The Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
(Hosea 11:1.3-4.8-9; Ephesians 3:8-12.14-19; John 19:31-37)
A painting of the dead Jesus by the French impressionist Edouard Manet has an odd look. At first glance we cannot say why, but after staring at it a bit, we ask, “Why is Jesus’ body wound on the left side?” Sure enough, after checking against other portrayals of the crucified, we discover that the Jesus’ lance wound is usually drawn on the right side.
It may not matter to some, but the placing of the wound does say something to others about Jesus. The probable reason why unsophisticated portrayals put the wound on the left side is that they mean to show that Jesus’ heart was wounded. But, as we heard in the passage today, the gospel does not specify which side of Jesus was wounded. Nevertheless, it is more often depicted on the right side because the prophet Ezekiel writes that water came down from the right side of the Temple – the same water of life that the evangelist John intends to signify. An interesting rejoinder is the theory that Jesus’ heart was indeed pierced on the right side because Roman soldiers were taught to deliver a blow to the heart through the right side of their victim since the enemy usually carried his shield on his left arm. Indeed, looking at paintings of the Sacred Heart, we likely see that the right side of his heart is pierced.
The wounded heart assures us that Jesus knows our greatest pain. Nothing hurts more than being betrayed by someone we love. The murder of Caesar by Brutus, the treachery against Othello by his lieutenant Iago, and the jolting of the soldier Don José by Carmen in the famous opera create pathos in us because we know the victim is doubly hurt. The Sacred Heart bleeding from such an injury demonstrates that Jesus does not exempt himself from such suffering. We readily remember the accounts of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. Now we know that we can seek consolation with him in our darkest moments. The Sacred Heart tells us that Jesus loves us especially when we are hurting deeply.