The Heart of Jesus in the Gospel
Today there is a return to the reading of Holy Scripture in certain groups. Unfortunately, they sometimes have a tendency to place too much emphasis on the Old Testament and neglect the New Testament, that is, the Holy Gospel of Our Lord Jesus and the Epistles of the Apostles. Far from rejecting the Old Testament — to which we owe respect and veneration, for it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit — it is nevertheless only fitting for us to remember that it prepared the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whereas the New Testament is Christ Himself in person coming to teach us directly. Jesus says, Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish, but to complete.
The Old Testament might be compared to the dawn that precedes and announces the Sun, the full Light, Jesus Christ. I am the Light of the world, says Jesus. He who follows Me does not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.
Our current leaders and our society desire PEACE. Never have people spoken so much about peace — and never, perhaps, have there been so many wars and conflicts of all sorts. Man proposes a series of solutions that cannot settle anything whatsoever. Had each Christian put even some of the Gospel precepts into practice, many conflicts would have been settled long ago. Many problems would have been solved. By making peace with God, they would make peace flourish in our society, corrupted by every form of egotism and pleasure. The practice of the Gospel is the only solution. Jesus says, Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all the rest shall be given you besides.
The following is a text by the Rev. Canon Alfred Weber (1843-1912), author of “The Four Gospels in One” and founder of the Catholic Work for the Spread of the Holy Gospel, in Verdun, France. He spent his life spreading the Holy Gospel and teaching people to love it. His motto and that of his Work was: To the Sacred Heart through the Holy Gospel.
What is the Gospel?
We instinctively seek the truth; we want it clear and complete. We avidly seek consolation, for there are so many tears in our hearts. We need a love that is true, deep, immense and ever faithful; without it, life becomes unbearable and the soul sinks into dark despair. But precisely, the Gospel is brimming over with truth, consolation and love.
The Gospel is the Heart that John rested his head upon, the divine feet that Magdalen bathed with her tears. It is eternal love and eternal mercy weeping over Jerusalem, sowing across Judea the words of truth and life that have renewed the face of the earth: What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his own soul? Blessed are the poor!… Blessed are they who mourn!… Blessed are the pure of heart! Let the little children come to Me. Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone. This is My commandment: Love one another as I have loved you. And also, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.
The Gospel is a story: the most beautiful, captivating, sublime story in the world. We should cherish it all the more because it is so closely bound to our destiny and it reveals to us the mystery of our own life.
The hero of this story is God — God who came down from heaven and was made Man for love of us. During the years of His earthly life, He was seen going from town to town and village to village, climbing mountains, sailing to little islets and watering all the roads of Palestine with His sweat, in order to proclaim to one and all the Good News that He was bringing to the world.
He dwelt among us like a friend with his friends, a brother among his brothers. As much and more than we, He worked, He suffered, He wept; but above all He loved… He loved even unto death!
He was so good that He opened His arms and His Heart to every sorrow, every despair. He said: The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for his sheep… How I love My sheep! I came that they may have life, and have it more abundantly. I am the true Physician, and I belong to all who are sick. Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest!… In Me you will find rest for your souls.
And then, to raise up men, His brothers, above their present sorrows to the radiant prospects His Kingdom opened up to them, He taught them in ineffable conversations the secret of a true peace that cannot be found in the world. He drew out for them the royal road that leads to virtue and happiness. He told them of the things of God and of the soul, the things of this passing life and of the life that never ends. He spoke to them of these things with such charm that the crowds were overjoyed and never grew tired of hearing Him. Forgetting even the necessities of life, they followed Him deep into the desert. And when He stopped speaking, a cry of enthusiastic admiration burst forth from every breast: No man has ever spoken like this Man!
This Man was God. Beneath His hand wonders multiplied: wonders of goodness, love and mercy as much as of power. With a word He calmed the fury of tempests; with a few loaves He fed thousands of people; He healed all the sick who implored Him: He restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, made the lame and the paralyzed walk, cleansed the lepers, resurrected the dead.
That life, unique in beauty, goodness and sanctity, that divine life was crowned with the most infamous and cruel death. That was the desire of the Son of God, who had come into this world to shed His blood for the redemption of all. Those whose Friend, Brother and Saviour He had become, those to whom He gave eternal life, heaped outrage upon Him and nailed Him to the cross on Calvary. He had lived as God, He died as God, and three days later He rose again as God. Then He returned on high to His Father in the triumph of the Ascension.
