Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April 5, 2011 Tuesday: Divine Mercy - Mother of Redeemer, Part 1

Click to hear audio homily

Someone wrote in a novel,  "When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth." What is this pure love like? A Korean priest from New Orleans told me what one of his parishioners did as Hurricane Katrina approached New Orleans. The priest had told his flock in his small Korean parish to evacuate. One elderly lady said to him, "Father, I can't evacuate. I'm heading to the parish jail where my son is being held. I'm going to park my car next to the jail and die with my son." Thankfully, the inmates were evacuated, so this courageous mother did not have to sacrifice her life to be with her son. We know the extraordinary love of our own mothers. We all received from our mothers the kind of love that First Corinthian chapter 13 speaks about--"Love is patient, love is kind, ... love does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things."

Pope John Paul II lost his mother when he was only nine years old. In fact, he lost all of his family members before he turned 21. He once wrote, "I was not at my mother's death, I was not at my brother's death, I was not at my father's death. At twenty, I had already lost all the people I loved." He did not mention much about his own mother in his writings. The mother that John Paul II wrote extensively about was Blessed Mother. His relationship with her was as real and as affectionate as that with his own earthly mother. She would become his constant companion and subject of his devotion. He wrote in the encyclical on the Rosary, "From my youthful years the Rosary has held an important place in my spiritual life... The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort...scarcely two weeks after my election to the See of Peter, I frankly admitted: 'The Rosary is my favorite prayer.'" Even though his earthly mother was absent to give him tender, maternal love, his Heavenly Mother was always there, showering him with her love. He understood and felt the significance of the words Jesus spoke from the cross, those words that Jesus spoke to his mother and his diciple, John. "Woman, behold your son! [Son], behold your Mother!" (John 19:26-27) John Paul wrote in the encyclical Redemptoris Mater (Mother of the Redeemer), "The Mother of Christ, who stands at the very center of the Redeemer's Paschal Mystery and embraces each individual and all humanity, is given as mother to every single individual and all mankind." This Mother was a total gift from our Heavenly Father, and she is a sign of Divine Mercy from her Son. How many times have we concluded our Rosary with the following words, "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 valley of tears. Turn then O most gracious Advocate, Thine eyes of mercy towards us..."

How many of us here in the church tonight, have felt the tender presence and love of our Heavenly Mother? How many of us here have felt this Heavenly Mother's desire for us to be ever closer to her? And in her desire for us to be closer to her, we have also felt her greatest desire for us--that we would become closer to her Son and experience His Love. In a homily given at Fatima, John Paul II spoke about the burning desire of this good Mother. "Can the Mother, who with all the force of the love that she fosters in the Holy Spirit, who desires everyone's salvation, keep silence on what undermines the very bases of their salvation? No, she cannot." John Paul said that a new motherhood according to the spirit and not just according to flesh was manifested at the Wedding at Cana. The Mother of Jesus was in the middle of human need--the wine running out at a wedding. She placed herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs, and sufferings. She is not an outsider when she mediates for our needs; she mediates as our mother. When she said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you," the Mother of Jesus knew that she could point out to her Son the needs of mankind.

As a priest, I experience daily how this compassionate Heavenly Mother places herself in the middle of our sufferings, asking her Son to help heal our brokenness. The other day, a distraught young man stopped by the church office and asked to speak to a priest. As I chatted with him, he revealed that his wife had told him that she no longer wanted to be married. He said that he had even thought about taking his life. Then he told me that as he drove in front of the church something told him to go seek help inside. We arranged another meeting and I asked him to bring his wife with him. Later, when both were in my office, I told them, "Guys, you don't just drive around and accidentally come into this church --Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- to see this priest! Blessed Mother saw you guys suffering and she wants to help." Both the husband and wife agreed that there was something supernatural in how they came to this church. I pointed them to a large picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe that hangs on one part of the wall and a large picture of Divine Mercy on the other. After we discussed their issues, I gave them a CD of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and a CD of the Seven Sorrows Rosary of Our Lady of Sorrows and asked them to pray these prayers together. Not only for this couple but also for all of us, it is the Mother who leads us to her Son. And as John Paul wrote, "This maternal role of Mary flows, according to God's good pleasure, 'from the superabundance of the merits of Christ; it is founded on his mediation, absolutely depends on it, and draws all its efficacy from it'." This mediation is maternal, for Mary became "a mother to us in the order of grace."

The other day, I visited the shrine of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos in New Orleans. The volunteer who was working that day told me his encounter with Blessed Mother. While he was standing by the statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, which overlooks the reliquary of Fr. Seelos' remains, he placed his hands on her feet and felt water there. Thinking that the roof above him was leaking, he looked up, and there he saw tears streaming from her eyes. He thought to himself, how sorrowful this good Mother is that she would even grieve with her children who come to the Shrine pleading Heaven for relief from their suffering and seeking comfort.

Let us stand and pray together the Salve Regina and ask Blessed Mother to lead us to her Son.

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 valley 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 clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

V. Pray for us O holy Mother of God,
R. that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Click to hear Dominican friars chanting Salve Regina