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Karl Rahner on the Sacred Heart of Jesus

by Robin Ryan, C.P. | June 19, 2009

The German Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner (1904-1984) was known for his rather dense, academic theological writings. But he also authored a number of meditative spiritual writings that are very inspiring and thought-provoking for our life with God. Today, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I share with you a selection from one of his writings on the Sacred Heart. Rahner had a deep devotion to the mystery of the pierced heart of Christ and he thought that this was a church devotion that would endure through the ages. He believed that it communicated the core, the very heart, of the Christian message of God’s infinite love poured out in Christ. At the conclusion of this essay, Rahner wrote these words:

“We look at the heart of the Lord and the question that is decisive for eternity fills our innermost being, our innermost heart and life: Do you love me? Do you love me in such a way that this love generates a blessed eternity, that it truly, powerfully and invincibly generates my everlasting life? This question is not answered because the answer would no longer be a secret; we could give it to ourselves. The question enters the mystery that has come near to us in the heart of the Lord. But when it enters this heart, because it is asked with faith, hope and love, that question is not answered but overpowered by the mystery that is love, by the unquestionable reality of the mystery of God. . . .

It is impossible properly to teach devotion to the Sacred Heart. With confidence in the Church and the Spirit, we must try to approach its mystery. We must eventually, in the luminous and in the dark hours of life, try to pray: ‘Heart of Jesus, have mercy on me.’ We should perhaps try to practice a prayer like the Jesus prayer of the Russian pilgrim. We might venture to use this word like a mantra in Eastern style meditation. But over and above all that, we must experience in life that it is most improbable, most impossible, and so most evident that God, the incomprehensible, truly loves us and that in the heart of Jesus Christ this love has become irrevocable.”

(“Devotion to the Sacred Heart Today,“ Theological Investigations, volume 23, 127-128)

Author information Robin Ryan, C.P.

Robin Ryan is a Passionist priest and theologian who serves as Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Catholic Theological Union. He received his Ph.D. in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America. He is the author of numerous articles and recordings on theological and spiritual topics. He edited and contributed to the book Catholics on Call: Discerning a Life of Service in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2010). He is the author of God and the Mystery of Human Suffering: A Theological Conversation Across the Ages (Paulist Press, 2011). He is the author of the forthcoming book Jesus and Salvation (Liturgical Press). He is also a contributor to and English-language editor of the forthcoming Diccionario de la Pasión (Madrid, San Pablo) and the founding director of Catholics on Call.

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