... And is so little loved in return!
On 30th May, 1919, the Spanish king Alfonso XIII, together with his wife and members of the Spanish government, trooped to the high hill known as Cerro de los Angeles-- the Hill of the Angels-- and believed to be the geographical center of Spain, to consecrate that great nation to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (photos and information here). The new cult was on fire, gaining widespread popularity in very little time, spreading to Latin America and the Philippines in a few decades. At the feet of the colossal statue of Christ, El Rey, in utter humility, besought the Divine Heart to have mercy on Spain, and offered thanksgiving to Him for their deliverance from the Great War.
In 1936, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, a group of anarchists descended on Cerro de los Angeles. Faced with the massive colossus of the human God, arms spread in blessing, they drew their guns, and in a wicked parody of an execution, shot at the image of Christ, before finally blowing it into dust. The Civil War would leave a nasty gash on the side of the Church in Spain, with thousands of clergy and religious, including elderly bishops, priests, and nuns, were murdered in the most abominable ways possible.
Today, Spain, like the rest of Europe, is secular. Wars and ideologies --soul-killing enterprises-- have soured the Church and religion in general in that continent. There are still remnants of the past, images of Christ and His Mother and the saints of God, that dot the European countrysides here and there, but they no longer remain things to be venerated, nor objects of affection; they are there, no longer as divine helpers, but remembrance of an older age that most would rather forget. But despite being relegated into the sidelines, that image of the man who was God, Who held His beating Heart-- not a representation, but the real organ itself-- flame-crowned and cross-surmounted, remians a silent, if not patient, witness to the comings and goings of a world that has ceased to know what it is to love.
The Sacred Heart, despite its moniker of sacred, that is, set apart, is a remarkably human image. Here is God, not as the divine, all-conquering Hero, but, rather underwhelmingly, as a Man, Whose greatest weapon are not the thunderbolts of Zeus
nor the flaming sword of Kalkin, but a beating, suffering, human heart. This God is the same God Who would rather come to us as a Child-- for indeed, who could fear a Child? Weapons He had not, neither armies, nor titles, nor secular power, and least of all, glory. But He had a Heart-- a Heart so big and yet so fragile, so human, that we should rightfully be overwhelmed by such sweet condescension.
"I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy. (Hosea 11:1 - 9)"
The most wonderful irony in the world is that He had to become man in order to show us that He is, indeed, God-- ever ready to forgive, ever ready to embrace us, even after we have spat on His face so many times before. Heart of Jesus hear, O Heart of love divine! Listen to our prayer, make us always Thine!