The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates a feast of human and divine paradox. As we ponder the eternal depths, the sorrow and joy of his human heart, pierced for our sins, we focus mostly on Christ’s humanity — he who was and continues to be both true God and true man.
Today I want to focus on the person of Christ — the divine Second Person of the Blessed Trinity — and the impenetrable thoughts of his heart, thoughts naturally inaccessible to our finite minds, yet revealed to us, in part, from his own human lips. He came from heaven to teach us the truth of our human reality: how much God loves us and so wills to save us (John 3:16).
We know whatever God wills, he has the power to do: what he wills to exist will exist at some point in time and what he wills to accomplish will undoubtedly be done, because there are no obstacles to God’s infinite power. And yet, we creatures somehow manage to produce the obstacle in our mind: we doubt.
We think our weakness can somehow outdo God’s omnipotent will, that our sickness and sins might ultimately thwart his power to heal and save. When we do this, we manage the impossible. We put limits on God, for whom all things are possible. When Christ came to save us, he revealed to us on the cross that we have the maniacal ability to destroy the love of God — that is, in a limited way, of course, because God’s love isn’t perishable; but we can put limits on God’s love for us by rejecting it. Yet, by rising from the dead, he also showed that he has power even over that. His love remains unending and unstoppable. His love will never die.
We have only to accept it.
It helps to contemplate a third component, which is inseparable from his infinite power and will — the thoughts of his heart.
That is what this feast is for. In order to explain why we must fathom the unfathomable mind of God, I need to first explain how this is possible for us. To do this I’ll use a simple analogy.
Like a vessel of water, our limited minds are open to the infinite. St Augustine’s story of the boy on the shore trying to fill a hole in the sand with the entire ocean illustrates that we cannot possibly grasp the Holy Trinity in our thoughts. It also illustrates that we can grasp something of it. Not only that, a vase of any size can potentially receive every single water particle in the ocean. Over time, but not all at once, every particle in the ocean can be received into that vase. In a way, our minds are like this with respect to God: our thoughts cannot fully comprehend God’s thoughts, but they can come to assimilate more and more of God, over time, and if God wills it, for all eternity, as long as our minds and hearts are open to receive. What will heaven be like? We don’t fully know, but we can start to fathom it now.
Since God — his power, his will, and the thoughts of his heart — is infinite, and he made our hearts and minds mysteriously open to this infinite capacity, we can go on grasping more and more of God’s love forever, and we will never exhaust it all. He made us to be full of his love, and somehow, always open to take in more without end.
This thought should cause us all to be like the Samaritan woman at the well, in John 4: Keep giving me this water always! We can have this water always if we listen to the Lord and what he said to St Thomas, after he rose from the dead: “No longer doubt, but believe!” Believe in his power, trust in his will, and be filled with the thoughts of his heart.
The picture at the top of this post, from Michelangelo’s Creation of Man, the centerpiece of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, helps to illustrate my point. In a limited way, it artistically represents the effects of God’s omnipotent will flowing from the thoughts of his heart. Critics have observed that the chamber-like floating vessel resembles a human brain in shape, and of course we associate thoughts with the brain — but I don’t think this is so.
In the ancient world, they associated thoughts with the heart. Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the heart, metaphorically, as:
“… our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.” (2563)
Lots to fathom here… What I want to take away from this is how we, metaphorically, understand the heart, ours and God’s, as the inner-chamber of deepest thoughts and desires. I think the chamber surrounding God the Father in the image above resembles a human heart, not a brain. So it represents — contains and gradually reveals — God’s deepest thoughts, which overflow from his heart, like a streams of endless water (notice the blue band seeming to pour out of this heart like flowing water). As God points toward Adam in this painting, at creation, God releases his thoughts and allows his eternal plan to unfold in the history of mankind’s creation, redemption, and eventually, return to where we began, where we always are, where we belong — in the eternal, ever-loving heart of God.
Take time this week, especially this Friday on the Solemnity of Christ’s Sacred Heart, to ponder the thoughts of God. Let them fill your heart and ask him to unite his heart to yours and make your heart more like his.