I am not sure when the Feast of the Sacred Heart entered the liturgical life of our community, but it is an image found in Father Benson from the earliest days. Speaking to the All Saints Sisters of the Poor in 1869, three years after the birth of our community, he says:

Love was the guiding principle of [Jesus’] life, and entered into every relationship of his earthly life. Think of the love of Jesus for those who came to him in penitence. Think of the loving grief of that Sacred Heart for all the sin and sorrow and misery that lay around him, – that poor, sin-laden, suffering humanity, which love brought him down to earth to save. And then the love reaching even beyond the grave for the souls gone into the very region of the kingdom of Satan.[1]

On another occasion he tells his listeners,

The love of Jesus is a light within our hearts, quickening the faculties of all our life. However near God might call [us] to himself, it would avail nothing for [our] redemption, it would but show [us our] own sinfulness, and reveal more clearly the meaning of [our] own nature. We must have more than nearness to God, we must have union with [God] – and this can only be in Jesus.[2]

Living then in Jesus, not simply near Jesus, we come to live in the love of Jesus.

Oh live in the love of Jesus, he told the Brethren during the summer retreat of 1874. So shalt thy find thyself satisfied. In the love of Jesus thou wilt know thy sin. In the love of Jesus thou wilt know the worthlessness of the world. In the love of Jesus thou wilt know what the glory of God is. In the love of Jesus thou wilt experience the mysterious foretaste of the abundance of redemptive glory. Oh cherish the love of Jesus![3]

Living in the love of Jesus and cherishing that love, we come to love as Jesus, and with the heart of Jesus.

We must go forth into the world, he tells us, with a heart that imitates the Heart of Jesus. It is for us to seek to have that Heart really communicated to us; it is for us to ask him to take our hearts away and give us his, – that Heart which he yearns to find reproduced.[4]

Living in the love of Jesus, loving as Jesus, with the Sacred Heart of Jesus, beating within our breasts, we come to know the power of the love of Christ as the law of our being, … [loving] all that are around, according to the fullness of the same law. As Jesus loveth all, so must we, if our hearts are really moved by his holy Heart. The love of [others] grows out of the love of God. We love [others] because they are redeemed in Christ. We love them because we see the love of God resting upon them.[5]

In a world marked by fear, injustice, hatred, disease, and poverty, the Feast of the Sacred Heart invites us to another way of life. It invites us to follow Jesus in his way of love, loving all, because they too are loved by God.

Oh we must learn to look into that all-embracing Heart, and therein to attain to love one another. We cannot know the love of Jesus unless we do know that love whereby he redeemed [all humanity]. We cannot know the love of Jesus unless we do know that love whereby he sanctifies the elect. We cannot know the love of Jesus unless we do enter into his mighty purpose. To have our portion in that love implies the full recognition of all who are called to share in the same. Mediate on the necessity of loving one another in as much as all are gathered into the same Sacred Heart, which is the fountain of love.[6]

We have the power to change the world, and that power lies within our breasts, for when we live in the love of Jesus, we will come to love as Jesus, with the very heart of Jesus which transfigures and glorifies all that it touches.


Homily preached by Brother James Koester SSJE on Friday, 19 June 2020, the Feast of the Sacred Heart, in the Monastery Chapel, Cambridge MA.

[1] Benson, Richard Meux, Notes of a retreat given to the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, 1869, as quoted in Look to the Glory, compiled by Granville Mercer Williams SSJE, Cowley – Bracebridge Press, 1966, page 27

[2] Ibid., Notes of a retreat given to the Community of St. Peter, Horbury, Yorkshire, 1873,  as quoted in Look to the Glory, page 28

[3] Ibid., from Instructions on the Religious Life, Second Series, as quoted in Look to the Glory, page 28

[4] Ibid., Notes of a retreat given to the All Saints Sisters of the Poor, 1868, as quoted in Look to the Glory,  page 30

[5] Ibid., Notes of the SSJE Christmas Community Retreat, 1874, as quoted in Look to the Glory, page 28

[6] Ibid., Notes of the SSJE Christmas Community Retreat, 1874, as quoted in Look to the Glory,  page 29

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1 Comment

  1. Pat on June 25, 2020 at 20:44

    This was my father’s favorite image of Christ.

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