Sometimes, people try to pit the devotion to the Sacred Heart against the Divine Mercy devotion. It’s almost like they think they’re in competition or some such rot. The Divine Mercy devotion isn’t a replacement of Sacred Heart, it’s an enrichment — or rather, it’s a return.
The devotion to Divine Mercy enriches the ancient devotion to the merciful Heart of Jesus by focusing on the very heart of that devotion.
Contrary to what many think, the devotion of the Sacred Heart didn’t spring up out of nowhere in the 17th Century. It goes right back to the crucifixion when St John, gazing up at Christ on the Cross, saw blood and water flow from His Sacred Side. (Jn 34:19)
Following St John, the Church Fathers meditated on Christ’s pierced side. They understood that the two streams of blood and water symbolise Christ’s love and mercy, His passion and His resurrection, and the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism.
As Christians went deeper into the mystery of Blood and Water from the pierced side of Christ, they found His Heart. Anatomically, the blood and water came from his heart and mystically, it was from His Heart that all love and mercy flowed.
Thus, the focus shifted from the wounded side of Christ to His wounded Heart during the Middle Ages. When Christ Himself appeared to St Mary Margaret in the 17th Century, the devotion to the Sacred Heart was well-established and already had a profound heritage.
In the 20th Century, however, the devotion to the Sacred Heart began to decline.
The Heart of Jesus is one of the most beautiful and powerful signs of Christ’s love which redeemed the whole world. We, however, are hard-hearted and dull-minded people. People weren’t interested so much and couldn’t really see the point of this out-dated devotion.
That’s where the Divine Mercy devotion comes in.
Just before the devotion to the Sacred Heart began to decline in popularity, Our Lord appeared to St Faustina in 1931 with the message of Divine Mercy.
If you look at the image of the Divine Mercy, you’ll see that Christ is pointing to His Heart, hidden from view. This is His Sacred Heart. From His Heart, two streams of light emerge: one whiteish-blue and the other, red. Christ explained to St Faustina,
The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the water that makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls… These two rays issued forth from the very depths of My tender mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. (Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, 299)
Similarly, the three o’clock prayer invokes the Heart of Jesus,
O Blood and Water,
which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus
as a fountain of mercy for us,
I trust in You.
While the devotion to the Divine Mercy can easily stand alone, it also deepens and renews the mystery of the Heart of Jesus.
It’s almost like Jesus hides His Heart once again so that He can invite us deeper into the ocean of its abyss all over again.
He takes us back to the beginning of this devotion: to the Cross where St John saw that “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (Jn 19:34)
O Merciful Heart of Jesus, I trust You.