Heart, as in a harbor of protection, we shall be enabled to remain ever the same and unshaken in good deeds; secure against change, whether the winds of adversity or of prosperity were blowing. If we are sheltered in his Heart, no enemy shall hurt us. Continual peace, undisturbed security, true joy of heart would be ours.

Once our hearts are made like his, we would not prize material things over what is pleasing to God. Though we would still make use of them but not esteem them as those whose hearts are not with the Lord do.  This way, we would free ourselves from the irksome and unnecessary things of this world, except what is truly good.

And, empowered by Jesus we would live out the virtues of his Sacred Heart. We will imbibe humility out of which grows meekness. Meekness will control our temper, prevent outburst of anger and impatience, and enable us to bear with the faults and failings of others, even to suffer their injustices without resentment or revenge. Meekness fosters charity and charity is the fulfillment of the whole law. In an atmosphere of peace and charity all other virtues will flourish and bring forth the most beautiful fruits of holiness.

Conclusion

Since we desire that our hearts would be like his through this prayer, Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours; Jesus calls our attention to two of his virtues: "Learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls" (Mt. 11:29). Humility is one of the means to Christian perfection. In humility, we are conscious of our nothingness and our need of God's mercy; therefore we submit to God's holy will and pray for and rely upon the grace of God. God loves the humble, their prayer pierces the clouds and God exalts them. Through the intercession of Mary, whose Immaculate Heart we also celebrate this month, let us continue our journey in life, uniting our hearts with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us learn the complete truth of Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart as Mary learned through the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us keep all that Jesus said and did in our hearts, Let us ponder prayerfully in order to see with a pure heart, Jesus' way of being and acting.

God bless you.

Alfred Adewale Martins                                                                                                                                  Archbishop of Lagos

 



 

 

 

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