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Why Are They Inseparable?

The Sacred Heart of Jesus and The Divine Mercy, Part Two

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By Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD (Jun 12, 2012)
[EDITOR'S NOTE: June is dedicated to The Sacred Heart of Jesus. This series by Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of Divine Mercy, explores the relationship between The Sacred Heart and The Divine Mercy.

The truth is ... that saints, visionaries, and several popes have seen these two things — The Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart — as so closely bound up with each other as to be absolutely inseparable. Thus, we shall argue that the Church needs both the traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart, and the newer devotion to The Divine Mercy, alive and well among the faithful.

Saint John Eudes (1601-1680), for example, was the pioneer of the liturgical worship of the Sacred Heart. But in his "Meditations for the Feast of the Sacred Heart," we find the following revealing passage entitled "The Divine Mercy should be the Object of our Very Special Devotion":

Of all the divine perfections mirrored in the Sacred Heart of our Savior we should have a very special devotion to divine mercy and we should endeavor to engrave its image on our heart.

Similarly, consider the visions and locutions (allegedly) received by Sr. Josefa Menendez in the 1920s, recorded for us in a beautiful little book entitled The Way of Divine Love. The whole book is a tender expression of devotion to the Sacred Heart. However, Jesus also explained to her that the message of the merciful love of His Heart must be proclaimed to all people. She recorded the words of our Lord as follows:

How often in the course of the ages have I, in one way or another, made known my love for men: I have shown them how ardently I desire their salvation. I have revealed My Heart to them. This devotion has been as light cast over the whole earth, and today is a powerful means of gaining souls, and so of extending My kingdom.

Now I want something more, for if I long for love in response to My own, this is not the only return I desire from souls: I want them all to have confidence in My mercy, to expect all from My clemency, and never to doubt My readiness to forgive.

This is what I wish all to know. I will teach sinners that the mercy of My Heart is inexhaustible. Let the callous and indifferent know that My Heart is a fire which will enkindle them, because I love them ... above all that they should trust Me, and never doubt My mercy. It is so easy to trust completely in My Heart ...!

My Heart is not only an abyss of love; it is also an abyss of mercy.

In addition to the saints and visionaries who have seen the Sacred Heart of Jesus as inseparable from His Divine Mercy, two of the popes of the twentieth century have explicitly taught the same thing. In his encyclical on the Sacred Heart, "Haurietis Aquas" (1956), Pope Pius XII wrote:

Christ our Lord, exposing His Sacred Heart, wished in a quite extraordinary way to invite the minds of men to a contemplation of, and devotion to, the mystery of God's merciful love for the human race. In this special manifestation Christ pointed to His Heart, with definite and repeated words, as the symbol by which men should be attracted to a knowledge and recognition of His love; and at the same time He established it as a sign or pledge of mercy and grace for the needs of the Church and our times.

A similar teaching can be found in the encyclical "Dives in Misericordia" of Pope John Paul II. He tells us of the centrality of the Heart of Jesus in revealing God's mercy:

The Church seems in a special way to profess the mercy of God and to venerate it when she directs herself to the Heart of Christ. In fact, it is precisely this drawing close to Christ in the mystery of His Heart which enables us to dwell on ... the merciful love of the Father, which constituted the central content of the messianic mission of the Son of Man.

In short, according to saints, visionaries, and popes, we need to be devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and, at the same time, to have a special devotion to the Divine Mercy that flows to us from His Heart.

The Sacred Heart overflows with Merciful Love for us
We need to try to understand, theologically, why it is said that the Divine Mercy and the Sacred Heart are inseparable.

Basically, there is a short answer, and a long answer to this question. The short answer is: Jesus has only one Heart! His Sacred Heart is His Merciful Heart — they are one and the same. The Sacred Heart overflows with Merciful Love for us, and that is why, in principle at least, these two devotions are inseparable.

The long answer to this question, however, takes us right back to the fundamentals of the theology of the Heart of Jesus.

The human heart is the symbol of the deepest mystery of a person. When we talk about someone's heart, we are talking about what really "makes him tick" — what the person really, deep down, thinks and feels and desires. As the Catechism tells us in no. 2563:

The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart, and know it fully.

Again, our heart is the deepest mystery of our person; it is our "hidden center," from which most of what we think and do and say proceeds.

