By VERY REV. ALEXIS M. LEPICIER, O.S.M. Consultor of the Sacred Consistorial Congregation, etc.
CHAPTER XXII. THE INCOMPARABLE RICHES OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS
THE glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus surpasses that of every rational being, man or angel. His is a most pure and stain less glory, without shadow of any kind. But it was not enough that our King, Jesus Christ, should be glorious and beautiful in Himself. He has subjects who are poor and needy and who, therefore, cannot be satisfied with the mere glitter of His crown. They have need of help in their want, and company in their misery. Therefore, it was necessary that our King should be rich in order that He might be munificent; that He should be the father of the poor, the helper of the feeble, the protector of the abandoned. Hence, the Father enriched Him beyond the dreams of avarice so that He could be able to deal out help liberally and generously to His subjects.
Oh, the riches of the adorable Heart of Jesus, riches of our King, of whom the heavens are a seat and the earth a footstool, and to whom by reason of the Divinity hypostatically united to His Humanity, belong all that belongs to the Most High! Well may we, His subjects, rejoice in having such a King. Well may we exult and be glad because those hands, so cruelly pierced for us, cannot but bestow on us precious gifts, copious treasures of grace and salvation. With reason, then, does Holy Church invoke the Heart of this most sweet King: "Heart of Jesus most merciful"— "Cor Jesu, multae misericordiae" ; and furthermore: "Heart of Jesus, rich to all those who invoke Thee"— "Cor Jesu, dives in omnes qui invocant te"
The unsurpassed riches which the Heart of Jesus lavishes upon us, come to us in a two fold way; that of His clemency and that of His munificence. Clemency is that virtue which stoops compassionately toward the culprit and with a pitiful hand lifts him out of the mire of sin; munificence scatters with a free hand treasures and graces upon the poor, and rejoices to see them enriched and loaded with precious gifts. Now, the Heart of Jesus is both clement and merciful toward us. The Holy Gospel, which is all interwoven with strands of His clemency and munificence, rep resents Him to us as a bearer of pardon and peace; and as sowing, wherever He goes, the inexhaustible treasures of His kindness. (Acts X, 38.) It will not be amiss to set down here some examples of the munificence and clemency of Jesus. Let us begin with His munificence. Opening the Holy Scripture, we find that the multitude having followed Jesus for three days to hear His voice were still fasting. What did Our Lord do? Moved by the tenderest pity He cried: "l have compassion on the multitude" (Mark VIII, 2.) Immediately, He commanded His apostles to distribute to the crowd the bread and fishes which in His omnipotence He multiplied. When all had had enough, there were still twelve basketfuls left. And the crowd enthusiastic, for this regal munificence, proclaimed Him their King with a loud voice and sought to crown Him, but He fled from them and hid Himself. But this is only a pale image of the liberality with which Jesus treats His faithful subjects.
This tender Saviour unceasingly pours forth His gifts among men, even such as are His enemies, keeping open to them that inexhaustible treasure of grace, the holy sacraments, which are the means by which the bounteous mercy of His Heart abides with us forever. This mercy displays itself both in the sacraments of the living and in the sacraments of the dead. In the former, that is, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Extreme Unction, Holy Orders and Matrimony, it is displayed in the form of munificent gifts; in the latter, that is, in Baptism and Penance, it is displayed in the form of clemency.
Great is the munificence of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; great also is its clemency, of which the Psalmist says that it covers the earth. (Ps. CXVIII, 64.)
As the office of mercy is principally to relieve the misery of our neighbor, we may first cast a glance at this same misery, the better to understand how Jesus succors His suffering brethren. See that immense crowd of men, in whose hearts lodges sorrow, on whose fore heads may be read an indescribable unhappiness, who lifting their hands toward Heaven exclaim in supplication: "Give us this day our daily bread": the bread to sustain this miserable body, but yet much more, the bread which satisfies the famishing soul, the bread which comforts, which gives vigor and strength to continue the pilgrimage of this life between thorns and briars until it reaches the holy mountain of God.
Now, behold Jesus Christ, our beloved King, full of compassion, who, lifting up His eyes to His heavenly Father, blesses the bread, saying: "This is my body" (Matth. XXVI, 26; Mark XIV, 22; Luke XXII, 19; I Cor. XI, 24.) which He after wards breaks for mankind who await it. O marvelous gift, O sacred banquet! How good, how great, how munificent Thou art in Thy gifts, O King of our hearts! Who would not weep with tenderness at seeing Thee, our glorious Sovereign, more gentle and generous than any mother, give Thy little children, who are Thy own beloved subjects, Thy flesh as food, and Thy own blood as drink? And who would say that this is not the gift worthy of a divine King, nay, the gift above all others; because as Thou are infinitely powerful, Thou couldst give nothing greater; as Thou art most wise, Thou couldst give nothing better; as Thou art infinitely good, Thou couldst give nothing more dear and sweet.
But this is not the only gift of Jesus to man kind. The Blessed Eucharist is not the only pledge of His love to us unfortunate sons of Adam, who by the fault of our first parents have lost the grace of original justice and now have nothing save pains and miseries, each greater and more discomforting than the other. But our merciful Lord cares and provides for all His subjects, whatever their age and condition.
When the child is still a slave of the devil, Jesus approaches it and erasing from its fore head the ignominious brand of original sin en riches its little soul with divine grace. Later, when the young man is about to enter the combat of life, Jesus girds his side with a sword and covers his breast with a cuirass, anointing him as His soldier. If he falls conquered by the infernal enemy, who continually lies in wait for him, Jesus puts out a pitiful hand to help him and raise him up. Finally, when he is about to cross the threshold whence there is no return, the merciful Saviour bids His ministers anoint his feet, to give him strength for that last passage; his eyes, to meet his Judge and bear the sight of Him; his hands, that they may be made worthy to receive the palm of victory.
See how universal and how great is the munificence of this Sovereign, the anticipation of whose gifts left the prophets marveling. Even when with horrible effrontery the subject of this King of love hurls himself against His Majesty exclaiming: "l will not serve" (Jer. II, 20.) what does He do? Does He crush the ingrate under His omnipotent foot, or command the angelic legions which surround Him with naked swords to take vengeance, or to mark him with a sign of His indignation by hurling him into a prison of inextinguishable fire? None of these things. He bends down to the poor wretch and shields Him from the anger of His Father; nay, offering to embrace him, He exclaims: "Son, what have I done to thee or in what have I caused thee grief?. Answer me." 1 And if this son repents, who can tell the ineffable pardoning sweetness of the Heart of Jesus ? He comes down from His throne to meet him; He hastens toward him saying to the angels who look on amazed: "Make merry, because this my son was dead and is come to life again." (Luke XV, 24.)
Now, all this Our Lord does not do for one or two of His subjects only, but for all. This He did for our fathers; He does it for us; and He will do it until the end of time for all those who turn to Him with a pure and upright heart.
Such, then, are the ineffable riches of clemency and mercy contained in the most Sacred Heart of our loving Saviour. Oh, blessed he who draws with joy of this fountain of life, the waters of salvation. (lsaias. XII, 3.)
1 Verse in the Mass of the Presanctified for Good Friday.