Reflection on the Litany of the Sacred Heart from the Catechism pt. 21

My dear parishioners,
    Peace! The Catechism of the Catholic Church mentions the Heart of Jesus variously.  “Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since His Passover.  The phrase ‘heart of Christ’ can refer to Sacred Scripture, which makes known His heart, closed before the Passion, as the Scripture was obscure” (CCC, 112; cf. Luke 24:25-27, 44-46; Psalm 22:14).  how in view of the incarnation He loves with a human heart, and “the Sacred Heart of Jesus, pierced by our sins and for our salvation ‘is quite rightly considered the chief sign and symbol of that … love with which the divine Redeemer continually loves the eternal Father and all human beings’ without exception” (cf. CCC, 470, 478; John 19:34; Pius XII Encyclical Haurietis aquas). One form of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Here we consider the twenty-first of the thirty-three invocations:  Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our sins.
    What does it mean that the Sacred Heart of Jesus is propitiation for our sins?  First, we need to know what is meant by propitiation.  Second, we need to know about sin.
    Our friends at the Oxford Dictionary remind us that propitiation has to do with appeasing, specificcaly mentioning the atonement of Jesus Christ.  The Latin verb propitiare which is the basis of our English term has to do with winning or regaining the favor of God by doing something gracious and pleasing. The Greek terms hilasterion/hilaskomai translate as “propitiation” and “conciliate” meaning expiatory place(s) or thing(s), concretely an atoning victim, the lid of the Ark in the Temple, the mercyseat.  Five verses in Sacred Scripture (Douay)  use the word “propitiation” (Leviticus 23:28 about the Sabbath being a day of propitiation; Romans 3:25 about the propitiation through the blood of Jesus for the remission of sins; Hebrews 2:17 about the Lord Jesus who is our merciful and faithful high priest before the Father for the propitiation of our sins; 1 John 2:2 about the Lord Jesus being the propitiation for our sins and those of the whole world; and 1 John 4:10 about God’s love for us as the motivation for sending the Lord Jesus as a propitiation for our sins).
    All sin is displeasing to God (cf. Isaiah 59:15; 1 Chronicles 21:7; 2 Samuel 11:27; 1 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 John 5:17).  The Hebrew terms hattath, won, pesh as well as the Greek terms hamartano, parabasis, adikia, are all translated into the English “sin” meaning missing, perversity, transgression, evil, miss the mark, suggesting violence, injustice and unrighteousness.  While the Decalogue spells out specific sorts of sins, as do the Beatitudes, suffice it to say this is why and what the Lord Jesus came to save us, why His Sacred Heart was pierced.  His loving obedience unto death is the price of our redemption (Philippians 2:8; 1 Peter 1:19).
    God bless you!
    Father John Arthur Orr


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