According to the Bible, some people are cold-hearted, or hard-hearted; they have hearts of "stone." (e.g., Ezek 11:19). The mystery of the Heart of Jesus, however, has been revealed to us through the gospels, and beautifully expressed in His apparitions to St. Margaret Mary. Whatever we may say about other human hearts, this person, Jesus of Nazareth, has a Heart that is aflame with love: love for His heavenly Father, and love for us. That is why He showed His physical Heart to St. Margaret Mary as flaming with fire, surmounted by a cross, and pierced and surrounded by thorns. All of these were clear signs and symbols that this Heart — the person of Jesus Christ — is pure love: the Sacred Heart of Jesus as all love and all lovable.

That is also why one of the great theologians of our century, Cardinal Luigi Ciappi, OP, defined the devotion to the Sacred Heart in terms of the loving person of Jesus Christ:

Devotion to the Sacred Heart is nothing other than veneration for the person of Jesus Christ because of His love for sinful humanity, symbolized by the physical Heart of the Redeemer.

Our task in this devotion is to try to return love for love: by the grace and fire of His Holy Spirit, to love our Lord back for all of His infinite, generous, and tender love for us.

However, there is another way we can view the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Saint Catherine of Siena put it best back in the Middle Ages that God's love always crosses a bridge of mercy to reach us. In other words, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is all love, but the form that love takes when it reaches out to human beings is merciful love. For mercy is compassionate love; mercy is love that seeks to overcome and relieve all the miseries of others. Saint Thomas Aquinas defined "mercy" as "the compassion in our hearts for another person's misery, a compassion which drives us to do what we can to help him."

Divine Mercy, therefore, is the form that our Lord's love for us takes when He meets our need and our brokenness. Whatever the name of our misery may be — sin, guilt, suffering, or death — the Heart of Jesus is always ready to pour out His merciful, compassionate love for us, to help in time of need.

In fact, God's love for His creatures always takes the form of merciful love. As we read in the Psalms (24:10), "all the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;" and again (144:9), "His tender mercies are over all His works."

When He created the world "ex nihilo," therefore, and holds it in being at every moment, it is an act of merciful love: His merciful love overcoming the potential nothingness, the possible non-existence of all things. When the divine Son became incarnate and dwelt among us, that was an act of merciful love too: His merciful love in sharing our lot, showing us the way to the Father, and making the perfect offering for our sins. When He sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts to refresh and sanctify us, that too is His merciful love: His merciful love pouring into our hearts the power to grow in faith, hope, and love, and to serve Him with joy. Psalm 135 says it best; while celebrating all the works of the Lord in creation and redemption, the psalm bears the constant refrain: "for His mercy endures for ever."

It was St. Catherine of Siena who summed up for us the centrality of the merciful love of God for us:

By your mercy we were created. And by your mercy we were created anew in your Son's blood. It is your mercy that preserves us ...

Your mercy is life-giving. It is the light in which both the upright and sinners discover your goodness. Your mercy shines forth in your saints in the height of heaven. And if I turn to the earth, your mercy is everywhere. Even in the darkness of hell your mercy shines, for you do not punish the damned as much as they deserve.

You temper your justice with mercy. In mercy you cleansed us in the blood; in mercy you kept company with your creatures. O mad lover! It was not enough for you to take on our humanity: You had to die as well! Nor was death enough: You descended to the depths to summon our holy ancestors and fulfill your truth and mercy in them ...

I see your mercy pressing you to give us even more when you leave yourself with us as food to strengthen our weakness ... Every day you give us this food, showing us yourself in the sacrament of the altar within the mystic body of holy Church. And what has done this? Your mercy.

O mercy! My heart is engulfed with the thought of you! For wherever I turn my thoughts I find nothing but mercy!

We can sum up this theological exploration as follows: the Sacred Heart of Jesus is perfectly loving — divine, human, and affectionate love — and therefore all lovable. But whenever the love of His Heart reaches out to us — to our nothingness, our brokenness, our woundedness, and our need — that love always takes the form of merciful, compassionate love. Therefore, at the center of our devotional life — our "first love" — should be the Sacred and Merciful Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart overflows with mercy and compassion for us, and that is what makes devotion to the Heart of Jesus and devotion to His Divine Mercy, in principle, absolutely inseparable.

