When Jesus' Heart Broke

'The heart that did not know hatred, revenge, resentment, or envy...that human heart, overflowing with divine love, is broken.'

The late Henri Nouwen wrote a series of prayers during Holy Week 1986. Though he originally resisted writing about the Sacred Heart, a friend's request led him to focus on this traditional Christian theme. Below are selections from his Good Friday prayer.

Dear Lord Jesus,

You, “the image of the unseen God, the first-born of all creation, for whom all things are created in heaven and on earth, everything visible and everything invisible,” you hang dead on a cross. You have just spoken your last words, “It is fulfilled,” and given up your spirit.

*****

I look at your dead body on the cross. The soldiers, who have broken the legs of the two men crucified with you, do not break your legs, but one of them pierces your side with a lance, and immediately blood and water flow out. Your heart is broken, the heart that did not know hatred, revenge, resentment, jealousy or envy but only love, love so deep and so wide that it embraces your Father in heaven as well as all humanity in time and space. Your broken heart is the source of my salvation, the foundation of my hope, the cause of my love. It is the sacred place where all that was, is and ever shall be is held in unity. There all suffering has been suffered, all anguish lived, all loneliness endured, all abandonment felt and all agony cried out. There, human and divine love have kissed, and there God and all men and women of history are reconciled. All the tears of the human race have been cried there, all pain understood and all despair touched. Together with all people of all times, I look up to you whom they have pierced, and I gradually come to know what it means to be part of your body and your blood, what it means to be human.

*****

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As I look, my eyes begin to recognize the anguish and agony of all the people for whom you gave yourself. Your broken heart becomes the heart of all of humanity, the heart of all the world. You carry them all: abandoned children, rejected wives and husbands, broken families, the homeless, refugees, prisoners, the maimed and tortured, and the thousands, yes millions, who are unloved, forgotten and left alone to die. I see their emaciated bodies, their despairing faces, their anguished looks. I see them all there, where your body is pierced and your heart is ripped apart. O compassionate Lord, your heart is broken because of all the love that is not given or received.

*****

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