For 35 years, almost as long as I have been a Bishop, Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of the Church, our Mother, has been appearing to six children in Medjugorje, a small village of Bosnia-Herzegovina. This is a war-torn area of Europe, an area of conflicts between Christians, Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims. And has our world, our own nation, our Church, been listening to Mary’s warnings and to the need of prayer and fasting, conversion and evangelization, love and mercy for God’s Holy People?
On this special anniversary of Mother Mary’s messages of God’s Love and Mercy, I would like to share a few words from our Pope about Mercy, and about our Mother of Mercy. In the prayers, the Salve Regina, Hail Holy Queen, and the Memorare, we have long called Mary the Mother of Mercy – turning her eyes of mercy upon us, and making us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy in her Son, Jesus.
At the beginning of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote a short encyclical called Misericordiae Vultus “The Face of Mercy” and the first words are: “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” This writing of the Holy Father is printed in a book entitled “The Name of God is Mercy.” St. John tells us that God IS Love, and we could well say that God is Mercy, for mercy is a part of God’s Love, His Covenant Love for His People, beginning in the Old Testament and being fulfilled in the Revelation of His son Jesus.
The answer to all the troubles that beset our world is God, our Creator and Redeemer, who revealed Himself to us and unveiled his face, who sent His own Son to redeem us and make God’s Love and Mercy real to us. Our God gave us Mary, to be the Mother of His Son and Our Mother as well. Jesus left us a Church and the Sacraments to continually reveal Himself to us. And we, as Church and as individuals, are called to be the face of God’s Love and Mercy.
Mercy is really another name for God’s Covenant Love. At the end of the Old Testament, Zachary, the father of John the Baptist, prayed “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember His Holy Covenant.” A short time later Mary, the Mother of God, would pray “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord… Holy is His Name… He has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation… He has remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”
Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Mary was filled with God’s Presence from the first moment of her existence. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with God’s Love and Mercy, and so she had the face of mercy, the heart of mercy, the eyes of mercy as she looks upon her children, the ears of mercy as she hears and answers our prayers, and the lips of mercy as she prays in the Magnificat… God’s mercy endures for all generations.
A few months after being named Pope, at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis said that “This is a Time of Mercy.” He said, “The Church shows her maternal side, her motherly face, to a humanity that is so badly wounded. St. John XXIII, solemnly opening the II Vatican Council, said that the Church prefers to use the medicine of mercy, rather than the rigors of laws, and Blessed Paul VI said that his spiritual life was based on St. Augustine’s teaching on poverty and mercy by saying “My Poverty and God’s Mercy.”
St. John Paul II wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordia “Rich in Mercy”, canonized St. Faustina, and instituted the Feast of Divine Mercy. And our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, wrote “Mercy is the core of the Gospel message. It is the name of God Himself, the face with which He revealed Himself in the Old Testament and fully in Jesus Christ.” This love of mercy also illuminates the Face of the Church and is manifested in the Sacraments… and the works of charity, which we call the Works of Mercy – Corporal and Spiritual – everything that the Church says and does shows that God has mercy for man.”
Mary had the Face of God, the Face of Her Creator, the Face of the Holy Spirit, with which she was filled from the first moment of her existence. Would it be too much to say that Jesus was not only the Face of His Heavenly Father, but also had the Face of His mother, Mary, the Face of Love and Mercy? And together they would reveal and unveil the Face of God, the Face of Love and Mercy, on the Church, the Body of Christ. And we, the Church, would be called to put on the Face of God, the Face of Jesus our Savior, and the Face of Mary our Mother, for the whole world to contemplate.
Archbishop Sample’s motto is to “Contemplate the Face of Jesus.” How better for us to do this than to contemplate the Face of Jesus’ Mother, Mary, the Mother of Mercy, and become the Face of God’s Great Love and Mercy for our Church and our world in this Year of Mercy.
Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy… turn thine eyes of mercy toward us.
Memorare… O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.
Fatima prayer… lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy.