Friday, June 27, 2014

NOVENA PRAYER TO SACRED HEART: AN INSIGHTFUL ANALYSIS




NOVENA PRAYER TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

This powerful Novena Prayer of Petition recited every First Fridays is characterized by its "Christ-centeredness" and the petitioner's absolute trust and confidence in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Its main purpose is obviously to obtain some important favor from the Lord.

The specific favors/graces requested may vary, depending on the petitioner's intentions, for this is the prayer of anyone in need. But what is common to all petitioners must be the basic attitude of being rooted in a strong faith, sincere humility, and total trust and resignation in the Sacred Heart.

The five paragraphs of the Novena Prayer itself are highlighted in bold prints followed with a brief commentary providing an insightful analysis to reflect on the meaning and detailed content of the entire prayer.

1. Divine Jesus, you have said, "Ask, and you shall receive; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Behold me kneeling at your feet, filled with a lively faith and confidence in the promises dictated by your Sacred Heart and pronounced by your adorable lips, I come to ask this favor: (Silently mention your petitions.)

The first paragraph is introductory in nature and expresses synthetically the two main reasons that have brought the petitioner to approach Jesus.

The first reason is the fact that Jesus himself invited His followers to ask favors from Him. The quotation from Mt. 7:7 is very appropriate and most encouraging in its threefold invitation to ask, seek, and knock.

The second reason is even more compelling: it is based on the fact that Jesus Himself made many valuable promises to the devotees of His Heart. What the petitioner has in mind here are the Twelve Promises made by Jesus Himself through St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and the main one of which is the twelfth which amounts to an assurance of eternal salvation for those who fulfill certain conditions.

Emboldened by such promises, the petitioner finds himself/herself "filled with a lively faith and confidence," and therefore has the courage to present his/her specific request. The One who has promised such precious graces will surely grant the minor ones that the petitioner needs.

2. To whom can I turn if not to you whose Heart is the source of all graces and merits? Where should I seek if not in the treasure which contains all the riches of your kindness and mercy? Where should I knock if not at the door through which God gives Himself to us. I have recourse to You, Heart of Jesus. In you I find consolation when afflicted, protection when persecuted, strength when burdened with trials, and light in doubt and darkness.

This second paragraph is totally devoted to mentioning the other reasons why the petitioner turns to Jesus and no one else. The result is a beautiful and breathtaking list of exceptional "titles/roles" attributed to Him. Jesus is the "Source of all merits and graces"; he is "the Treasure which contains all the riches of kindness and mercy"; He is "the Door through which God gives Himself to us and through which we go to God."

Jesus is the Consoler of those who are afflicted, the Protector of those who are persecuted; the Strength of those who are 'burdened with trials"' and the "Light to those who are in doubt and darkness." This portion of the prayer is a dense summary of the qualities and roles of the Redeemer which make Him lovable and absolutely reliable. He is the real "Tanging Yaman" (Natural Wealth) the only Mediator and Hope of all mankind. Who can compare with Jesus? What could be more encouraging? Jesus is everything. He can do everything!

3. Dear Jesus, I firmly believe that you can grant me the grace I implore, even though it should require a miracle. You have only to will it, and my prayer will be granted. I admit that I am most unworthy of your favors, but this is not a reason for me to be discouraged, You are the God of mercy and you will not refuse a contrite heart. Cast upon me a look of mercy, I beg of you, and your kind heart will find in my miseries and weaknesses a reason for granting my prayer.

These are the considerations that bring the petitioner to firmly believe that Jesus can, indeed grant any petition, no matter how difficult this may seem, After all, Jesus can even work miracles. He performed so many miracles during His Apostolic Ministry! He did so many things which, by human standards, seem impossible.

But at this stage, the petitioner is faced with a big difficulty which comes not from Jesus, but from himself/herself; the awareness of being unworthy to receive the favor requested. Yes, Jesus can do even what appears to be impossible because He is omnipotent. But why should He use His power and omnipotence to please a person who does not deserve to receive such favor?

The petitioner humbly and sincerely admits this. But this is not the end of everything. There is still a glimmer of hope - a hope rooted in a quality of Jesus which had already been mentioned in the second paragraph - His MERCY. The petitioner may be "unworthy" because of his/her sinfulness, but Jesus is merciful. And His Mercy is immensely more important than the unworthiness of the sinner.

