Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
by St. Alphonsus Liguori
The Heart of Jesus Christ Panting to be Loved.
Jesus has no need of us; He is equally happy, equally rich, equally powerful with or without our love; and yet, as St. Thomas says, [Opusc. 63, c. 7] He loves us so, that He desires our love as much as if man was His God, and His felicity depended on that of man. This filled holy Job with astonishment: What is man that Thou shouldst magnify him or why dost Thou set Thy heart upon him? [Job vii. 17]
What! Can God desire or ask with such eagerness for the love of a worm? It would have been a great favor if God had only permitted us to love Him. If a vassal were to say to his king, "Sire, I love you," he would be considered impertinent. But what would one say if the king were to tell his vassal, "I desire you to love me"? The princes of the earth do not humble themselves to this; but Jesus, Who is the King of Heaven, is He Who with so much earnestness demands our love: Love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart. [Matt. xxii. 37] So pressingly does He ask for our heart: My son, give Me thy heart. [Prov. xxiii. 26] And if He is driven from a soul, He does not depart, but He stands outside of the door of the heart, and He calls and knocks to be let in: I stand at the gate and knock. [Apoc. iii. 20] And He beseeches her to open to Him, calling her sister and spouse: Open to Me, My sister, My love. [Cant. v. 2] In short, He takes a delight in being loved by us, and is quite consoled when a soul says to Him, and repeats often, "My God, my God, I love Thee."
All this is the effect of the great love He bears us. He who loves necessarily desires to be loved. The heart requires the heart; love seeks love: "Why does God love, but that He might be loved Himself," [In Cant. s. 83] said St. Bernard; and God Himself first said, What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but that thou fear the Lord thy God, . . . and love Him? [Deut. x. 12] Therefore He tells us that He is that Shepherd Who, having found the lost sheep, calls all the others to rejoice with Him: Rejoice with Me, because I have found My sheep that was lost. [Luke xv. 6] He tells us that He is that Father Who, when His lost son returns and throws himself at His feet, not only forgives him, but embraces him tenderly. He tells us that he that loves Him not is condemned to death: He that loveth not abideth in death. [l John iii. 14] And, on the contrary, that He takes him that loves Him and keeps possession of him: He that abideth in charity, abideth in God, and God in him. John iv. 16] Oh, will not such invitations, such entreaties, such threats, and such promises move us to love God, Who so much desires to be loved by us?
Affections and Prayers
My dearest Redeemer, I will say to Thee, with St. Augustine, Thou dost command me to love Thee, and dost threaten me with Hell if I do not love Thee; but what more dreadful Hell, what greater misfortune, can happen to me than to be deprived of Thy love! If, therefore, Thou desirest to frighten me, Thou shouldst threaten me only that I should live without loving Thee; for this threat alone will frighten me more than a thousand hells. If, in the midst of the flames of Hell, the damned could burn with Thy love, O my God, Hell itself would become a paradise; and if, on the contrary, the blessed in Heaven could not love Thee, Paradise would become hell. Thus St. Augustine expresses himself.
I see, indeed, my dearest Lord, that I, on account of my sins, did deserve to be forsaken by Thy grace, and at the same time condemned to be incapable of loving Thee; but still I understand that Thou dost continue to command me to love Thee, and I also feel within me a great desire to love Thee. This my desire is a gift of Thy grace, and it comes from Thee. Oh, give me also the strength necessary to put it in execution, and make me, from this day forth, say to Thee earnestly, and from the bottom of my heart, and to repeat to Thee always, My God, I love Thee, I love Thee, I love Thee. Thou desirest my love; I also desire Thine. Blot out, therefore, from thy remembrance, O my Jesus. the offences that in past times I have committed against Thee; let us love each other henceforth forever. I will not leave Thee, and Thou wilt not leave me. Thou wilt always love me, and I will always love Thee. My dearest Saviour, in Thy merits do I place my hope; oh, do Thou make Thyself to beloved forever, and loved greatly, by a sinner who has offended Thee greatly.
O Mary, Immaculate Virgin, do thou help me, do thou beseech Jesus for me.