His Sacred Heart Longed for The Mass: First Friday Link-up!

The excellent Laura from Catholic Cravings and Ryan from The Back of the World have a blog dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Every first Friday they do a link-up on a specified theme. Laura has been begging me to contribute something for ages, and this is finally my first meagre attempt. ūüôā The November theme:

With these two feasts, we remember those¬†who have fallen asleep in the hope of the Resurrection – the Church Triumphant in Heaven and the Church Penitent in Purgatory. In light of this, we would love to see posts with the following¬†theme: “The love of the Sacred Heart is stronger than death.”

I’ll be upfront: I’m going with the theme, but not in direct connection with the feast days. I might link them in somehow, but we’ll see.¬†My claim today is this:

Jesus longs for and institutes the Mass precisely because His love is such that it shoves death aside. Like a boss.

The Love of the Sacred Heart tramples death in the Holy Eucharist

The latin for “heart” is cordis, whence “core”. So the heart is the core of the person. If Jesus is Love Incarnate, and His heart is the core of His Being, what an intense concentration of love the Sacred Heart must be!! I imagine it to be like the density of a neutron star. Check this out:

A neutron star contains a few solar masses of material squeezed into a radius of only 20 km. This means the matter is so compressed that a thimble full of it would weigh millions of tonnes on Earth.

Unpacking the jargon a bit for the unscientific of you: Imagine a distance of 40km. For Sydney-siders, that’s about the distance from Bondi Beach to Blacktown. Now think of all the matter that makes up the sun. Now think of a few suns. Squish ALL that matter into a space about 40km wide.

… yeah. HECTIC.

And the Love of the Sacred Heart is even more “dense” than that!! I pray with St Paul that the immensity of this sinks in a bit:

“That you, being rooted and grounded in love,¬†may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,¬†and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3:17-19)

At this point, we could probably say, “Well, shoot, of course what chance does death have up against that?!” But that’s not heaps theological. So we press on.

This is the Heart that longed for the Mass. Why did He long for it?

Because Love seeks union. And so to effect the union of the Bridegroom with His Bride, He instituted a means to remain with us, in a true communion. This means is the Eucharist, through which He remains incarnationally with us, and thus when we receive Him, we are united with our Bridegroom in the most intimate way possible. We become nigh inseparable from Him, with only our rejection of Him able to drive a wedge between us:

For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

But what of death?

Jesus’ self-sacrifice of love is one and the same with the sacrifice of the Mass. There is but one Mass, which we all participate in. In our participation, we receive life:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;¬†he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day…¬†He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.¬†As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.¬†This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.”¬†

Furthermore, death is defeated because precisely by dying, Christ took on our deaths, and redeemed them in the Resurrection. We participate in that through baptism, as we are baptised into His death, so it is as though we have died. And by making death the means to life, the love of Christ has thwarted death.

And what of the Communion of Saints? Well, recall that the Mass is one. Therefore, every time we go to Mass, we’re joining with everyone who’s ever gone to Mass, and who ever will, and are participating in the heavenly liturgy which those who have gone to sleep in Christ are already present at! We join the ranks of Mary, the Apostles, St Thomas Aquinas, St Thomas More, (soon to be) St John Paul II, St Augustine… everyone!! Kind of daunting in some ways (like, can these prayer-masters hear how pathetic and distracted my prayers are? how embarrassing!! But good for humility I guess…), but supremely awesome overall.

This isn’t quite the post I set out to write, but it will have to suffice.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

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Jesus’ Longing for the Mass

In my reflections on the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, the Institution of the Blessed Eucharist, I have of late been struck by our Lord’s words to His Apostles:

“I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” Lk. 22:15 (RSV)

The Last Supper

This is also sometimes rendered as:

“‘I¬†have ardently¬†longed¬†to eat this¬†Passover with you¬†before I suffer.” (New Jerusalem)

It has struck me because I cannot imagine making sense of this statement if the Last Supper was just the first of many symbolic meals, as many non-Catholics would claim.

I think we have two options:

  1. Either He is longing for this particular Supper in itself, as a unique and precious event with His Apostles.
  2. Or He is only longing for it insofar as it means that His suffering is near, and He longs for His suffering because He longs to save us, the sheep He loves so dearly.
  3. [Or a combination of both]

Regarding 1:

Think about it. The the pure longing, desire, craving, yearning that Our Lord expresses here, does that match up with an understanding of the Lord’s Supper as mere symbol and remembrance (in the shallow sense of the word)? I don’t think so. If the bread and wine remain as bread and wine, and we “remember” in the sense that we just “think about” what Jesus did for us, then Jesus hasn’t really changed the Passover all that much. The meal is still just a meal, and we just think about a different saving act of God, albeit an amazing one.

Regarding 2:

This is possible in one sense, because surely it is true that in His divinity Christ did have a longing to do whatever necessary for our salvation. I think certainly this reading could be part of what He meant.

However, in seeking His primary meaning, I don’t think it fits. Notice what He says:

“I¬†have ardently¬†longed¬†to eat this¬†Passover with you¬†before I suffer.”

The key is in that second part. What has longed to do? To eat this particular Passover. With who? His Apostles, currently gathered with Him. And when? Before He suffers. This I think separates the Passover and the suffering, in terms of what He’s referring to. His longing has been specifically for this pre-suffering moment, the sharing of this particular meal, which is a Passover meal, with His Apostles.

Furthermore, we mustn’t forget that He was God¬†incarnate. As such, He was speaking of eating, which He does in His humanity, so it is reasonable to think also that He is longing in a human sense also, which brings me to this point:

He is approaching His death. Immediately after this event He goes to the garden where His trepidation, anxiety and stress about what is coming are quite evident. I think its fairly safe to say it didn’t just suddenly appear at that moment, but rather He was masking it rather well, and only towards the end does He allow His suffering to begin to manifest itself. Thus, I think it unlikely that He meant to say that He was longing for the meal as a kind of marker or signpost of the fact that His suffering was imminent.

Stay tuned for the more likely explanation!!!