More than any other saint, the Mother of God has helped people to discover God’s mercy. In fact, it is through Mary that mercy entered into human history in the very person of her beloved son, Jesus.
Mother of Mercy
From the first moment of her existence, she was enfolded in mercy; God preserved her from the burden of sin from her mother’s womb. When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she praised God in a beautiful canticle, the Magnificat, which exalts the mercy of God. She said, “…the Almighty…has mercy on those who fear Him in every generation…He has come to the help of His servant Israel for He has remembered His promise of mercy, the promise He made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever” (Luke 1:46-55).
In a way far exceeding that of any other human person, Mary both received and became an instrument of God’s mercy. Because she accompanied Jesus along the way to Calvary and stood in solidarity with His Sacrifice on the Cross, she in a singular way experienced the depths of God’s mercy. It was at the foot of the Cross where Jesus entrusted us to His mother and entrusted her to us to be our mother from that moment forward.
Of this mystery, St. John Paul II wrote, “No one has experienced, to the same degree as the Mother of the crucified One, the mystery of the cross, the overwhelming encounter of divine transcendent justice with love: that ‘kiss’ given by mercy to justice.” We can see why the Church calls her the Mother of Mercy.
Our Lady of Guadalupe
Because Mary shared so intimately in the merciful mission of her Son, He granted her the privilege of bringing this wondrous mystery close to people of every age and place. As the Second Vatican Council said of her, “By her maternal charity, she takes care of the brothers and sisters of her Son who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home.” She has done this at Lourdes and Loreto, at Fatima and Czestochowa, and in America at the place known today as the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Pope Francis has dedicated the Jubilee Year of Mercy to Our Lady of Guadalupe. To understand why the Holy Father has done this, we need only read what he said about the Patroness of the Americas on the vigil of her feast in AD 2013, “When she appeared to St. Juan Diego, her face was that of a mestizo woman and her clothes were full of symbols of the indigenous culture. Following the example of Jesus, Mary stands next to her sons and daughters, as a caring mother accompanies their journey, sharing the joys and hopes, the sorrows and anxieties of the people of God.”
Through the intercession and protection of Our Lady of Guadalupe, many followers of her Son have lived the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in America since her appearance in AD 1531. For this reason, says Pope Francis, America has become a continent “where different peoples can live together, a land capable of respecting human life in all its phases, from the womb to old age, able to welcome immigrants as well as the poor and marginalized of all ages.”
St. Juan Diego
In AD 2002, Pope St. John Paul II canonized Juan Diego, the Indian man to whom Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared and whom she chose to assist her in bringing the Good News of Jesus to the many tribes and varied peoples of America; to show how faith in Christ brings people to become beloved sons and daughters of the Father, without requiring them to surrender their indigenous identity.
Mary has a unique role in aiding us to discover the loving Fatherhood of God and to make our own the words of Jesus, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to mere children” (Mt 11:25).
Prior to the appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, human efforts to evangelize the native peoples of America had miserably failed. Many who came from Europe, 500 years ago, made Christianity look like a religion of Conquistadores, a religion lacking in compassion and aimed at domination through military power. But Our Lady of Guadalupe changed all that. She showed herself to be not only the Mother of God but also the Mother of His people. Through her choice of Juan Diego to be her messenger, she overcame the fallibility of human efforts, even the scandal of unjust aggression by a conquering army made up of baptized Christians. She showed herself to be truly the Mother of Mercy.
As we begin the Jubilee Year of Mercy, the Lord is calling us anew to be missionary disciples of Jesus and servants of His mercy. He promises us abundant blessings as we pass through the Jubilee Doors to approach the throne of grace, i.e. to approach the Cross of Christ as the Mother of Mercy did. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Let us embrace this work of faith with confidence, knowing that Our Lady of Guadalupe will aid us with her intercession and gentle care.