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Mary and the Month of Mercy

Homily for Divine Mercy Sunday, 2019

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

-John 20:26-29

The season of Easter, always including the month of May, is a season that in the early liturgy of the Roman Church had a special connection to devotion to the Blessed Mother. Why this Marian theme in Eastertide?

Well, the body and blood in which Our Lord experienced his death and which he took up again in his resurrection came from one alone: his Blessed Mother. Easter is the celebration of the life of the fruit of her womb, the fruit of the tree of life that gives eternal life to those who eat of it. The Lord’s glorious body, which can be handled and touched, came from her; the gift of her divine maternity.

This Sunday, the Octave of Easter, is a special day on which in the ancient Roman church there was a kind of diocesan picnic given by the godmothers in the near countryside outside the walls of the city in honor of the newly enlightened, the neophytes as the newly baptized are called. A loving maternal theme to celebrate the power of the resurrection of Mary’s Son.

It is not surprising that Our Lord himself asked St. Faustina Kowalska in the 1930s that this Sunday be dedicated to the mercy of God. St. John Paul II established this day as the feast of the Divine Mercy, answering this request of the Savior.  Faustina, in line with the tradition of the prayer and piety of the faithful over the centuries, always closely associated the mercy of the Risen Christ depicted in the Divine Mercy picture with Mary as the Mother of Mercy. She says of her in her diaries:

She has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. Likewise Mary, through her hidden and at the same time incomparable sharing in the saving mission of her Son, was called in a special way to bring close to people that love which he had come to reveal.

The coming week sees the beginning May, Mary’s month, the month of graces, of first holy communions and confirmations. Before May 1, which falls on Wednesday this week, we would do ourselves an immense spiritual favor if we decided on a specific devotion and devout practice in honor of Our Lady with which to mark her month, the month of the Mother of Mercy: a daily rosary, her little office, some reading from a spiritual book in her honor like St. Alphonsus’s Glories of Mary, St. Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Our Lady, or Venerable Mary of Agreda’s Mystical City of God. There is no surer route to spiritual peace and progress than a devotion to the Blessed Mother. She is the way to Jesus, since he came to us through her.

Consider the famous and inspiring words of St. Bernard, and then wrap yourself in her maternal mantle and experience the best Easter season of your life:

If temptation storms, or you fall upon the rocks of tribulation, look to the star: call upon Mary! If you are tossed by the waves of pride or ambition, detraction or envy, look to the star, call upon Mary. If anger or avarice or the desires of the flesh dash against the ship of your soul, turn your eyes to Mary. If troubled by the enormity of your crimes, ashamed of your guilty conscience, terrified by dread of the judgment, you begin to sink into the gulf of sadness or the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In dangers, in anguish, in doubt, think of Mary, call upon Mary.

Let her name be even on your lips, ever in your heart; and the better to obtain the help of her prayers, imitate the example of her life.  Following her, you will not get lost; invoking her, you will not despair; thinking of her,  you will not stray; upheld by her, you will not fall; shielded by her, you will not be hurt; guided by her, you will not grow weary; favored by her, will reach the goal.

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