Behold the Gospel! “Immortal Book, deeper than the sages, purer than the virgins, mightier than kings. Open it, and after pressing it to your lips, abandon yourself to it as to your mother’s soul. Your mother came from God, and she loved you; the Gospel also comes from God, and it is the only Book that has received the gift of loving. Every Word of Jesus Christ is an accent of tenderness and a sublime revelation. At the very moment He shows us infinity with His gaze, He presses us to His breast with His arms: We believe we can fly away in thought; we are held back by love.” (Lacordaire)
This incomparable story was first related by the Apostles, who had lived in Jesus’ intimacy during the three years of His public ministry: that was the oral Gospel. It was then dictated by the Holy Spirit to two Apostles and two Disciples. The Apostles, Saint Matthew and Saint John, had seen the Word of Life with their own eyes, had looked upon Him at their leisure, had heard Him and touched Him with their hands. The Disciples, Saint Mark and Saint Luke, had lived respectively in the intimacy of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. They had not known Christ the Saviour in person, but with great care they gathered the living testimony of His divine Mother, His Apostles and all those who had seen and heard Him.
The Saviour already lived and spoke to us in His Church; He lived and loved us in His Eucharist. He wanted to simultaneously LIVE, SPEAK to us and LOVE us in His Gospel: these are three vestiges of Jesus, assuredly very different from one another; but each in its own way is a divinely touching revelation of His Heart.
Life, Word and Heart of Jesus in the Gospel
It is insufficiently known, although it is one of the truths most capable of touching a Christian: Our Lord Jesus Christ is alive in the Gospel.
Bossuet observes: “The Son of God did not come only for His contemporaries in Judea, He came to bring salvation to all men. Thus it was only fitting that the Saviour of the whole world should manifest Himself to the whole world. The great Origen declares it was for this reason that He made the Gospel a sort of second body, to be taken to every area of the world till the end of time.”
Napoleon, the great exile of St. Helena, had an inkling of this wonder and said to one of his faithful companions in misfortune: “No, you see, the Gospel is not a book; it is a Living Being with an action, a power which subdues everything that resists it. Here it is on the table; I never tire of reading it… Once a person has been charmed by the beauty of the Gospel, he no longer belongs to himself. God takes hold of his soul; it belongs entirely to Him.”
Jesus Christ is alive in the Gospel, and HE SPEAKS. Saint Augustine says, “The Gospel is the mouth of Christ. In heaven He thrones in glory; on earth He incessantly speaks.” And His Word is always as penetrating, vibrant and brimming over with light and love as in the blessed days when His voice resounded on the slopes of the Mount of Beatitudes, in the plains of Galilee, on the shores of Genezareth, under the porticos of the Temple of Jerusalem.
Jesus dwells in our Tabernacles, but He veils Himself in silence there. He remains silent there because His Book speaks. And His Book is Himself. Was it possible that Jesus, wanting to dwell among us, would have personally condemned Himself to perpetual silence? And could we, His disciples, His children, resign ourselves to never hearing Him?
True, the Church always speaks to us in Jesus’ name, and whoever hears the Church hears Jesus Himself. Nevertheless, are there not moments in life when the soul needs to hear the very voice of its God resounding in its ear? When it needs even just a single word of Jesus? The soul then exclaims, “No, let it not be Moses or any of the Prophets who speaks to me. You alone, my Lord and my God, speak to me!” And this one word of Jesus says infinitely more to that soul than all the discourses of men, even if they be the holiest among the Prophets.
At such moments it is comforting to kneel by the Tabernacle, Gospel in hand, and relish like Magdalen the Words of Life that fall from the good Master’s lips. The Holy Gospel at the foot of the altar: can there be a collection of meditations more efficaciously sanctifying than that?
Oh please, let us not mutilate the Gift of God! We need our Emmanuel whole and entire, without division or diminishment, at least inasmuch as the conditions of our exile allow. It does not suffice for me to know that Jesus is there in His Sacrament and that He is looking at me. I need the sound of His voice to give joy to my soul; I need His Heart to respond to the outpourings of my own, to tell me over and over all that His love has imagined and continues to do for me, all that my love must strive to do for Him! These are unutterable communications that are made in many ways, but can there be a surer and more delightful way than to receive the very answer of the Master in His Gospel?
That is why the holy Doctors never stopped exhorting Christians to nourish themselves with this divinely substantial Bread. “To be ignorant of the Scriptures is to be ignorant of Jesus Christ Himself,” says Saint Jerome.
