Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus; it is a feast that helps us to reflect more deeply on the magnitude of Christ’s love for souls. It is a feast that comes with an invitation to experience the “abundance of healing waters, that is, heavenly gifts of divine love, issuing from the Sacred Heart of Our Redeemer,” as Pope Pius XII so wonderfully expresses in the encyclical, Haurietis Aquas, written in 1956, on the occasion of the centenary anniversary of its institution. Pope Pius XII refers to this feast as an “inestimable gift” to the Church, for it is from the Sacred Heart of Jesus that we receive the fountain of living water that heals, purifies, and strengthens us, and that enables us to recognize that we are each infinitely loved by God. This healing and life-giving water, pouring out from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, is what the world, and each one of us, is thirsting for.
What is interesting about this great feast is St. Joseph’s connection to it. Curiously, St. Joseph is addressed in many prayers as the “dispenser of the treasures of the Sacred Heart.” But what does this mean? Firstly, let us recall that the Heart of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, was nourished in Nazareth, in the loving daily life that Jesus shared with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. With Mary, Joseph offered the Sacred Heart of Jesus—the source of mercy and love—all the love, honor, and adoration of his own heart. St. Peter Julian Eymard wrote:
Aside from the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph was the first and most perfect adorer of Our Lord… Saint Joseph joined with Mary in adoration and united himself to Christ, whose heart surged with sentiments of adoration, love and praise for the Father and of charity for men. Saint Joseph’s adoration kept pace with every stage of Our Lord’s life, drawing upon the grace, the spirit, and the virtue of each mystery.
St. Peter Julian Eymard sees in St. Joseph the person who, apart from Mary, most perfectly loved, adored, contemplated, served, and reflected the furnace of love in the Heart of his Son, Jesus. By drawing closer to St. Joseph, we draw close to the one who, after Mary, best penetrated the depths of the treasures found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and who, after Mary, can best help us drink from the life-giving fountain of Christ’s love.
God the Father entrusted St. Joseph, as head and guardian of the Holy Family, with his greatest treasures. In the patriarch Joseph, who was made steward of all of Pharaoh’s possessions and was tasked with feeding the people during a time of great famine, we see the foreshadowing of St. Joseph. As patron of the Universal Church, St. Joseph has the vital role of protecting the Body of Christ, and leading parched and hungry souls, purchased at so great a price, to his Son, the true Bread of Life. Just as Mary, the Mother of Christ, is also Mother of the Body of Christ, the Church, we, the members of the same Body of Christ, are given St. Joseph as our spiritual father and protector. He has the powerful mission of distributing the wealth of graces found in the Heart of his Son to each of his spiritual children, and of sheltering us in his Son’s merciful Heart. St. André Bessette, the great devotee of St. Joseph, explains:
If Jesus remains the sole sanctifier, the never failing source of all graces; if the Blessed Virgin, who came nearest to this supernatural source, being the Mediatrix of all grace, turns the course of that stream towards the earth, then St. Joseph as the protector of the Church, is the steward who distributes the divine favors to men.
Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was popularized thanks to the intercession of St. Margaret Mary Alocoque (1647 – 1690), a Visitation nun. She experienced visions of Christ, who revealed his immense love for mankind, and who also pointed out that, for the most part, his love is rejected, especially in its great manifestation in the Blessed Sacrament. The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is therefore intricately linked to the great gift of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist, with the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus taking place within the Octave of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. In the Eucharist, we, the faithful, truly meet the Risen Lord on fire for love of us and we taste the goodness of his love. We—as individuals, families, and communities—have the opportunity to adore Jesus in the spirit of St. Joseph, who, no doubt, pondered the excesses of God’s love and adored Jesus’s Heart with great gratitude. In St. Margaret Mary’s fourth revelation, which took place on June 16, 1675, Jesus appeared with his Heart exposed and said the following:
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; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for me in the Eucharist. But what I feel most keenly is that it is hearts which are consecrated to me that treat me thus. Therefore, I ask of you that the Friday after the Octave of Corpus Christi be set apart for a special feast to honor my Heart, by communicating on that day, and making to it a solemn act in order to make amends for the indignities which it has endured during the time it has been exposed on the altars. I promise you that my Heart will expand itself to shed in abundance the influence of its Divine Love upon those who shall thus honor it, and cause it to be honored.
Finally, it is providential and deeply significant that St. Joseph should appear in Fatima during the great miracle of the sun, on October 13, 1917, and bless the world with the Child Jesus. At a time when we are witnessing a great crisis of identity, a loss of the knowledge of God and his love, and the crisis of family life and fatherhood, St. Joseph is given to us as a great gift. We are called to turn to him with great confidence, veneration, and love, and place ourselves under his care and protection. On this marvelous feast, may St. Joseph pray for each one of us that we may experience the ocean of love flowing from the Heart of his Son, Jesus, especially in his Eucharistic presence, and, in turn, lead others more deeply into the school of the love of God!