Sacred Heart of Jesus,
Painted by Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787),
Painted in 1767,
oil on canvas
© Church of the Gesù, Rome
For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge
Jesus called the people to him and said, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that come out of a man that make him unclean. If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to this.’
When he had gone back into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples questioned him about the parable. He said to them, ‘Do you not understand either? Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.) And he went on, ‘It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.’
Reflection on the painting
In our Gospel reading today, Jesus talks about the human heart. Less than a week away from Valentine’s Day, we see many depictions of hearts all around us this time of year. The heart shapes are the popular depictions of love, especially of romantic love. In our Gospel reading, Jesus is, however, talking about the true and more wholesome meaning of our human hearts. He states that the human heart is the very inner core of the person. That core can have both light and shade; it can be a source for good and for harm. By the way we live our lives, we can fill our hearts with good things, or we can let badness creep in as well.
One of the great traditional Christian images in art is that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Many of us may have grown up with an image of the Sacred Heart in our homes. These depict Jesus showing off his own heart, so that we as a viewer may follow his own heart. Our calling is to have hearts that reflect the Sacred Heart, to have an inner core that partakes in God’s inner core.
An early version of such a Sacred Heart painting is our artwork by Pompeo Batoni from 1767. Christ is shown wearing a red tunic, which represents the colour of blood, martyrdom and humanity; and a blue mantle which symbolises the colour of heaven and Christ's divinity. Jesus is holding in his left hand an inflamed heart crowned with thorns and with a cross at the top. Batoni's painting immediately gained popularity and became the official image for the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Batoni was born 18 years after the death of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, the saint who inspired the artists of all Sacred Heart of Jesus portraits. Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Mary, who described the encounter in this way: "The Divine Heart was presented to me in a throne of flames, more resplendent than a sun, transparent as crystal, with this adorable wound. And it was surrounded with a crown of thorns, signifying the punctures made in it by our sins, and a cross above signifying that from the first instant of His Incarnation,... the cross was implanted into it.” This painting is still placed above the altar in the northern side chapel of the Church of the Gesù in Rome.
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Dios creo la fe y la razon, necesitamos las dos. Nuestra fe tiene una base teologica. El problema con lo emocional es que puede llevarnos a una fe a mi esstilo, es decir, hoy no voy a Misa porque no tengo ganas. No leo la Biblia porque estoy cansada. Pero la razon nos dice que debemos honrar a Dios nos sintamos bien o no , estemos alegres o no. Debemos estudiar nuestra fe y en el Catecismo esta explicada.
Yes, Our Lord doesn’t look at what’s on your plate, only what’s in your heart!
Ah…an image I frequently saw on holy pictures which I kept in my missal….yes, what happened to them? They do seem rather quaint now – although a few of my friends have a ‘missal’ on their smartphone! And a hymnal….
I’ve got a missal – a new one which I see is printed in China which is somewhat ironic. I also have my old Spanish one which I bought in Seville when I was a boy. Some old ‘holy’ cards in it.
Our faith is strongly based on our heart, our emotions. When super-rationalists query my faith and say it is irrational and unscientific I say that the great majority of the human race cannot live without an emotional life which sustains and fulfills us. Man cannot live by logic alone; to coin an aphorism!
So true Charles. Heart felt, heart ache, heart sore, hard hearted, heart’s ease, heart to heart, etc.etc. so much we consider to be real and true is heart felt.
“Behold the heart that has loved men so much”.
Good for you Chazbo. Yes, we are body, mind AND spirit.
Head or heart? Does, or should, one have primacy over the other? I realised the answer for me a little while ago; there is no devotion to the sacred brain of Jesus. To have a heart to heart with Him is to connect in love and truly a great gift to us. Yesterday was not a good day for me, but if I can wake up every day with love in my heart it is a true grace.
So true. I have met several people who, when grieving or in a hurtful circumstance, switch off the heart and try to get through with their intellect. The pain does not heal if sidelined.
Jesus emphasises that, contrary to the teaching of the Pharisees, it’s not what goes into a man that makes him unclean. It’s what comes out of our core self, our heart, that defiles us.
I’ve been guilty of every one of the “rotten heart” sins listed by Jesus, including murder if I consider what my backstabbing judgements do to a person’s character. How do I receive heart surgery? Well, the confessional is a good place to start. Restitution where possible continues the healing. Inviting Jesus into my heart completes the process.
The children’s song I sing with my grandchildren is a great invocation.
Into my heart
Into my heart
Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
come in today
come in to stay
Come into my heart Lord Jesus.
Saint Philip Neri, please pray for us.
Good one Mike!
Well said Mike. It is often some kind of adversity that tells us just what is in our hearts.
I have been to Paray-le-Monial, town of the visions. It is a holy place.
A wonderful post, definitely from the heart, for which I thank you Mike.