On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, I decided that I would adjust my schedule to attend mass on the first Friday of each month. I was off from work on the first Friday in July. Today I modified my work schedule so I could go to mass first and then go into work later. I don't know what has drawn me to this devotion, and I have much to learn about this devotion. However, I am very glad to be doing this.
St. John Vianney has a wonderful quotation about the Sacred Heart that I find very moving:
Let us open the door of the Sacred Heart, and shut ourselves in for a moment amidst its divine flames; we shall then realize what God's love means.... (Thoughts of the Curé d'Ars, p. 39)
St. John's reflection reminds me of the story in the Book of Daniel of Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego), where the Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar has the three Israelites thrown into a fiery furnace for not worshipping the Babylonian gods (Chapter 3). Instead of being consumed, "they walked about in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God, and blessing the Lord" (Daniel 3:1, following Daniel 3:23). Azariah goes on to say: "And now with all our heart we follow thee, we fear thee and seek thy face" (Daniel 3:18). Then a song of praise is given by the three youths:
Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael, sing praise to him and highly exalt him for ever; for he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the hand of death, and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace; from the midst of the fire he has delivered us. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures for ever. (Daniel 3:66-67)
Sometimes in confession the priest will say, "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good," to which the penitent responds, "His mercy endures forever." I heard that in confession for the first time on Monday. I like that very much. The story of Daniel makes me think of Jesus' Sacred Heart in the sense of being in the fire without being consumed (also reminding me of the Burning Bush), of being protected by God, of being loved despite our sinfulness (much of the prayer of Azariah and the song of the three youths is about Israel's sinfulness and God's mercy). I want to reflect more on St. John's words as I try to enter into the mystery of God's love through the devotion to Jesus' Sacred Heart.