The Sacred Heart and The Divine Mercy

As St. John Eudes was one of the leading proponents of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it is interesting to note that he also discerned a close connection between the Heart of Jesus and The Divine Mercy. In his collection of meditations entitled The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the saint reflects on mercy as the principle perfection of that loving Heart. In the section of that book bearing the subtitle "The Divine Mercy should be the Object of our Very Special Devotion," he writes:

Of all the divine perfections mirrored in the Sacred Heart of our Saviour, we should have a very special devotion to divine mercy and we should endeavor to engrave its image on our heart. To this end three things must be done. The first is to pardon with all our heart and promptly forget the offenses done us by our neighbor. The second is to have compassion on his bodily sufferings, and to relieve and succor him. The third is to compassionate the spiritual misfortunes of our brethren, which are much more deserving of our commiseration than corporal ills. For this reason we ought to have great pity on the numbers of wretched souls who have no pity on themselves, using our prayers, our example, and our teaching to safeguard them from the eternal torments of hell.

This link between the Sacred Heart and the Divine Mercy was further unfolded in the extraordinary series of prophetic revelations received by St. Margaret Mary Alacoque between 1673-75. Margaret Mary was a Sister of the Order of the Visitation. She had little in the way of education, natural talents, or anything else that might have made her stand out from the rest of her contemporaries, but it is just such lowly vessels that our Lord seems to prefer to use when He is imparting extraordinary revelations and graces to His Church.

In December, 1673, St. Margaret Mary received the first of four great apparitions of the loving Heart of Jesus. In the first one, she experienced a mystical phenomenon which we have already seen exhibited in the life of St. Catherine of Siena: a mystical "exchange of hearts" with Jesus Christ, and she wrote: "[our Lord] allowed me to recline for a long time on His divine breast, where He disclosed to me the marvels of His love, and the unutterable secrets of His Sacred Heart."

The second apparition took place shortly afterwards, probably on a First Friday of the month in 1674:

After that the Divine Heart was shown to me as on a throne of flames, more dazzling than the sun and transparent as crystal, with that adorable wound, and surrounded with a crown of thorns signifying the pricks caused to It by our sins; and above there was a cross, which meant that from the first moment of His incarnation, that is as soon as this Sacred Heart was formed, the cross was planted in It, and that It was filled at once with all the bitterness which humiliations and poverty, pains and scorn, would cause to It, and which His Sacred Humanity was to suffer throughout all His lifetime and His Sacred Passion.

And He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification, and salvation which It contains, in order that those who desire to render him and procure for Him all the honour and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source. He should be honoured under the figure of this heart of flesh, and Its image should be exposed. He wished me to wear this image on my own heart, that He might impress on it His love and fill it with all the gifts with which His Heart is replete, and destroy in it all inordinate affections. He promised me that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing It special honour, He would pour forth His blessings and graces. This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion.

Notice that according to St. Margaret Mary, two of the principal "treasures" which Jesus longs to bestow upon mankind from the veneration of His Heart are His "love" and His "mercy." The tremendous compassion of His Heart is also clearly expressed in this passage, for Jesus states that He longs to bestow these blessings upon humanity even though we have wounded His Heart so often and so deeply by our sins. Finally, in this revelation He seems to attribute the lost condition of mankind more to the assaults of Satan than to the corrupt will of human beings.

It is not by accident that our Lord Jesus recalled the world to the mercy and compassion of His Heart at this time in history. In the 17th century the Jansenist heresy in Europe led people to think of God principally in terms of His Divine Justice, while at the same time the Deist philosophers led people to believe that God was merely like a cosmic "Watchmaker," who wound up the mechanism of the world at the beginning of time, and now lets it run on its own through the operation of the laws of nature, without any further care or concern or intervention needed on His part. What Jesus Christ revealed to St. Margaret Mary - and through her reminded the whole Church - was that the God of the Catholic Faith is a God of merciful, compassionate love, summed up and symbolized by the image of His Son's pierced Heart of flesh, aflame with love.

(This series continues next week on the Sacred Heart and The Divine Mercy).

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If the Son of God Himself is overflowing with merciful love, it is no wonder that the New Testament encourages everyone to place all their trust in Him, and in His heavenly Father.