Imagine this scene: You are in a terrible accident and an ambulance rushes you to the hospital. Wheeled inside, you are in pain, confused, with bright lights shining in your face. And you hear this conversation above you:
- It’s bad, Doctor, very bad.
- What does she need?
- She’s lost a lot of blood. She’ll need a pint, maybe two at least.
- With my blood type, I’m a universal donor. I can donate.
- Doctor, that’s generous. But is this wise? Also, she sustained violent trauma to her heart.
- Ok. I’m a trained heart surgeon. I can do the surgery.
- Are you sure?
- It can be hard to see with the wounds, but this is my daughter.
- Doctor, it’s very serious. She may need a heart transplant.
- I know. I’ll give her my heart.
What doctor would give his own blood to a patient?
And how could a father donate his heart to his child?
This is the very mystery we celebrate in the Eucharist. Jesus gives us his Body and Blood at every Mass. He allows his Body and Blood to mingle with our bodies and our blood. He seeks to renew us from within. He is truly the universal donor, pouring out his life and love for us at every Mass. As he hangs upon the cross, we see the soldier’s lance piercing his Sacred Heart; from his Heart flows blood and water, images of the sacraments of the Church [see John 19:34]. Water cleanses us from sin in baptism. The Blood of Christ fills the chalice at every Mass. He invites us to receive him in communion. It’s a kind of “spiritual blood transfusion,” drawing us more deeply into his faith, his hope, and his love.
I recall an assignment I had a few years ago. There was a lot of tension and dysfunction in the Catholic Jesuit institution where I was working. This included public arguments, infighting, and backbiting. Sadly, I know I contributed to this situation. One night, I was praying in our Jesuit community chapel. I was hurt, confused, and exhausted. A red candle burned in the dark chapel, honoring the Eucharist which was kept in a small tabernacle behind the altar. I would often go in for a short holy hour (holy twenty minutes?) before going to bed. That night I could feel the raw sorrow inside of me. All I could do was offer it to the Lord; I was offering my heart, which was not a pretty sight. I did sense that the Lord was receptive. He did want me to offer all of myself to him once again. And then, for a moment, just for a moment, like that little red candle, it was as if a ray of light shone from the Eucharist upon my heart. I knelt for another minute, thanked Him, and then settled into the grim reality of waking up and returning to that same brick building the next day.
My assignment didn’t change overnight. But my attitude did. When I arrived the next day, everyone was not a saint (nor was I). I did start listening more and talking less. I complained less and asked God more, “What do You want me to do right now?” I took a new approach, in him. This, my friends, is the Divine Heart Doctor at work.
He promises to perform this “heart surgery” upon us. The Lord says, “I will give you a new heart, a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezk. 36:26). Every sin wounds us. Every sin scars my heart. I am wounded by others’ sins. And my own sin wounds them and me. It’s as if I wield a spear, sharpened at both ends. If I hurt you, I hurt me too. These scars harden my heart, and deaden my response to sin. “Oh, well. Who cares? What can you do?” Worst of all, each sin is a sin against God. God is my Father. He is Love; the Son of God pours out his love for me on the cross and at every Mass. Jesus is the Divine Physician. He is the eternal “Heart Doctor,” binding my wounds, healing me, and uniting me to himself.
“I will give you a new heart, a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh”
Yet he goes further still. Jesus offers His Heart to us. Through the mystic and saint, Margaret Mary Alacoque, we see, “He asked me for my heart, which I begged Him to take. He did so and placed it in His own Adorable Heart… and withdrawing it as a burning flame in the form of a heart,” he places his Heart within hers (from her autobiography). How is this possible? No man could physically do this! True; no ordinary man could. Jesus is no ordinary man. He is Son of the eternal Father, born of Mary. Jesus desires to love others through us.
We all need a spiritual transfusion. These have been grueling months of illness, isolation, lockdowns, and mask wars. He wants to renew us from within by sharing his Body and Blood with us. Some of us need heart surgery or a heart transplant. We celebrate this Heart of Jesus in a special way on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart. It occurs a few days after the feast of Corpus Christi. That’s no coincidence, for these feasts are intrinsically linked. Jesus has a beating Heart and he gives us His Body and Blood. This is the Risen Lord who still bears the wounds of the cross on his Body– on his hands and on his feet and in his Heart. Let us approach this Divine Heart Doctor with hearts open to his love and mercy.
Fr. Joe Laramie S.J. is the National Director of the Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s Prayer Network. He is a National Eucharistic Preacher for the Eucharistic Revival.