April 16, 2002
volume 13, no. 72

The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart

by Father Joseph McDonnell, S.J.

    Reprinted with permission of Catholic Family News, see Editor's Notes below.
Part Eleven

The Sixth Promise:
"Sinners Shall Find in My Heart the Source and Infinite Ocean of Mercy."

1st Point

I. Definition and nature of mercy. God's mercy necessarily limited in its outward manifestation.

    "Mercy ," says St. Thomas, "is an inward compassion for the miseries of others which urges us to relieve them." It springs from charity and is not essentially distinguished from it. Its offspring are patience; meekness, and clemency; patience delays vengeance, meekness represses anger, clemency disposes to pardon the offender. In God, viewed in itself and as one of the Divine attributes, His mercy is infinite. I say viewed in itself, because with regard to the Divine attributes we must distinguish between them as they are in themselves and as they manifest their effects exteriorly in reference to God's creatures.

    The eternity, immensity, wisdom, sanctity of God are absolutely infinite: they do not necessarily express any relation between God and His creatures. On the other hand, God's power, His mercy, etc., in so far as they express the manifestation of God's attributes with regard to creatures, are not, strictly speaking, infinite: thus though there is no limit to God's power, which in itself is infinite, yet there must always be a limit to the number and perfections of the beings which He creates, since all that is created is finite. In this sense, too, the outward manifestation of God's mercy to His creatures is finite and limited.

2. The Scripture and God's mercy.

    The Scriptures are full to overflowing with the praises of God's boundless mercy:

    ". . . His tender mercies are over all His works." [Ps. 144: 9] "The earth, O Lord, is full of Thy mercy: . . ." [Ps. 118: 64] "But the mercy of the Lord is from eternity, and unto eternity upon them that fear Him: . . ." [Ps. 102: 17] ". . . the mercy of God is upon all flesh." [Eccles. 18:12] "For Thy mercy is great above the heavens; . . ." [Ps. 107: 5]
------these are but a very few of the almost innumerable passages of Scripture in which God's mercy is extolled.

3. The mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus during His mortal life on earth.

    But if the Scripture lays very special stress on this particular attribute of God, namely, His mercy, it is above all when it comes to speak of the career of the Redeemer here on earth, that it dwells so constantly and so persistently upon His mercy that it almost seems to put His justice out of sight entirely. Every page of the New Testament bears witness to the untiring mercy of Our Blessed Lord: He tells His disciples that if they are to be true "children" of their Father Who is in Heaven, they must practice mercy in a high degree. [Matt. 5: 44] He rebukes them with severity when they urge Him to call down fire on His enemies: ". . . you know not of what spirit you are. The Son of Man came not to destroy souls but to save . . ." [Luke 9: 55, 56] When Peter asked Him, ". . . Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus said to him: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times." [Matt. 18: 21, 22] Again and again, He sternly rebuked the Pharisees for their hardness and want of mercy towards the sorrowful and suffering, [John 5: 8, Luke 13:10, 14: 3, 6: 7] and still more towards sinners, as in the case of Magdalen and of the sinful woman whom they brought before Him in the Temple. [John 8: 3] With a look of mercy, He converted Peter and made him a lifelong penitent; [Luke 22: 61] even to the last, He was ready to forgive the traitor Judas; [Matt. 26: 50] a word of repentance from the dying thief won him instant pardon and admission to the joys of Paradise; [Luke 23: 43] and His first petition from the Cross was a touching prayer for His executioners: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do . . ." [Luke 23: 34]

4. The mercy of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in His glorified Humanity, and especially in the Blessed Eucharist.

    It is in His glorified humanity in Heaven, above all, that Jesus shows forth the wonders of His boundless mercy. There, indeed, He is the Mediator between God and man, [1 Tim. 2: 5] always living to make intercession for us. [Heb. 7: 25] Seated at the right hand of God, Christ as Man is ever pleading with His Father for us guilty creatures; ever showing to the Eternal Father His Sacred Wounds, the price of our redemption, and by the priceless merits of His Passion and Death turning aside God's indignation, justly roused against us, and winning for us mercy and forgiveness for our sins.

    Yet still more in His wondrous Sacrament of love, the Blessed Eucharist, in the never-ending and stupendous Sacrifice of the Mass in His mysterious Eucharistic Presence in the tabernacle, He is ever draining down upon us the mercies of His Heavenly Father, and winning for us powerful graces of repentance.

    Nothing, in fine, is more appropriately the work of the Sacred Heart than to show forth the riches of God's boundless mercy on the sinner. For this, our Blessed Lord revealed to us the tender love and goodness of His Sacred Heart, that, in the words of Blessed Margaret Mary, He might thus, "draw men from the abyss of perdition and appease the wrath of God, by calling aloud for mercy on the sinner." ------Life and Works of Blessed Margaret Mary, vol. 11]

    * "He has given me to understand that His Heart is all-powerful to give peace to men, by turning away from us the punishments due to us for sin, and obtaining mercy for us." ------Letter 3, Vol. 11, p. 68.

    "He wishes to withdraw many souls from eternal perdition; for His Divine Heart is like a fort, assured refuge for a poor sinners, to enable them to escape the chastisements of Divine Justice roused against them by their crimes." ------Letter 95, Vol. 11, p. 90.

    "He [Jesus] proposes, as He has given His unworthy slave to understand, to restore many souls to life, through the devotion to His Sacred Heart, by withdrawing them from the way of perdition, and overthrowing the empire of Satan in them, in order to establish in its place that of His Divine Love." ------Letter 98, Vol. II, p. 199.

In May: Part Twelve

    EDITOR'S NOTES: Since this site is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we are presenting the Meditations and Commentary first written by Father Joseph McDonnell, S.J. during the pontificate of Pope Saint Pius X. We have received the gracious permission of John Vennari, editor of Catholic Family News to reprint the Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart in The DAILY CATHOLIC. We urge you to subscribe to John's excellent monthly publication for only $20 a year by calling 1-905-871-6292 or e-mail them at CFN.

       The book by Fr. McDonnell has been a favorite of countless Catholics over the decades, and CFN gives it the highest praise, "especially because of the author's erudition in weaving solid doctrinal considerations into his spiritual commentaries. The work is as much a catechism as it is a book of meditations. It continually instructs and uplifts. We pray this series serves as an incentive for more people to practice the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus." We echo our 'Amen' to that and thank John and his publication for allowing us to publish this outstanding work in installments each issue. The one in this issue is reprinted from the January 2001 issue of Catholic Family News.

For past installments of the Archives of The Twelve Promises of the Sacred Heart, see www.DailyCatholic.org/2002pro.htm

For the List of Promises given to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, see Twelve Promises

Wednesday, April 16, 2002
volume 13, no. 72

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