Part of our task as faithful Christians and citizens of the world is to engage the deep and probing questions that the great thinkers, wisdom figures, and commentators raise. Perhaps no question is more penetrating, more challenging, and more important than that offered by the amateur philosopher, Tina Turner: “What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second-hand emotion?” It is the question for the ages.
It is the question for today as we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – a feast that offers up in high relief the love of God that has been poured into the world – and continues to the source, the fountain of love that ever pours into the world. (You can read more about the Sacred Heart here.) Today is a feast we celebrate the Love of God.
God’s love has a history. By the 4th century, as the church moved through and addressed the great theological questions of its day, people began to think about the Holy Trinity and the interior life of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Some of the faithful in the Eastern Mediterranean began to reflect on the life of the Trinity before the world began: what were they doing, what was their life like. Those questions and the subsequent ponderings were expanded in the writings of the Cappadocian Fathers of the East, Hugh of St. Victor, and the Franciscan St. Bonaventure – that the inner life of the Trinity is one of relationship in love. They wrote that this fountain fullness of love, intrinsic to the internal life of the Trinity is a perichorisis, a divine dancing in and out of each other that whirls and swirls until it explodes into Creation – giving life. An internal love of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, moving outward, creating the world in love, structuring all life to find its ultimate destiny in love. The history of the world began in love and is aimed toward a great complete and fulfilling love.
We here that basic building block is assumed when the prophet Hosea talks about the love God has for his people – his people – when the prophet tells them, “I drew them with human cords, with bands of love.” The every stitch and material of human life is love. It is the love of which the Song of Songs describes: “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For Love is strong as Death…Deep waters cannot quench love, nor rivers sweep it away.” (8:6-8)
It is the love with which the Father so loved the world that He sent his only Son to redeem and save us (cf. John 3:16). The Son who drew us to himself with human cords, with bands of love, holding back nothing, giving everything even life itself. It was at the moment of his death that Love poured afresh into the world as the soldier’s lance pierced Jesus’ side. And as you will hear in the Eucharistic prayer, “blood and water poured forth, the wellspring of the church’s Sacraments.” The early theologians and mystics followed that stream and began to reflect upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
You can read how the devotion to the Sacred Heart grew and spread, ever inviting the faithful to the wellspring – it is the reason Isaiah 12 if the refrain in today’s psalm: “You will draw water joyfully from the springs of salvation.” In a landmark encyclical, Haurietis aquas (“You will draw waters”; May 15, 1956) Pope Pius XII affirmed that the Heart is the natural sign and symbol of Jesus’ boundless love for humanity, his holy people.
It is that love that pours into us – and from us into the world – into families, marriages, friendship, our words, our actions in order that we write a history of love in our lives. Were you to write your history of love, what would you write? Perhaps that is too tall a task. If you were to write your history of love for just this day, how would it read? Have your words, actions, manner, expressions, and thoughts been loving?
The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart is a celebration of divine love and the history of divine love in the world. It is a reminder we were created in love in a divine dance, a perichoresis, and called to spread that dance into the world.
So that we can answer the question, “What’s love got to do with it?”