Jose Rizal’s statue of the Sacred Heart: a theological interpretation
RIZAL’S STATUETTE – MEANING
by Fr. Victor Badillo, S.J.
Attached is a picture of a statuette. Jose Rizal carved it when he was a
student at the Ateneo. He carved it from a piece of batuling, a hard word,
with a penknife. He was then 14 years old. The year, 1875. *
In 1896, he died for his country, shot in the heart by an execution squad. He is now the national hero. He is a national here who never bore arms. No national hero has more public statues in other countries than he. 2011 is 150th anniversary of Rizal’s birth.
The statuette is that of a man whose left hand is hanging by his side with palm facing away from him. His right hand is bent at the elbow with his fist high against his left chest where his heart was. Held in that fist is a heart. The heart is surmounted by flames, and a crown of thorns encircles it. In the middle of the chest is an ugly jagged hole.
Jesus is offering his heart which he has torn from his chest. In offering his heart he tells us, in deeds and not in words, that he loves us to the extent of giving his life for us. This is the message of the crucified Jesus. This is the message of the Heart of Jesus. On the cross, blood and water flowed out. By this he died. By giving us his heart, he dies.
He is offering his heart not to be put beside our hearts. No. He is offering his heart to replace our hearts. “I will take your heart of stone and replace it with a heart of flesh.” I will take your human heart and replace it with the heart of God. God work is not accomplished until he has replaced with his heart the hearts of every man.
He is not a giver until his gift is accepted. Jesus did not redeem the world by his suffering and crucifixion until the Father accepted it, when he raised him from the dead.
He gives us his heart so that in turn we give our heart, his heart, to others. To have his heart is to love as he does. Greater love than this no man hath then that he lay down his life for his friend. He loves us so that we become able to love him. We cannot love him until we have his heart.
At the feeding of the multitude, he feeds them with his word and then feeds their bodies. Later he tells them, “You come to eat bread. Whoever chews my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever.” In the feeding of the
multitude, he lets his disciples distribute the bread. As they do, they tell the people, “This bread is the gift of Jesus. At mass, the priest says, “This is the body of Jesus.” At the Last Supper, Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and says, “Take this broken body and eat it. Take this spilled blood and drink it.”
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a letter to the Jesuits’ Fr Gen
Kolvenbach, S.J. on devotion to the Heart of Jesus. Never in his latter
does he use the phrase Sacred Heart. It is always Heart of Jesus, Heart of
Christ, or Heart of the Savior. From the very beginning of the devotion,
the Holy See has forbidden the representation of just a heart.
Rizal’s representation of the Heart of Jesus as Jesus with his heart in his fist and with an Emptied Chest is not only unique, but dynamic and effective. Conventional representations show a symbolic heart adorning his chest, almost passive.
The Society of Jesus has accepted the responsibility to spread the devotion to the Heart of Jesus as a munus suavissimum (most sweet mission orders).
God bless you and all your efforts. Victor Badillo SJ