Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost: Mary Mother Of Mercy-Like Mother Like Sons
At the end of every mass we pray, “Hail Mary, full of grace the Lord is with thee blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of the womb Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” This prayer, that we pray together, is said three times to honor the Most Blessed Trinity, Who is the source of all of Our Lady's greatness.
The first prayer recalls the power she received from God the Father to intercede for sinners, the second commemorates the wisdom received from God the Son; and the third, the love she bears, filled by the Holy Spirit.
At the end of praying this beautiful prayer, for the third time, we continue with the prayer called “The Hail Holy Queen or the (The Salve Regina)”:
Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness, and our hope.
To you we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
to you we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us;
and after this, our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
For centuries, Christians all over the world have cried out to the Blessed Virgin Mary with these words, placing themselves under her tender care as "Mother of Mercy."
Mary is truly our Mother of tender compassion, our "Mother of Mercy." Let us look at four ways in which Mary can be truly called the merciful Mother of Christians, and of every soul searching for God.
I. Her Immaculate Conception
First of all, Mary is Mother of Mercy because, through her Immaculate Conception, God fashioned her to be the created masterpiece of his mercy in the world.
After all, what is Divine Mercy? It is God's undeserved, unmerited, often even unsought for divine grace - the grace that our compassionate God pours out upon us to help us overcome our miseries and meet our true needs. Theologians call one form of that mercy God's "prevenient" grace, which means "to come before." In other words, even before we ask for it, and quite apart from the fact that we do not deserve it, and have not earned it in the least, God graciously takes the initiative and comes to our aid. Prevenient grace is this completely free gift of God's mercy. We see a faint reflection of it in a parent's love for a child. A child is loved by its parents not because the child has "earned" it, or deserved it, or even asked for it in any way. Rather, the parent's love comes right from the start, a completely free gift, just because the child is the parent's own child. That is human mercy "par excellence," and it is a mirror image of the divine.
When you think about it, that is exactly what is on display in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Immaculate Conception is really the supreme manifestation of God's prevenient, unmerited mercy. After all, Mary did not "merit" her Immaculate Conception. Nor could she ask for it. It was something done in her and for her by the Father of Mercy, and solely on the basis of the foreseen merits of His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ.
II. Her Unequalled Role in God's Plan
The second reason we are right to call Mary "Mother of Mercy" is that she was the one chosen to be the Mother of God - in other words, she was the Mother of the merciful Savior, and in this way she literally brought Divine Mercy Himself to birth in our world. Of course, this is nothing more than the common faith of the Church. When Mary humbly accepted the angel Gabriel's call, she, through the power of the Holy Spirit, actually conceived in her womb, and brought to birth into our world, the merciful God made flesh, Mercy Incarnate, Jesus Christ.
III. She Is A Bright Example To Us of Mercy
To quote Fr. Casimir Wyszynski, “Mary is the noble Star rising from the house of Jacob, whose rays illuminate the whole world. ... Let us then watch the rise and movements of this brightest Star carefully; let us follow her; let us rise up from the sleep of death by sin. If we want to see this Morning Star rising, we must zealously imitate the ten Virtues of the Virgin Mary. For just as a star once led the three wisemen to Jesus as he lay in a stable in Bethlehem, so will this Morning Star, shining with the ten rays of the evangelical virtues, lead us to Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father in the heavenly kingdom.” One of the ten rays of the virtues that Mary shined forth to all men was the virtue of mercy or charity!
See how merciful she was to her cousin Elizabeth. No sooner had Mary heard from the angel Gabriel that her elderly kinswoman was with child, than she journeyed with haste through the hill-country to visit her, and stayed with her three whole months to help her (Luke 1:36-56). Moreover, Mary went to Elizabeth not just to help her with the daily chores, but also to share with her the secret of the Christ Child that was to be born. In fact, no sooner had Mary crossed the threshold of Elizabeth's house than a bond of the Holy Spirit was formed between them (Luke 1:41).
How charitable also was Our Lady at the wedding feast at Cana when she noticed that the young couple was running out of wine for their guests. Eager to preserve them from shame and embarrassment on their wedding day, Mary brought their needs before her Son with the simple words, "They have no more wine." By her intercession, therefore, Mary came to their aid (John 2:1-3). To come to the aid of those in need is the essence of "mercy" or "charity."
IV. Because From Heaven She Continues To Come To Our Aid
Mary is "Mother of Mercy" because from heaven she continues to come to our aid. By her tender intercession for us, she looks after our needs and nurtures the Christ-life within us, from now until the hour of death. Mary's continuing role as our Mother of Mercy was actually foreshadowed at the time of the Annunciation.
Remember how the angel Gabriel promised that Mary's Son would reign forever as the Messiah? The angel said:
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Luke 1:32-33)
Now, if Mary's Son was to inherit an everlasting kingdom, this implies that Mary was to become literally "Queen-Mother" of His Kingdom, for we know for a fact that in ancient Israel, the mother of a king usually received the title and role of "Queen-Mother." As the theologian Dr. Mark Miravalle has pointed out:
Because the kings of Israel normally had numerous wives, the mother of the king was chosen to be queen of the kingdom, due to her singular familial relationship with the king. The "Gabirah" or "Great Lady" of the kingdom assisted the king in the ruling of the kingdom in her noble office as the queen mother (cf. 2 Kings 11:3, 1 Kings 2:19; 1 Kings 15:9-13; Jeremiah 13:18-20). The office and authority of the queen mother in her close relationship with the king made her the strongest "advocate" to the king for the people of the kingdom ... no one had more intercessory power to the king than the queen mother, who at times sat enthroned at the right side of the king (cf. 1 Kings 2:19-20). The queen mother also had the function of "counselor" to the king in regards to matters of the kingdom (Proverbs 31:8-9; 2 Chronicle 22:2-4) The Old Testament image and role of the queen mother, the "Great Lady," as advocate to the king for the people of the kingdom prophetically foreshadows the role of the great Queen Mother and Lady of the New Testament. For it is Mary of Nazareth who becomes the Queen and Mother in the Kingdom of God, as the Mother of Christ, King of All Nations.
