There’s a painting I’ve come across by Count Berthold von Imhoff that is very striking. I know, that’s a bit of an understatement, since everything he has painted is both striking and beautiful.
This one, though, a small framed painting of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, causes me to stop in my tracks. It captures Jesus tenderly and carefully freeing a lamb caught in a thorn bush. The expression on our Lord’s face is one of patient determination, as the helpless lamb looks up at Him with a plaintive look, so desiring to be free. This very moving image also expresses and captures the heart of Jesus which beats with divine love and goes to the very depths in order to save and set free those who are captive and in bondage.
June is traditionally the month where we meditate and ponder the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to Jesus’ Sacred Heart has existed throughout Church history, but in particular it began to flourish in the late 17th century.
St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a Visitation sister from Paray-le-Monial, France, received private revelations and a mission from our Lord to spread devotion to His Sacred Heart. In one particular locution, our Lord spoke to her telling her how eagerly he desired to pour out the fire of His burning love upon humanity in order to save and sanctify them. He then asked St. Margaret Mary to give Him her heart, and she begged Him to take it. The Lord took her heart and placed it within His own Sacred Heart and it was engulfed in His divine charity. Our Lord then removed it and gave it back to St. Margaret, fully ablaze burning with the flame of His love. Jesus gave her specific graces and at the same time a particular sharing in His passion in reparation for those who treated Our Lord with coldness and indifference (Von Glahn, SpiritualDirection.com). Again through her “yes” to our Lord, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus spread throughout the Church.
Both of these images of Jesus freeing the lost sheep and the furnace of divine charity burning within His Sacred Heart give us considerable pause. They are a consolation and ultimately an invitation. To give the Lord our hearts is the best decision we can make, since He is then given the necessary permission to mould, to shape, to heal and to fill our hearts with His mercy and love. It is from this place of union that our hearts learn to beat in accordance with the rhythm of His own pierced heart.
Perhaps the invitation to you from our Lord is to, likewise, give Him your heart.