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  • Writer's pictureChurch of St. Mark

From the Heart of the Shepherd

By Fr. David Hottinger, PES - Pastor

From the bulletin for The Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Jun 09, 2024)

Parish School of Prayer, Pt 8: Reparation

No one can wade very far into the Sacred Heart devotion without encountering the notion of reparation. We all know what the word means. It’s the act of repairing something that has been wounded, broken, damaged. In these cases, the reparation is directed towards the Hearts of Jesus (and Mary!), wounded/broken by our sins. 

Simple enough. But wait: Isn’t Jesus already in Heaven? Doesn’t His humanity now enjoy perfect health and eternal bliss? Moreover, even His Heart were hurting, how could we be of help? Don’t we need Jesus to help us? Finally: isn’t Jesus the source of all reparation, having expiated our sins on the Cross? You could imagine a non-Catholic strenuously objecting to the whole “spirituality” of reparation. “You Catholics are nullifying His work of Redemption in favor of your puny works of so-called righteousness!”

Not nullifying it, we respond: participating in it.  Christians are called to share in, not replace, the redeeming work of Our Lord. As St. Paul puts it, “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). St. Augustine expounds: “Christ suffered whatever it behooved Him to suffer; now nothing is wanting of the measure of the sufferings. Therefore the sufferings were fulfilled, but in the head; there were yet remaining the sufferings of Christ in His body.” And Pope Pius XI, in his encyclical on reparation to the Sacred Heart, concludes, “Rightly, therefore, does Christ, still suffering in His mystical body, desire to have us partakers of His expiation, and this is also demanded by our intimate union with Him, for since we are ‘the body of Christ and individually members of it’ (1 Cor 12:27)” (Miserentissimus Redemptor, 14).

Scripture is also very clear that even after His resurrection, Christ still bears His wounds. Though certainly immortal, He remains vulnerable, at least emotionally speaking. Because He remains fully human, His heart is still sensitive to all the emotions that accompany human experience. He can still, therefore, be sad on account of the evils men commit. We know, for example, from His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary, that in His sacred humanity, Jesus experiences bitterness, sorrow, and pain as a result of the coldness and indifference which so many show towards the love He extends to mankind in the Most Blessed Sacrament. 

Moreover, even during His earthly life, by means of His divinity Christ could foresee and therefore be affected in His human heart by what we do and don’t do. And so we can truly console (or offend) Christ during His agony, or crucifixion, by our actions in 2024. Says Pius XI, “Now if, because of our sins also which were as yet in the future, but were foreseen, the soul of Christ became sorrowful unto death, it cannot be doubted that then, too, already He derived somewhat of solace from our reparation, which was likewise foreseen, when ‘there appeared to Him an angel from heaven’ (Lk 22:43), in order that His Heart, oppressed with weariness and anguish, might find consolation” (MR, 13). 

The logic of reparation, therefore, is both sound and simple. It is to seek to console the Heart of Jesus (and His mother’s) by offering what is sweet to them in place of what is bitter. It’s being intentional about pleasing Christ rather than causing Him more pain. 

How might one do that? Many ways. I invite one to pray, for example, the “Prayer of Reparation” which Pius XI provides at the end of the encyclical I have cited. But in that same letter the Pontiff lists several prayer practices that Our Lord Himself has identified as acts particularly pleasing to Him: receiving Holy Communion (especially on First Fridays) with the intention of expiating sin (that is to say, overcoming or offsetting evil by doing something very good) and making a Holy Hour of reparation–spending time with the neglected Christ–especially on Thursdays at 11pm (MR, 12). 

If one studies these actions well, he will see that there is nothing pelagian about them. They are all about letting Christ’s saving power enter into our hearts, to wash away the effects of sin and transform us by the light of His grace. Truly, if sin is theft or flight from God, then reparation is any action that furthers our union with the Christ, anything that perfects our “consecration” to His Heart, and thus works to extend His reign of love more fully over ourselves and the world. Consecration, in fact, according to Pius XI, is for this reason the preeminent act of worship pertaining to the Sacred Heart devotion. But that will have to be left for another installment of this series…

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