The Good Odour Of Christ

The Good Odour Of Christ

Sacred Heart

Even though the love of God for humanity was made manifest in the very creation of the world, was continually recalled in all God’s loving acts of benevolence for His people throughout the Old Testament, was fully revealed in the life and death of Our Blessed Saviour and preached by the apostles, St John being the one who perfectly condensed it in the formula Deus caritas est – God is love – all that was not enough for the overflowing love of God Incarnate for us.

As the centuries waxed and waned, and Christendom was rent in two by the great schism between and East and West, then torn apart by the Protestant Revolution, the authentic spirit of Christianity, that God is Love, tended to be overlooked and even forgotten. Christianity came to be regarded as a social phenomenon, and this of course made it impossible to understand it.

It was to remedy such a calamitous situation that Our Blessed Saviour appeared to St Margaret Mary Alacoque. He showed her His Heart saying: “This is the Heart which has so loved men, and which receives from most of them only ingratitude and indifference”. It is the cry of a wounded Heart that rang out from that little French town of Paray-le-Monial in 1673. It was, at the same time, a great divine “hush” that invited men to silence, to leave aside their polemics, and return to the heart of our religion. For the heart of our religion is the Heart of Christ Himself, that Heart of flesh, like ours, which began to beat in the Virgin womb, was opened with the lance on Calvary, and today throbs eternally at the right hand of the Father, as in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, which is why the feast is celebrated immediately after Corpus Christi.

Numerous saints have written eloquently about the Heart of Christ, having recourse to a number of analogies which our office of Matins last Friday brought back to our minds. The Divine Heart is there considered as a magnificent treasure in which the riches of Heaven are stored; as a fountain source from which the torrents of grace flow; as a harp which under the touch of the Holy Spirit gives forth the most ineffable melodies; as a thurible from which the most sweet perfume of all the virtues rises before the Eternal Father; and finally as an altar in which the eternal High Pries Our Lord Jesus Christ immolates Himself.

Whenever then we come to pray before the Blessed Sacrament or attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, let us be mindful of the reality we have before us, and approach with the greatest reverence and humility.

If our first consideration on this feast is the love of God for us manifested in the Heart of Christ, the liturgy equally invites us to consider our own hearts and to renew them. Holy Scripture invites us to “return to the heart” (see Psalm 84), and the prophet Jeremiah complains that the entire world is in desolation because there is no one to ponder divine truths in their heart (see Jer 12:11). In an age of incessant distractions which disperse the mind and dry up the heart, returning to the heart is not only useful, it is absolutely indispensable for whomever does not want to be swept away by the superficiality of the constant noise.

“Who is this that setteth his heart to approach to me, saith the Lord? And you shall be my people: and I will be your God… In the latter days you shall understand these things” (Jer 30:21-24). And what are those things? What is the thought of that Heart: “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore have I drawn thee, taking pity on thee” (Jer 31:3).

The everlasting love of God for us invites us, nay it urges us, as St Paul says, “Charitas Christi urget nos – the love of Christ compels us” (2 Cor 5:14) to respond with love. And how do we do that? I suggest that one way is to make an effort that our hearts too many imitate those five images that were evoked earlier, and which symbolise the Heart of Jesus.

Our hearts need to become treasures, by storing up therein the Divine Words of Holy Scripture and the inspirations received in prayer. Like Our Lady, we must frequently ponder the mysteries of salvation in our hearts, seeking to find therein all the gold nuggets the are hidden under the surface. People should be able to find in our hearts, the gold of charity, the silver of wisdom, the bronze of chastity, the pearl of great price, that is to say, God Himself. No one should ever come to us without being enriched with a treasure that does not disappoint and does not pass.

Our hearts need to become fountains from which the grace of God which has been given to us may flow to others. In a world that is dry as a dead leaf on a hot summer day, the refreshing source of truth and kindness should flow from our souls and water the desert of our modern day wasteland.

Our hearts need to become harps, giving forth that sweet melody of Divine Praise, replete with the most exquisite harmonies. With St Elizabeth of the Trinity, we need to learn that the finest tunes are produced when the heart is under the pressure of suffering. Unless the strings are plucked, they can give forth no sound, but remain silent. So it is that the soul plucked by sufferings, both interior and exterior, is able emit that beautiful music that ravishes the Heart of God and edifies the hearts of men.

Our hearts need to become thuribles from which rise frequently throughout each day the prayers which are like the incense before the throne of God – in odorem suavitatis. That prayer, along with all the holy thoughts inspired during prayer, like that of the angel in the Apocalypse, becomes a fragrant odour before God, moving Him to pour forth His favours upon the world and drawing men to follow after it (see Apoc 8:4). In odorem unguentorum tuorum currimus – we shall run in the fragrance of your perfumes, says the devout soul to Christ in the words of the canticle (Canticle 1:3). And St Paul tells us that we must be in every place the good odour of Christ – Christi bonus odor sumus (2 Co 2:15). And we will be if we remove ourselves from the stench of vice prevalent in the world and stay close to the very source of that sweet odour which is the Heart of Christ.

Finally our hearts need to become altars upon which we learn to sacrifice our every desire, to offer up our pains, our disappointments, our humiliations, our delays, a sacred stone upon which Jesus knows that He can place an offering that will be consumed by fire.

With that word, we come to the essence of this feast : the Heart of Jesus is on fire with love for us, He is consumed with longing for us, and His greatest desire is to see us consumed with love for Him and for souls. With Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and through her own Immaculate Heart we say this ejaculatory prayer that we can repeat throughout the day: Heart of Jesus, burning with love for us, inflame our hearts with love for Thee. Amen.

Sacred Heart