Understanding the Hearts of Jesus

     by Thomas A. Stobie, SFO

Cross in Heart Image Introduction

Many have heard of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Merciful Heart of Jesus (associated with the Divine Mercy mysteries). How do they interrelate? Fewer have heard of the Suffering Heart of Jesus. How does it interrelate with the other two? Why are there different Hearts of Jesus? What is the appeal of the different Hearts of Jesus?

Cross in Heart Image Discussion

Jesus has only one Heart, so they all must be either the whole Heart or part of the entire Heart.

When we study the Hearts of Jesus, we observe that the Sacred Heart mysteries include all aspects of the Merciful Heart mysteries and all aspects of the Suffering Heart (also known as a Wounded Heart) mysteries. We also find that the Merciful Heart and Suffering Heart emphasize different aspects of Jesus' love while the Sacred Heart emphasizes the whole mystery of Jesus' love.

For a detailed explanation of devotion to the Sacred Heart, see New Advent's Catholic Encyclopedia, under Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For a detailed discussion on the Merciful Heart of Jesus, see The Image of Divine Mercy by Robert Stackpole.

So the Sacred Heart of Jesus represents his whole heart while the other two represent different aspects of it, his mercy and his suffering for us. We can think of it like a coin. Just as there are two sides of a coin, there are two key aspects of Jesus' heart.

Cross in Heart Image Sacred Heart of Jesus
Emphasis: Jesus' Love for us
  • Jesus gives us his infinite love
  • We are called to love Jesus with our whole being, mind, heart and soul.
  • We are invited to meditate on Jesus' love for us.
  • It embodies the properties of the Merciful & Suffering Hearts as well.
Cross in Heart Image
Merciful Heart of Jesus
Emphasis: Jesus' Mercy for us
+ Suffering Heart of Jesus
Emphasis: Jesus' Redemptive Suffering for us
  • Jesus offers each of us forgiveness for the wrong we have done, calling us back to him, understanding that we truly do not understand what we do.
  • We are called to accept God's unconditional love for us, his forgivenss for our wrong doings, and endeavor to live a holy life.
  • We are invited to meditate on the infinite mercy of Jesus and how much he loves each of us individually.
  • Jesus offers his life for each of us, suffering when we suffer, suffering when we hurt others, suffering when others hurt us, suffering when anyone rejects His love, and suffering whenever anyone fails to love.
  • We are called to join in Jesus redeptive suffering by giving our suffering to Jesus and uniting it with His suffering.
  • We are invited to meditate on the sufferings of Jesus, both during His Passion & now upon the sins of the world and how it affects Jesus (particularlly own our sins), and how great his love is to suffer so much for us.

Each of the three devotions have value for each of us. The Merciful Heart appeals to those in sin (i.e. all of us sinners) seeking a way to be free; the Sacred Heart appeals to those more sure of their faith, seeking a closer union with Jesus through love; the Suffering Heart appeals to those faithful who are suffering and mystics who want to be one with Jesus. Mature Christians will find that at different times in their lives, different devotions will appeal more to them, but all devotions to the Jesus' Heart are valuable at any time.

Cross in Heart Image Prayer to Jesus' Heart

O Beloved Jesus,

Thank You, Jesus,

Grant us, Dear Jesus, the ability


The Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN) has a number of prayers to the Sacred Heart on their site.

Discourse and prayer by Thomas A. Stobie, SFO 2001-2002. Permission granted to copy for personal use.

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