A timely devotion.
As the month of June draws to close, so does our month long meditation on the Sacred Heart, and it is useful to turn again to the pages of Fr Bierbaum’s homilies on the topic which we mentioned in the last post. Below is a selection from his sixth homily regarding the devotion to the Sacred Heart and its great importance today. The pious preacher outlines that is precisely in devotion to the Sacred Heart that we are to find solace in the impious world. He mentions that it is indeed a timely devotion, one which is directly in opposition to the proud and selfish spirit of modernity.
“But to come to our own times, do they not bear a striking resemblance to the age in which Jesus revealed His Divine Heart to the world? Do we not find the same appalling coldness and indifference towards God and everything holy? Yes, men frequently are not satisfied with turning and wresting hearts from God, but would were it possible, drag the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth from His throne. The history of our day records the most horrible crimes against God, against Christ, against the Church and her head, against innocence and virtue, against every social right and duty; and these crimes are not only perpetrated with satanic deliberation, but in cold blood approved and publicly extolled. Satan, in a word stalks through the world, followed by an innumerable throng of exultant satellites from all conditions and all ranks in life.
Man sees himself encompassed with a chaos and wild disorder which he is powerless to rectify and every quiet thinker asks himself: How will it all end? What will it lead to? Whither are we drifting?
But in the midst of this night and obscurity which darken the spirit and threaten to spread ever farther and farther, the Sun of grace shines with still greater splendour in the firmament of the Church: the Divine Heart of our Saviour rises before us, shedding luminous rays of grace and glowing love. We are invited, nay, implored to fix our eyes upon this triumphal sign of victory, to hasten to this Heart and draw from It the fulness of light, strength and perseverance. In this cold unloving age, the bride of Christ directs us to the loving Heart of her Founder and Spouse, Who offers, not a few marks of love, but all the love of His Divine Heart, that it may soften and enkindle a return of love in ours. In this sensual enervating age the Church, the teacher of mortification, shows us the Heart of her Master, which, as the seat and source of love, was also the centre of all the suffering which It endured from the first moment of Its earthly existence until It was broken and pierced on the cross.
Yes, the Heart of Jesus is the remedy chosen and appointed by God Himself for the great evil of the day; and anyone who considers the needs of his times will confidently and devoutly have recourse to the Sacred Heart of the Saviour. The spirit of this Heart is directly contrary to the spirit of the age; if we were to represent the latter, it would be in the form of a heart without the cross - that is without faith; a heart without thorns, yet apparently encircled with roses - that is, a heart thirsting for earthly things; a heart from which issue no burning flames - that is, a cold and loveless heart…There can hardly be found in history a time when so much has been said of faith and when men have believed so little as at the present day. All assail the Catholic faith, however great their ignorance or meagre their knowledge of it. Not only Catholics, but Protestants, Jews, Turks, infidels of all classes, deem themselves fitted to sit in judgement, to decide, to determine upon matters of faith.
In this age so devoid of hope it is the thorn-encircled Heart of Jesus with Its sacrificial symbols which shows us our true destiny; which impressively reminds us of the value of a human soul created for a glorious end; which forcibly tells us, ‘The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that shall be revealed in us’(Rom 8:18); it is this Heart which shows us suffering as the path which Jesus trod, as the royal road which leads to the crown of life. Thus, the Heart of our Redeemer is a salutary and efficacious solace in the sufferings which come to all, but which are truly sweetened and softened to all who bear them with Jesus.
The heart of the present age is a heart devoid of love. this is a fact which we cannot sufficiently deplore; a fact which shows most clearly the decline of Christianity, for our Saviour has made love the characteristic mark of His true disciples: ‘By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another’(John 13:35). At the present day, however, everyone seeks himself, and considers his neighbour only in so far as he can use him for his own ends.
What is to remedy this capital evil? What is to rekindle love in the cold hearts of men, if not the loving Heart of our Redeemer which so loudly preaches love? This Heart sending forth streams of grace and burning rays of love! This Heart that endured all things for all men; this Heart that sought not Itself, but us alone, in all that It suffered; this Heart that offers all things to all who lovingly draw near to It - only this Heart can rekindle love which is extinguished, and will rekindle it in all that confidently have recourse to It.
Yes, the Heart of Jesus is the remedy for the great evils and needs of our time.”
Fr. Ewald Bierbaum, Six Sermons on Devotion to the Sacred Heart, (New York, Benziger Brothers, 1886). Sermon Six.