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Letter of John Paul II on the Sacred Heart

On the Occasion of the third
Centenary of the death of Saint Margaret Mary

To Bishop Raymond Seguy

"The Third centenary of the death of Saint Margaret Mary, canonized by my predecessor Benedict XV in 1920, recalls the memory of one who, from 1673 to 1675, was favored with appearances of the Lord Jesus and was entrusted with a message whose widespread influence in the Church has been tremendous. It was during the Octave of Corpus Christi in 1675, in that Grand century, when so many writers and artists penetrated the riches of the human soul, that the young Visitandine of Paray-le-Monial heard these bewildering words:

"Beware this heart which has so loved human beings and which has spared itself nothing even to exhausting and spending itself to give witness to this love; and in recompense for the most part I have recived only ingratitude."

When I was on pilgrimage in 1986 to the tomb of Margaret Mary, I asked, in the spirit of what has been handed down in the church, that veneration of the Sacred Heart be faithfully restored. For it is in the Heart of Christ that the human heart learns to know the true and unique meaning of its life and destiny; it is in the Heart of Christ that the human heart receives its capacity to love.

Saint Margaret Mary learned the grace of loving by means of the cross. In it she delivers to us a message that is ever relevant. It is necessary, she says, "to make ourselves living copies of our crucified Spouse, by expressing Him in ourselves in all our actions." (Letter of January 5, 1689).

She invites us to contemplate the Heart of Christ, that is, to recognize in the humanity of the Word incarnate, the infinite riches of His love for the Father and for all human beings. It is the love of Christ, which makes a person worthy of being loved. Created in the image and likeness of God, the human person has received a heart eager for love and capable of loving. The love of the Redeemer, which heals it from the wound of sin, elevates it to its filial condition. With Saint Margaret MAry, united to the Savior also in His suffering offered for love, we shall ask for grace of knowing the infinite value of every person.

To give to veneration of the Sacred Heart the place due to it in the Church, it is necessary to take up again the exhortation of Saint Paul: "Have within you the sentiments which were in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5). All the gospel accounts should be reread from this perspecyive: each verse, meditated with love, will reveal an aspect of the mystery hidden for centuries and now revealed to our eyes (Colossians 1:26). The only Son of God, in becoming incarnate, takes a human Heart. Through the years He passed in the midst of men, "gentle the humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29), he revealed the riches of His interior life by each of His gestures, His looks, His words, His silence. In Christ Jesus is fulfilled the fullness of the commandment of the Old Testament: "You shall love the Lord with all your heart" (Deuteronomy 6:5). In fact, only the Heart of Christ has loved the Father with an undivided love.

And behold we are called to sahre in this love and to receive through the Holy spirit this extraordinary capacity to love. After their encounter with the Risen One on the road to Emmaus, the disciples were filled with amazement: "Where not our hearts burning inside us as he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?" (Luke 24:32). Yes, the human heart is inflamed by contact with the Heart of Christ, for it discovers in this love for the Father that the risen Lord has accomplished "all that the prophets have announced" (Luke 24:25).

The humanity of the Lord Jesus dead and risen reveals itself to us through contemplation of his Heart. Nourished by meditation on the Word of God, prayer of adoration places us in the closest, most intimate relationship with this "Heart that has so loved human beings." Understood in this way, devotion to the Sacred Heart fosters active participation of the faithful at times of grace in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance; intimately bound to the humanity of Christ given for the salvation of the world, the faithful thus derive the desire to be united to all those who suffer and the courage to be witnesses of the Good News.

I encourage pastors, religious communities, and all animators of pilgrimages to Paray-le-Monial to contribute to the diffusion of the message received by Saint Margaret Mary. And to you, pastor of the Church of Autun, and to all who will allow themselves to be moved by this teaching, I hope you will discover in the Heart of Christ the force of love, the sources of grce, the real presence of the Lord in his Church by the gift daily renewed of his Body and Blood. To each of you, I willingly grant my apostolic blessing."

Pope John Paul II
Feast of the Sacred Heart
June 22, 1990
The Vatican

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