This series continues next week on the topic: "The Devotion to the Sacred Heart Easily Blends with the Devotion to The Divine Mercy."

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donna.e. - Jun 6, 2007

even a catholic child (who goes to mass) knows that the messiahs heart is all mercy and all love, this is made abundantly clear throughout the sacrifice of the holy mass. i dont know anyone who as an adult would ever even question that the divine mercy and the sacred heart are the same thing. his message is the same throughout so i think it kind of goes without saying dont you? he will express his divine mercy through his sacred heart at any given time that he feels necessary throughout the ages, past, present, or future. there can be no sacred heart without divine mercy and no divine mercy without his sacred heart.

humble slave of Divine Love - Jun 17, 2012

Who is like God? The Supreme Spirit, and so Pure, that the angels by contrast are ‘flesh’! He is the Endless, Omnipotent, Eternal, All-inclusive One in the Holy Simplicity of His Pure Reality. The Unchanging One, living in Himself, sufficient unto Himself. What possible use could He have for a human body in heaven? The Incarnation of The Only Begotten Son – the Eternal Word Who was with our Un-begotten Father before the Word was spoken - is already incomprehensible enough; if we accept it as an Act of Unfathomable Love, this life and death, isn’t that sufficient? Why must we also believe that this piece of creation is assimilated into the Eternity of God’s Existence? What for? A bit of earthliness lost and caught up into the Tremendousness of Eternity and into His Boundless Love? Why doesn’t our Lord Jesus Christ - the Logos - shake the dust from Him and return to the Pristine Truth and Pure Clarity of His Free Divinity? Revelation defines such ideas as philosophy or worldly religion, to which Christian faith is by nature and definition diametrically opposed. But then what manner of God is this, with Whom Resurrection, Ascension and Throning on the Right Hand of our Father are possible? Precisely the kind of God who makes such things possible! He is the Living God of the Resurrection, and we must learn that it is not the Resurrection that is irreconcilable to Him, but part of our thinking that is irreconcilable to the Resurrection.

“If we take our Lord Jesus Christ’s Figure as our point of departure, trying to understand from there, we find ourselves faced with the choice between a completely new conception of God and our relation to Him, and utter rejection of everything that surpasses the limitations of a ‘great man’ – our Lord Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of the Living God our Father starting of where human perfection ends revealing our Lord Jesus Christ as the image and expression of the Living God. We must also completely reform our idea of humanity, if it is to fit the mold our Lord Jesus Christ has indicated. We can no longer say: man is as the world supposes him to be; therefore it is impossible that He Throne at God’s Right Hand, but since Revelation has revealed that the Son of Man does Throne at God’s Right Hand, man must be other than the world supposes him. We must learn that God is not only ‘Supreme Being,’ but Supremely Divine and Human Being; we must realize that man is not only human, but that the tip of his essence reaches into the unknown, and receives its fulfillment in our Lord’s Resurrection.

“It is our Lord’s Resurrection that brings ultimate clarity to that which is known as salvation. Not only does it reveal who God is, who we are, what sin really means; not only does it indicate the way to new accomplishment for the children of God; we cannot even say that it “only” propitiates sin by appeasing and making amends to the Living God as reparations for our grievous offenses against Him, anchoring the Superabundance of His Divine Pardon in Justice and Love – but something greater, more vital, in the concrete sense of the word; resurrection consists of the transformation of the totality of our being, spirit and flesh, by the Re-creative Power of God’s Transformative Love and Jesus as our Truly Real and Essential Living Reality and The Life of the soul and His Love, the oxygen of the heart that nourishes the seed of goodness God has implanted in us, not only idea, attitude or orientation. It is the second divine beginning as a new creation in Christ – comparable only to the first, the tremendous act of creation. To the question: What is salvation; what does it mean to save, to have saved, to be saved – no full answer can be given without the words ‘our Resurrected Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus’ commandment of Love, which extols the love of one person for another as the meaning and goal of life, is nothing other that the expression of Inner-Divine Love. We should love one another because God loves us so much and because God simply is Love. And when we are commanded to be as perfect as our Heavenly Father is Perfect, this is only a completion of the Commandment of Love, because perfection consists in, and leads to, Merciful, Eternal Love.