Jesus Christ therefore lives and speaks in the Gospel. Above all, HE LOVES! The burning words that issue from His Heart are glowing with love through and through. In His time, people could not listen to Him without feeling their souls catch fire: Was not our heart burning within us while He was speaking? exclaimed the Disciples of Emmaus. Well, the sound of His voice is still the same; it has lost none of its loving virtue. The Gospel is the highest revelation of the Sacred Heart. That adorable Heart glows through every page, beats beneath every word of the Holy Book. It is the Gospel that introduces us into this chasm of love and makes us understand the Cross and the Eucharist.
In the Gospel as in the Tabernacle, the Heart of Jesus is accessible to all. He lives for all; He speaks to all; He radiates goodness, love and tenderness for all; He works miracles of grace. François Coppée, a man who was miraculously touched by the Holy Gospel, bears moving witness to this at the beginning of his book, Bonne Souffrance (Good Suffering):
“During the weeks and months I spent in my bed and in my room, I lived with the Gospel; and little by little, every line of the Holy Book came alive for me. In every word I saw the truth shining like a star, felt it beating within me like a heart. How could I not believe in miracles after the one that Book had just worked in me? My soul was blind to the light of faith, and now it sees it in all its splendor. It was deaf to the Word of God, and today it hears It in all Its persuasive sweetness. It was paralyzed by indifference, and now it rises up to heaven with all the impetus of its love. And the unclean devils that possessed it have been cast out once and for all.”
Evangelical Heart of Jesus, today there is no counting the blind, the deaf, the paralytics and those possessed by unclean devils. Have mercy on so many unfortunate souls and let them hear the cleansing, healing Word!
The Disciple of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The primary, essential duty of a disciple is TO LEARN. And what should a disciple learn? The person of his master first of all, and then his doctrine.
These two studies are actually one and the same in the case of the divine Master and His adorable teachings. They have such close affinities that we often see them enter into one another and even blend into one another.
The knowledge of Our Lord Jesus Christ is the science of sciences — the eminent knowledge, as Saint Paul calls it. Compared to this knowledge, all the rest is less than nothing. I count everything as loss because of the excelling knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord. For His sake, I have suffered the loss of all things, and I count them as dung that I may gain Christ. It excels, dominates, and I daresay encompasses all the others.
The truly learned person is the one who knows Jesus Christ well, relates all things to Jesus Christ, sees all things in Jesus Christ. Viewed in this manner, was there ever a more learned man than Saint Paul? He made it his glory not to know anything… but Jesus Christ and Him crucified?
We would never finish if we pointed out the texts from the Holy Gospel and the Epistles that exalt this eminent science and proclaim its absolute necessity. The author of the Imitation was so struck by this fact that he drew this imperative conclusion: “Let our main consideration be to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.” Obviously, given that it is the eminent science, it requires our maximum application and zeal. Oh, what a beautiful motto for the worthy employment and the sanctification of the Christian life, the priestly life!
It is in the Gospel that the Holy Spirit has portrayed the authentic, living image of the person of Jesus for all who want to see Him. It is in the Gospel that He will appear to us, always full of grace and truth. It is in the Gospel that our awestruck eyes will contemplate Him in the succession of His ineffable mysteries. From Bethlehem to Nazareth, from Nazareth to Jerusalem and through all the other provinces of Palestine, from Jerusalem to Calvary and the Mount of Olives, His entire divine career unfolds in a living, luminous panorama.
Let us listen to Lacordaire: “There you will see Him in person, in the flesh, the expression of His soul and the transparent veil of His divinity. It is not Moses, David or the Prophet Isaiah, however great they may be, who will speak of Him to you. It is His own lips that will tell you His thought, His own eyes that will speak to you of His love, His own hand that will press yours to encourage and bless you.”
We also have the touching testimony of the beautiful soul of a poet soon after he was enlightened and conquered by the Holy Gospel: “O prodigious virtue, O persuasive sweetness of the Gospel, where in every word I saw the truth shining like a star, felt it beating like a heart!” (Francois Coppée)
So it is true, then! In the Gospel, the divinely attractive features of my beloved Saviour reveal themselves to me as through the clearest glass. Mingled with the Disciples, in the company of His divine Mother and the holy women, it is as though I am following Him step by step in His apostolic travels. I hear the enthusiastic cheers of the crowds and the murmurings of the Pharisees. I witness the countless wonders He works all along the way. And when I wish, there He is, alone with me in the desert in an ineffably intimate companionship.
