This Sunday I preached on the possible conversion of the Rich Man in Jesus’ parable [Luke 12: 13-21] in and through an encounter with the gratuitous and wasteful love of Jesus. In such a meeting, one is given the chance to make the heart of the Lord one’s own, so that one can be refashioned into the image of God. Here I offer the last piece of Alfred Delp’s theological reflection on the devotion to the Heart of Jesus. The next piece will be his prayers to the Heart of the world.
[translated from: Alfred Delp Gesammelte Schriften IV: Aus dem Gefängnis]
Berlin-Tegel Prison, 1944
The historical origin of this devotion as a wider movement comprises the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. The 20th century should actually be capable of understanding this and be prepared. The devotion is, at least, in this respect, a matter of our brokenness and poverty.
The space of time from the 17th to the 20th century sets the emergence of our contemporary world. There are ever new attempts and movements of enlightenment: positivism, idealism, realism, capitalism, techno-science, the modern State, and socialism. Together they all have shaped an image of the world, which has quietly placed burdens and worries on the people of today.
These ideologies proclaim a separate image of God, a separate image of the world, and a separate image of humanity.
One can reduce the image of God of the last 300 years in these particular features. (This helps us no longer). The basic trend remains: the evaporation of a vivid nearness to an ideological shallowness and distance; God as an idea, as a proposition, as an aloof spectator; yes, ultimately the dissolution of the image of God and awareness of God into the nothingness of an atheistic negation or a pantheistic secularism.
This worldview, however, encircles people with ever tighter and more hopeless hardships and demands. The emergence of a pure secularism, the proclamation of the earth as the only realm of meaning and existence of Being, the development of mechanical collectivism: all of these makes the world a hopeless realm of worry, destitution, and encompassing servitude. And this may appear as an inevitability.
The view of humanity in the current age clearly shows the symptoms of a deadly atrophy and paralysis… It suffices to point out the major hardships: the growing isolation of persons, the breakdown of order, society of lifelong commitments; increasing commodification of human persons, the deprivation of distinct faces, the evolution of a type of person of increasing gracelessness and pitilessness.
This world and its people should be addressed by the heart of the Lord, which conveys this message to humankind: the image of God is one of an abundant nearness, a loving conviction, and an urgent request; the image of the world is one of a transformed and consecrated destiny, an open immanence, a transcendence, a conviction, and an integrity.
In the most urgent way man is addressed in his personal atrophy. God in the wordview of the heart of Jesus has overcome the seclusion of the modern person. The God of nearness and salvation is simply and radically the overcoming of helplessness and cruelty.
Here one is given the chance to encounter the Christ– the one who heals, the one who satisfies, the one who carries out salvation, the one who possesses a loving and self-giving disposition [towards us].
Does Christ not fall on his chains? Was he not overcome by abandonment? Was his impotence in his most interior point reversed? Was not this man torn from the masses? Was not his word put to the test by God? Does the lack of mercy of these times completely not break down his claims? And if the eternal spring no longer pours and runs under the blessing fec cor meum secundum cor tuum?
It will be like the beginning: fecit hominem secundum imaginem suam [Gen 1, 27].
This one understands the urgency and beauty of the Lord or he stops being a person and dies.