The essential and proper object of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Divine Person of the Incarnate Son of God. Meanwhile, the proper object of Devotion to the Divine Mercy is the Divine Mercy in the Holy Trinity. Divine Mercy is the Personal God and can, therefore, be the object of the supreme act of religious worship. In consequence, the proper object of Devotion to Divine Mercy is different in its scope and wider than the proper object of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Human, Bodily Heart of Jesus is the material object of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Jesus has chosen to be not Himself. Instead, He has chosen to be a Man on earth wholly and completely and to retain His Vision of the Father. He has assumed all the contingencies of our life without distancing Himself from the Father’s Love. He did not lose hold of the idea at the bottom of it all – the idea of being a man among other men out of Love for the Father. This Love, which endures unaltered throughout His Life and which we can corroborate during His entire earthly Life, bears the marks of Divine Love in its unshakeable steadfastness. A person who has made a gift of self lives entirely out of the Love of the Son for the Father. What enables him to lead his life is in no sense of this world. Though Jesus has lived in this world, He did so on the strength of His Inner-Divine Love. The descending Holy Spirit will therefore accomplish in His way the same thing that the Son accomplished living as man: out of the Inner-Divine Love He will administer something that enables man to lay eyes on this Love. The Holy Spirit, Whose descent transforms men and strengthens them in Faith and Love, takes over and continues the Son’s task. To a certain extent, He does so without a sound and without letting His work appear His own. In all this He is bound to the Son in a way that presents a mirror image of the Son’s Loving Obedience to the Father. All this leads back to the Father. It Is not just the manifestation of the Son and of the Holy Spirit that reveals the Inner-Divine Love and its reciprocity between the Divine Persons. Rather, it is each and every word of the Son concerning heaven and His being in heaven.

Our Father to Saint Catherine of Siena:

And let your place of refuge be My Only-Begotten Son, Christ Crucified. Make your home and hiding place in the cavern of His open side. There, in His Humanity, you will enjoy My Divinity with loving affection. In that open Heart you will find charity for Me and for your neighbor…. Once you see and taste this Love you will follow His teaching and find your nourishment at the table of the Cross.

What does the soul discover in the Heart of Jesus which so profoundly affects the life of Saint Catherine of Siena? The father taught her that in the side of Jesus, where the soul finds the secret of the Heart, she knows the Power of Jesus’ Blood which was poured out on the Cross. He then recalled the explanation which Jesus had given her concerning the piercing of His Heart:

“My longing for humankind was infinite, but the actual deed of bearing pain and torment was finite and could never show all the Love I had. This is why I wanted you to see My Inmost Heart, so that you would see that I loved you more than finite suffering could show.”

By shedding both Blood and Water I showed you the Holy Baptism of Water that you receive through the Power of My Blood…. Nor is there any Baptism of Fire without Blood, for Blood has been fused with the Fire of Divine Charity, because it was shed for Love.

The Blood of Jesus, the Power of which is perceived in the Heart, encompass the entire Mystery of God’s Love. In it is expressed the immense vision of His Plan which the Lord graciously revealed to Saint Catherine of Siena. In the Secret of the Heart, therefore, is the All-embracing perspective of the Redemptive Mystery.

As the Father explained: “… I created you in My Likeness and re-created all of you in Grace through My Only-Begotten Son’s Blood.” Each person is required to imitate the example of Jesus in loving the Father.

The essential object of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is the Divine Person of the Incarnate Son of God. Meanwhole, the essential objext of Devotion to the Divine Meryc is the Divine Mercy in the Holy Trinity. Divine Mercy is the personal God as the object of the supreme act of religious worship. In consequence, the proper object of Devotion to Divine Mercy is different in its scope and wider than the proper object of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Human, Bodily Heart of Jesus is the material object of Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the seat of inexhaustible Mercy, but never is the Heart itself presented as the material object of the Devotion. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus requires from us acts of reparation for sinful offenses, while acts of unshaken trust in God are the very essence of Devotion to Divine Mercy.

According to Saint Faustina, God's Holiness comes from His Unchangeable Goodness. His Boundless Love comes from His Holiness. His Inexhaustible Mercy comes from His Unfathomable Love, and His Life-giving Grace (Jesus Himself as the Light, the Love and Life of the soul) from His Endless Mercy.