My prayer life has been inundated by meditations on the open heart of Christ. Meditating on the Sacred Heart becomes even more poignant on Divine Mercy Sunday, which brings to mind the image of Divine Mercy as revealed to Saint Faustina. The image is characterized by red and white rays coming forth from Christ’s heart, the only feature to set this image apart from most other representations of Christ. These rays, so central to the devotion of Divine Mercy, symbolize the blood and water that flowed from the pierced side of Christ after His death. The blood and water in turn symbolize the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism, sources of life, grace, and mercy. It is into this pierced side, the entryway into his heart and the source of grace and mercy, that Christ invites Thomas to put his hand in the gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday.
How beautiful is this open heart that gives freely and “immediately”! It is a fountain flowing continuously, broken open so that the graces can flow liberally over the whole world. An open heart cannot stop its flow. Through pain and anguish he allows divine mercy to spring forth from his heart. It is through this wounded heart that we receive the blood and water that brings us to life.
An open heart does not only indicate a fountain of sacrificial love, but also availability. Christ has created a pathway through his side into his heart, allowing us to be one with him as adopted sons of God and as members of his body through the channels of baptism and the Eucharist. He invites us to come drink in the depths of his divinity through the very flesh of his beating yet broken heart, for the wounds of our Resurrected Lord still remain. His side is not closed off, and neither is his heart!
But Christ’s should not be the only open heart.
“Yet even now,” says the Lord, “return to me with your whole heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning; and tear your hearts, not your garments. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy, and repents of evil.” (Joel 2:12-13)
Divine Mercy and ripping open of hearts are once more closely intertwined in these verses, but this time, the hearts to be opened are our own. God tells his people through the prophet Joel not only to be sincere in their repentance, but also to trust in his mercy! God invites them to return to himself with their whole hearts, and then goes further and tells them to tear their hearts open. This rending of hearts is often considered a symbol of sorrow for sin, for it is given as an alternative to the outward sign of tearing clothes. But an open heart is also a necessary disposition to receive the Lord and his mercy. Only if we follow Christ’s example and rend our own hearts in trust and in love can we fully receive his lifeblood and thus life itself. To be life-giving, blood must enter inside the person through the love and free choice of his own heart.
By letting our hearts be pierced to receive mercy, we become conduits for divine mercy as well. Our hearts, once opened, become hearts of sacrificial love, for open hearts bleed. Those who are brought to life in Christ cannot help but give of themselves to others with mercy for the sake of Christ. To share in divine mercy this way is painful, but blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy! May all our hearts be united with the merciful and torn heart of Christ, and may they be as open as his to give mercy.
“O blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you!”