Want revival? The Sacred Heart shows us what it takes

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Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart of Jesus and Angels - Mosaic on the facade of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. Maria.Ratta / Shutterstock.com

Every sincere Catholic hopes for a revival of the faith — even if we don’t all agree about what that should look like. But now that the National Eucharistic Pilgrimage has begun, and the National Eucharistic Congress being held in Indianapolis is only six weeks away, I expect that the inside baseball debate over how what is and isn’t being done will intensify.

And that’s a shame. Because if we really wanted revival as much as we say we do, I suspect we’d be a little less intent on telling the Holy Spirit how to do his job, and more focused on what’s required of us to do ours. What exactly is our job? The Sacred Heart of Jesus — to which the month of June is dedicated — shows us.

The importance of repentance

When it comes to a movement of God’s grace, our first and foremost task is to receive it. That might sound simple, and in some ways, it is. But the disposition to receive doesn’t just fall from the sky. It requires something of us: repentance. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus emphasizes this. When St. Margaret Mary Alacoque saw a vision of Christ, she was inspired with deep sorrow for sin. And there’s plenty to be sorrowful about. The Christian response to sorrow to sin, however, isn’t self-pity or despair, but repentance. If we try to ignore it or save ourselves, we will fail. Only the mercy of God can succeed. Only repentance opens our hearts to God’s grace.

Repentance always precedes revival. That is why John the Baptizer (whose feast is also in June) was sent to prepare the way for Jesus. His baptism of repentance in the Jordan was how God prepared his people to receive the gospel of salvation. This still holds true today. If we want to see revival, we must first come to God in a spirit of repentance.

Sustaining the revival

Our secondary task when it comes to revival is to do what we can to sustain it. Here, too, the Sacred Heart of Jesus can give us a glimpse into what that might mean. Jesus’ words to St. Margaret Mary are poignant: “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love.” The Sacred Heart is a suffering heart, one pierced by indifference, crowned with thorns and yet burning with unquenchable love.

To sustain authentic spiritual revival, our hearts must be like Christ’s. That is, we must expect to suffer as he did and cultivate a willingness to do so. How? First, by leaning into whatever cross God asks us to bear. The true disciple takes up his cross every day. Sharing in the suffering of Christ has always sustained the mission of the Gospel. Those who offer their suffering in union with his passion and death work out their own salvation and contribute to the salvation of others.

Repentance and suffering, of course, aren’t usually at the top of anyone’s wish list. But maybe they ought to be. Sin and suffering, after all, are never in short supply, but people who know how to make good use of them certainly seem to be.

Learning from the saints

Most of us are happy to honor the saints, especially if we can avoid having to live the kinds of lives they did. But if more of us decided to turn those tables, I wonder if the revival we hope for would stop being so elusive, so just-beyond-our-reach. If we truly want revival, we must be able to receive the revival we are praying for and repent of our sins in sacramental confession. And if we want to sustain the revival we are seeking, we will commit ourselves to redemptive suffering in solidarity with the cross.

As we look for ways to foster revival in our parishes and dioceses, let’s take our inspiration from the heart of Christ. There, in the most Blessed Sacrament, we encounter the depth of God’s love. There we see the truth of our own sinfulness together with his willingness to suffer — not for its own sake, but for ours. Let us, then, repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And let each and every one of us take up our cross and follow him.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a sinner, Catholic convert, freelance writer and editor, musician, speaker, pet-aholic, wife and mom of eight grown children, loving life in New Orleans.