It was at the foot of the Cross, however, that Mary explicitly received her role as our everlasting Mother of Mercy. Jesus said to her from the Cross, "Woman, behold thy Son," and then, turning to His beloved disciple St. John, "Son, behold thy mother" (John 19:25-27). According to the ancient Fathers of the Church, all Christian believers were prefigured in this beloved disciple who stood beneath the Cross, and to whom Jesus said "Behold thy Mother." Thus, Mary was given to be not only St. John's mother, but our mother, too, the mother of all the faithful disciples of Christ. What could this mean for us, if it did not mean, principally, that she was meant to be our Mother in Heaven, who ever comes to our aid by her loving intercessions on our behalf? If she is willing to intercede for us and pray for us, and open the door (so to speak) to all the graces that Christ wants to shower upon us, then she is indeed our "Mother of Mercy" - for all of God's graces are acts of His Divine Mercy to weak and sinful creatures such as we all are. In short, by her maternal intercession and compassion for us, Mary opens the floodgates to all the merciful love that God wants to pour out upon the world.
Following in Our Mothers Footsteps
In Jesus’ sermon on the mount we read, “Blessed are the merciful for they shall see mercy”.
Before applying the quality of mercy in our lives, we need to define what this quality IS that God wants to build into us. We may have some preconceived ideas about what “mercy” means, but what did it actually mean in their culture, and in the New Testament? The Greeks used this word (“eleos”) to refer to the emotion one feels when they come in contact with someone in affliction — and later that came to include ACTS of help to those in need. The use of the word “mercy” in the New Testament is very similar to that, and it shows us that “mercy” means to “See someone’s need, to feel compassion for them in their need, and then to do something to meet that need.”
Notice the 3 essential elements of that definition:
1) SEE the need
2) FEEL compassion for the person in need
3) DO something to meet that need
We see the definition of mercy in the story of the Good Samaritan, in Luke 10:30-37. Most of us know this story, of how the man was beaten by robbers and left half dead on the Jericho Road, and how a priest and a Levite both passed by on the other side. But you may not remember the exact language the Bible uses to describe what the Good Samaritan did when he came across this man:
:33 “But a certain Samaritan being on his journey, came near him; and SEEING him, was MOVED WITH COMPASSION.
:34 and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.”
Do you see what the Good Samaritan did?
— He “saw him”
— He “was moved with compassion”
–- and then it says he “bandaged up his wounds, poured oil & wine … put him on his beast, brought him to an inn” — all these other things that he did to help him. In other words, he DID SOMETHING to take care of this man’s needs.
But then if you look at the end, as Jesus was giving the moral of the story, He asks them (:36) “Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbour to him…?” In :37 we find the answer Jesus commended was: “He that SHEWED MERCY on him.” So here, we find that when the Samaritan “saw, felt compassion, and did something” to help, it was called “mercy.” So this passage shows us that mercy involves
1) seeing someone’s need
2) feeling compassion for them,
3) doing something to meet their need.
Here is a great, Biblical definition of what “mercy” is.
Like Mother Like Son
Jesus, when He came to earth to die for our sins, also lived out, over and over in specific situations in His life, the definition of mercy. Notice at how many times the Gospels say that Jesus “saw needs, “felt compassion,” and did something for people’s needs;
— Matthew 9:36 “And seeing the multitudes, he had compassion on them: because they were distressed, scattered abroad, and lying like sheep that have no shepherd." (and 10:1 says He sent out His disciples to minister to them)
— Matthew 14:14 “And he coming forth saw a great multitude, and had compassion on them, and healed their sick.”
— Mark 6:34 “And Jesus going out saw a great multitude: and he had compassion on them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.”
— Mark 10:21 “And looking at him (Rich Young Ruler) Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack … come follow Me.’”
— Luke 7:13-15 “And when the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, ‘do not weep’ and He came up and touched the bier …” (and raised her son from the dead).
— AND in Luke 15, when Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son, He said that when the Prodigal son returned home, :20 says the father “saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.”
There are more examples with similar language throughout the Gospels; these are just some of the more exact matches. But all of these examples have these three same elements in common:
- Jesus “saw,”
- He “felt compassion,”
- and then He did something to meet someone’s need.
Jesus lived out mercy in His life with people wherever He went.
Following In Big Brothers Footsteps
As disciples of Jesus, we are to follow in His steps. We are to show mercy to others, as He has shown mercy to US. We continue to see here the “flow” of the Beatitudes from one to the other: since we have had our hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness satisfied by His mercy — now WE turn around and show that same mercy we have received, to those around us. Just like the verse says, those who receive mercy, will SHOW mercy. So how, specifically, do we do that? Just as Jesus “saw,” “felt compassion,” and “did something” to meet needs; so we will do the same: we will SEE the needs of people around us; FEEL compassion for them; and then DO something about the situation to help them.