Hail Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
These familiar words which begin the traditional prayer, the Salve Regina, take on special meaning for us during this Jubilee Year of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis. In fact, our Holy Father has asked that we pray this prayer regularly during this year of grace. Our Lady is truly the “Mother of Mercy” (Mater misericordiae) because she is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ our Lord. Jesus has come to reveal the Father’s mercy, and the Blessed Virgin Mary brings him into the world, first by her “yes” to the angel’s message, and then in the manger at Bethlehem.
At this beautiful time of the year, we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. With great affection, sentimentality, devotion, and maybe even a touch of nostalgia, we remember the coming among us of the eternal Son of God. We hail him as the Prince of Peace, the eternal Son of the Father, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel (“God with us”), along with his other worthy titles. As we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, let us not forget to reflect on the reason for him coming among us, i.e. his mission. It is a mission of mercy.
Many are surely familiar with the private revelations of Divine Mercy given by Jesus Christ to St. Faustina Kowalska, which are recorded in her diary. On April 4, 1937, on the Sunday after Easter (which would later become known as Divine Mercy Sunday), our Lord delivered these words to St. Faustina: “Tell all people, my daughter, that I am Love and Mercy itself. When a soul approaches me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls.”
We should not be surprised that Jesus would speak in this way. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) The most powerful and personal revelation of God’s love for us is shown in the mercy he has poured out for us in his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. God is love. Jesus is God. Jesus is love, the mercy of God in the flesh. Mary is the Mother of God, the mother of Divine Love, the Mother of Mercy!
What a joy it is to celebrate these mysteries of God’s love and mercy at this holy time! That is precisely the point. We must remember what we are celebrating. God sent his Son into the world as its Savior, to reconcile the world to himself, forgive sins, crush the power that Satan had over us, destroy death itself, and open for us the way to eternal life. Let us not forget that this outpouring of God’s mercy upon us demands a response on our part. We must repent of our sins, turn back to God, and share the precious gift of God’s mercy with all those we meet.
Mary is our mother in this response to God’s love and mercy. She was given the singular grace of being preserved from all stain of sin, original and personal. We just celebrated this on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. But this was an act of divine mercy for her, preparing her to be the Mother of God Incarnate, by sharing with her ahead of time the fruits of her Son’s death and resurrection. She was also redeemed by God’s mercy in a singular way.
Mary is also the model of mercy shown to others. Her first action after accepting the role of being the Mother of the Redeemer in response to the angel Gabriel’s greeting was to set out in haste to visit Elizabeth, her older cousin, in order to assist her in the final months of her pregnancy with St. John the Baptist. Her response to God’s favor and mercy shown to her was to reach out and help others. Consider also her later concern for the embarrassed wedding couple at the wedding feast at Cana who had run out of wine, prompting her Son’s first miracle. That should be our response as well, the response of mercy toward others, especially those most in need. Remember how we conclude the “Fatima prayer” at the end of each decade of the rosary: “Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.”
My wish for all of you at this Christmas time is that you open wide the door of your hearts to receive the gift of God’s mercy. May his love fill your hearts and homes. And may we all show the merciful face of Christ to the world, by practicing mercy toward all. Holy Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us!
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Archbishop Alexander Sample