This is why, at this stage, the petitioner's certainty that Jesus is "the God of Mercy" becomes for him/her a source of courage - a courage that overcomes any uncertainty that could derive from the awareness of one's own sinfulness. Now the petitioner knows for sure that the merciful Jesus "will not refuse a contrite heart."

But this is not all. A most unexpected sentence, at the end, of this third paragraph, strikes us like an incredible paradox: the very "miseries and weaknesses," which should lead to the refusal of the requested favor, become the very reason for granting his/her prayer! This is quite an unconventional logic which defies any human logic. But things are really so because of Jesus' mercy, because of His merciful Love!

4. O Sacred Heart, whatever may be Your decision with regard to my request, I will never stop adoring, loving, praising, and serving You. My Jesus, be pleased to accept this my act of perfect resignation to the decrees of Your adorable Heart which I sincerely desire may be fulfilled in and by me and by all Your creatures for ever.

In the light of these considerations, all difficulties appear to have been solved. And yet a cloud still seems to cast a shadow on the petitioner's horizon; the possibility that his/her petition may not be granted. These things happen. It has already happened many times, that a petitioner did not get his/her wish, no matter how good the intention was and the need pressing. 

After all, God is absolutely free. He may have His own reasons for denying a favor, or postponing it almost indefinitely, or for commuting it into something else that seems irrelevant.

This chilling prospect tests the faith of the petitioner. The unmentioned struggle ends with the heroic decisions to unconditionally accept Jesus' decision with complete resignation. No resentment. No arm-twisting. No threats of "retaliation" as some disgruntled petitioners sometimes harbor in their hearts. Just a simple, straight, humble acceptance of Jesus' decision.

Nor is this all. Even in the event of a negative answer, the petitioner declares, "I will never stop adoring, loving, praising, and serving You!" Such "perfect resignation," such a heroic acceptance of God's will definitely reveals a strong faith and an immense love for God that far outstrips any unworthiness deriving from human frailty and sinfulness.

What matters most is not what the petitioner wants or needs, but that God's will be done. This is what we proclaim in "The Lord's Prayer," the model of all prayers. This was the conclusion of Jesus' prayer in Gethsemane, Such should be the closing sentence of all our petitions.

5. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I know that there is but one thing impossible to You: to be without pity for those who are suffering or in distress. Look upon me, I beg of You dear Jesus, and grant me the grace for which I humbly implore You through the Immaculate heart of Your Most Sorrowful Mother. You have entrusted me to Her as Her child, and Her prayers are all-powerful with You. Amen!

The prayer could have ended that way, But it does not. The prospect that the grace requested my be denied inevitably hurts the sensitivity of the petitioner. He/she desperately needs help. For all his / her heroic readiness to accept a negative answer, he / she would be much happier to have the requested favor granted. That is why he / she makes one last appeal to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in a daring remark: "I know that there is one thing impossible to You: to be without pity for those who are suffering or in distress."

And the basis for such undying hope is in the Gospel of St. John, specifically in the episode of the wedding at Cana and the moving scene of the last moments of Jesus' earthly life on Calvary. At Cana there was a "crisis situation." It was solved thanks to Mary's intercession. Jesus granted Her request in spite of some objective difficulty.

That was not an isolated case. It established a precedent. It was meant to be a pattern that would be verified endlessly in the history of the Church and of each trusting human being. The powerful intercessory role of Mary, Jesus' Immaculate Mother, is clearly evident at Cana and was universalized on Calvary with that brief sentence of the dying Christ: "Woman, here is your son!"

That "son" was not just John, the disciple whom Jesus loved in a special manner. It was every human being, especially when in distress. A mother's heart cannot be insensitive when a child of hers is in need of help. Will a Mother's petition/intercession be ignored by the all-loving and omnipotent Elder Brother? The answer to this question is found in the episode of Cana and in Mary's instruction, "Do whatever He tells you." This is what ground the conclusion of the prayer to the Sacred Heart.


Jess P. Balon
THE MESSENGER OF DIVINE LOVE
Volume III Number 4
April - June 2009