It is up to us to share the Apostles’ privilege. What they saw and heard, they piously noted down. These words, these wonders, all these fascinating things were recorded by them in a Book that is more from heaven than from the earth. And that Book is such a faithful portrait of Jesus, such a gripping and ever-present reproduction of His divine story, that it may be said that the Gospel really is Jesus Christ all over again.
It is Jesus Christ still LIVING, acting before our very eyes and manifesting Himself to every age, down to the last.
It is Jesus Christ SPEAKING, making Himself heard by each one of us, and whose voice reaches every generation, down to the last.
It is Jesus Christ LOVING, revealing His Heart to every creature until the final revelation, which will be the prelude to the eternal triumph of His love.
And it is the glorious mission of the Church to teach us and to show us Jesus Christ in the Holy Gospel, just as it is to give Him to us in the Holy Eucharist.
The Doctrine of the Divine Master
It does not suffice for a disciple to study his master, he must learn his doctrine; and to that end, he must put himself under his discipline. All things considered, and by a unique exception, as we said above, the doctrine of Jesus Christ is Jesus Christ Himself, and His school is the Gospel.
The seventy-two Disciples, full of joy, had returned from their mission in Judea. They had obtained wonderful success. Simple and ignorant, they had crushed hell and broken all the enemy’s power. The Gospel says that at that moment, in a thrill of joy which came from the Holy Spirit, Jesus exclaimed:
O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I bless You for having hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and for having revealed them to little ones! Yes, Father, for such was Your good pleasure.
What are these things revealed to the little ones? They are the ones He discloses Himself, by opening His whole soul, His whole Heart to us, by manifesting His every will to us, and by giving us this adorable definition of Himself: I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.
I am the Way! I do not merely show it like the ordinary guides of the soul. It is MYSELF who am the Way that leads to God: No one comes to the Father but through Me. Now, all humanity must go to God. Therefore, its first and essential need is to know Me, the Way by which it must pass to go to God.
I am the Truth! I do not teach it in the manner of the doctors. I am the One you must know if you want to know the truth, the whole truth. I do not argue in the manner of the philosophers, I declare! “Amen, amen, I say to you!” And when they had heard Me, the crowds exclaimed, No man has ever spoken like this Man. He speaks as one having authority.
To My Apostles and priests I have given no other mission than to be My witnesses, to speak of Me to the ends of the earth as I spoke of My Father. You shall be witnesses for Me… even to the very ends of the earth. When they will have given witness to Me before men, they will have taught them the whole truth, that is, the knowledge of the Father and of the Son.
I am the Life! I find its source nowhere else but within Myself. In Him was life. So whoever thirsts for life, let him come to Me. If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Oh, how deeply My Heart is grieved by those who feel no need to live of My life! To these unfortunate souls, I never stop repeating with the voice of the Gospel, the Church and their conscience, You do not want to come to Me so that you may have life.
Imagine a mother at the bedside of her dying child. In her hand she holds the medicine that can save it, and the child pushes it away with all its remaining strength. Could this mother find feelings of a more sorrowful tenderness in her heart?
Once again, life — true life, life without shadow or decline, life which satisfies every aspiration of the soul — is the loving, adorable knowledge of Jesus. Whoever beholds the Son and believes in Him shall have everlasting life. This is the knowledge of the Father in Jesus and through Jesus.
With the eminent knowledge He has come to bring to us from the bosom of His Father — knowledge that is the principle of life, peace, love and felicity; knowledge which is a burning, glowing torch, a sacred fire that devours all base, depressing lusts and kindles the flame of holy desires within us — Jesus wants to enlighten the world and set it on fire: I have come to cast fire upon the earth, and what is My Will but that it be kindled?
And yet, like the Jews of olden times, so many men, even Christians, disgracefully seduced by the father of lies, are plunging into an ever deeper darkness: the dreadful night of sin, with its mortal anguish and bitter despair! Jesus sees them in every region of the world, bowed beneath a yoke of iniquity and shame. From His Heart, therefore, moved by immense compassion, this merciful, pressing appeal escapes:
Come to Me, all of you! For His gaze has broken through the limits of time and space. It rests upon all peoples, all generations, all the lost souls, all the broken hearts. With an irresistible tone of tenderness He says to them, “Follow these blind guides of blind men no longer; they are leading you into the abyss! Come to Me, unfortunate victims, worn out by fruitless labor, bowed beneath the burden of every misery. Come to Me… and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you. Cast off the abominable yoke of Satan, the sign of your servitude, and take My yoke upon you. It is a yoke of glory and freedom, the yoke of the children of God. In the ancient Orient, the word “yoke” meant the guidance, the teaching, the doctrinal system of a master. Now, Jesus proclaims that He is our only Master: You have only one Master, who is the Christ.
