MOTHER OF MERCY
(Mother’s Day; 7th Sunday after Easter “C”; May 12)
I love this “Journey to Wisdom” site because of the wonderful reflections and meditations that are posted by all of you. Today, I would first like to preface my own reflection with a flashback to St. Francis de Sales. He had a great way to describe an approach to our meditations, which I would like to share with you. He asks us to consider our meditation on God’s word as a walk through a flower garden. There are lots of choices, lots of beauty, and lots of great smells. So just select one or two or three flowers that appeal to us right now, and pick those. Just so, select one or two or three points in God’s word that appeal to you as you meditate on His word. Then “think frequently about them, and smell them spiritually during the rest of the day” (Introduction to the Devout Life). Isn’t that a beautiful way to remember what to do with our meditations?
So today I want to share the “flowers” that appealed to me. [In the Omaha Archdiocese we do not advance the “Ascension” solemnity to Sunday; instead we retain the liturgy of the word for the 7th Sunday after Easter.]
Stephen imitates Jesus even in death, as he forgives his persecutors. Jesus had said from the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” Now we hear Stephen saying, just before he dies, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” A merciful gift is given to his persecutors.
We discover in our Gospel reading today (John 17:20-26) that Jesus is praying for unity, a unity that can only come when people actually experience unconditional love – a merciful love that extends even to enemies, even to those who would kill us. Pope John Paul II taught us in a 1980 Encyclical (“On the Mercy of God”; #138) that only love that is demonstrated can bring about unity.
There are many roads that lead to unity. But the most famous and most effective road is the “love road” commonly called “works of mercy.” These are ways we demonstrate our love. These are ways that witness to Jesus Christ, and attract non-believers. There are 14 works of mercy; but perhaps the hardest one of all to live out is the obligation we all have to forgive offenses willingly. Jesus set the bar high; and St. Stephen lived up to it.
Do you remember that nasty Superstorm Hurricane, called Sandy, that hit the Northeast so savagely last October? At the heart of the recovery efforts from the flood and fires, in the Rockaway area of New York, was St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church. There have been many articles in the secular press, even six months later, praising the many practical works of mercy that the parishioners at St. Francis de Sales provided for the storm victims—long before the official government support groups went into action. As the news article said, and I quote, these “works of mercy bring us together and also show the world what the power of faith can achieve.” And that is from the secular press, mind you!
I think it is a wonderful coincidence that this weekend is Mothers’ Day weekend. If there is any one single person in our life that has shown us how to extend mercy and forgiveness, it is our biological mother. But our Spiritual Mother is really the “Mother of Mercy” par excellence. Every day we appeal to her, in a prayer at the end of our rosary: “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy...” We remember the many times she appeared to St. Brigid of Sweden, and to St. Faustina of Poland, and to St. Juan Diego in Mexico: she identified herself to them as our “Mother of Mercy.”
We also remember the eloquent way Blessed Pope John Paul II called her the “Mediatrix of Mercy” (Redemptoris Mater, 1987). He teaches that Mary has a specifically “motherly” role as mediatrix of mercy, when Jesus returns at his final coming. We call the Blessed Virgin Mary our “Mother of Mercy” because she literally brought Divine Mercy Himself to birth in our world.
And now she shows us how to live as true Disciples, by living out the many virtues we need to practice daily. One of the most important virtues, of course, is Mercy (or Charity, which is really the same thing). The gospels show is that she lived out this virtue when she went to serve her cousin Elizabeth in her time of need, and also when she interceded for the needs of the married couple at the wedding feast in Cana. And now our Queen Mother is in heaven, to intercede for everyone who calls for her help.
So we have a “cloud of witnesses” who have shown us, by their example, how to be merciful. First, the example set by Jesus our Redeemer, forgiving his enemies from the cross. Then St. Stephen the Deacon, forgiving those who stoned him to death. And then the visionaries, such as St. Brigid, St. Faustina, and St. Juan Diego, who tell us that the Blessed Virgin Mary wants all of us to know that She is the Mother of Mercy.
There really is nothing more we need to hear. The gospels and all the saints challenge us to be merciful, just like Jesus. If there is anyone in your life who needs your forgiveness, then please imitate the holy witnesses, and be merciful. Remember the command Jesus gave us in the Sermon on the Mount: “Be merciful, as your heavenly Father is merciful”; or, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy.” (Luke 6:36; Matthew 5:7)
As we pray for and honor our own earthly mothers this weekend, please also remember to pay special tribute to our heavenly “Mother of Mercy.” Please join with me right now in the “Hail, Holy Queen” prayer, as one way to acknowledge and respond to our Mother’s desire that we imitate the Mercy of her son, Jesus:
Together – “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful [clement], O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary! +
Blessings to all of you!
I pray especially that the Lord will send each of you mothers many blessings through the mediation of His mother, Mary.
- Deacon Paul Rooney