And become My disciples. Learn the knowledge that I bring you from heaven, open My Gospel! Do not be afraid to enroll in My school, for I am a good Master. There is nothing harsh, evil or haughty in Me: I am meek and humble, not like these wolves that come to you in sheep’s clothing, but from the depths of My heart.
Jesus continues: And in My lessons, you will find rest for your souls. You have been tiring yourselves in pursuit of your illusions for so long that you are becoming exhausted upon the pathways of error and iniquity. In Me, in My Gospel, at last you will find what you have been vainly seeking from these hypocrites and liars. Then will you exclaim like Saint Augustine, that illustrious lost soul who became one of the greatest Doctors of My Church, “Lord, You have made us for Yourself, and our heart is in agitation and anxiety until it finds its rest in You!”
Yes, banish all fear, for the yoke I impose is only sweetness and suavity. My burden does not crush; its weight vanishes under the impress of the happiness it obtains and the love it inspires.
The practical conclusion of these divine lessons is that more than ever before, we want to become true and fervent disciples of the good Master.
We will apply great care and our most generous constancy in acquiring the eminent knowledge of Christ Jesus. This we will draw from a diligent, daily, perseverant study of His Gospel. And that it might bear all its fruits, we will pursue it with a supernatural spirit and in prayer, which alone will allow to discover the hidden, divine manna, the super-substantial food that will be a fullness of light for our mind, a heavenly delight for our heart, a superhuman energy for our will.
Thus we will give the Father the glory He desires most and expects of us, for Jesus said, Become My disciples; that is what gives glory to My Father. In general, we isolate the Heart of Jesus Christ far too much from His adored Person. To know the Sacred Heart, it is necessary to know the WHOLE Jesus, for Jesus is ALL HEART. If we limit ourselves to making intellectual dissertations or pious effusions on the subject, without showing the WHOLE Jesus in His Gospel, we will teach merely an empty devotion which nothing sustains, enlightens or enlivens. Never will such a devotion bear the fruit of the sincere and ardent love which makes for great Christians and saints.
Does anyone give his heart to the heart of one he does not know? Does he ever consider submitting to his laws if he does not know them? Of suffering, sacrificing and dying for him? No. Once again, the first condition for becoming attached to the Heart of Jesus is to know Him; and you cannot attain the divine Heart without going by way of the Gospel. The Gospel is the indispensable manual of the devotion to the Sacred Heart.
So let us propagate the Gospel in souls. Then we will infallibly see rising and spreading everywhere a wonderful flowering, a true, solid, fervent, fruitful devotion to the Sacred Heart, a devotion that is truly the summit of the Christian Religion.
From this devotion comes the motto we adopted for our dear Work of the Spread of the Holy Book: To the Sacred Heart through the Holy Gospel!
Source: Rev. Canon Alfred Weber, À l’Évangile! Pourquol et comment lire, méditer, enseigner le Saint Évangile (Verdun, France: 1911).
From: Magnificat Magazine, June 2013, available from Éditions Magnificat, Number 2688
1.Cf. St. Matthew 5:17-18.
2.St. John 8:12.
3.St. Matthew 6:33.
4.St. Matthew 10:26.
5.St. Matthew 5:3-4,8.
6.St. Mark 10:14.
7.St. John 8:7.
8.St. John 15:12.
9.St. Matthew 10:28.
10.St. Luke 19:10.
11.St. John 10:11,10.
12.Cf. St. Luke 5:31.
13.St. Matthew 11:28-29.
14.St. John 7:46.
15.Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, ch. 2.
16.St. Luke 24:32.
18.I Corinthians 2:2.
19.Imitation of Christ, Bk. I, ch. 1.
20.St. John 1:14.
21.St. Matthew 11:25-26.
22.St. John 14:6.
24.St. John 7:46.
25.St. Mark 1:22.
27.St. John 1:4.
28.St. John 7:37.
29.St. John 5:40.
30.St. John 6:40.
31.St. Luke 12:49.
32.St. Matthew 11:28.
34.St. Matthew 11:29.
35.St. Matthew 23:10.
36.St. Matthew 11:29.
39.St. John 15:8.