Mother of Mercy Incarnate

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Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington.

Does mercy have a face? "Yes," says Pope Francis: "Jesus Christ is the Face of the Father's mercy" (cf. "The Face of Mercy," n. 1). Our Holy Father continues, "… Mercy had become visible and living in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him … Jesus of Nazareth, by his words, his actions and his entire person reveals the mercy of God" (Ibid).

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God and committed the first sin, original sin, we call it, and thereby lost their original sinlessness, God promised to send a Savior to restore human beings to the status of living with God's life. That is what today's first reading from the Book of Genesis is telling us. "I will put enmity between you (the serpent, the Evil One) and the women (the Mother of the Savior), and between your offspring and hers (the Savior); he will strike at your head while you strike at his heel!"

This Savior, this Redeemer, promised by God would need to be both divine and human. God the Father's Son, Himself divine, would need to be also one like other human beings, possessing human nature. So, the Savior needed a mother, so He could be born in order to fulfill His mission to save us. Today's gospel passage recounts for us how God chose a young women named Mary from Nazareth, inviting her through the message of the Angel Gabriel to become the mother of His Son.

Moreover, the mother of His Son the Savior should be free from the stain of that original sin, which Adam and Eve committed. She shall be conceived already possessing God's life within her. So, looking ahead to what the Savior would win for the human family by His suffering, death and resurrection, God enabled Mary to be conceived free from the stain of original sin, already possessing His divine life: "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you."

As we heard in today's gospel account, Mary said "yes" to God's invitation: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Each Christmas relives the birth of this promised Messiah, Savior and Lord." So, God's favor towards fallen humanity, His mercy revealed in many ways to the Chosen People, now became visible. "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (cf. Jn 1:14). God's mercy now had a face: Jesus Christ.

Today's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception proclaims that extraordinary act of divine mercy. "Salvation becomes visible for the first time in the Immaculate Conception as God spares Mary the stain of Original Sin (cf. December Magnificat, 2015, p. 105). So how fitting it is that this Jubilee Year of Mercy begins today. Along with our brothers and sisters the world over, we solemnly begin this special time "dedicated to living out in our daily lives the mercy that the Father constantly extends to all of us (OpCit. N. 25).

How will you and I observe this Jubilee Year? Obviously, being more intentional in praying daily: in receiving the sacraments, especially Penance and the Holy Eucharist; in reaching out to the poor and needy; in practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy; their being seven in each.

May I suggest one practical way to observe this Year? Today's Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception proclaims this truth: It is not within our power to save ourselves. We need a Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. "One of the seven spiritual works of mercy is: "to instruct the ignorant." The "ignorant" are those, who, very intelligent in many ways, remain unknowing about their Catholic faith. So many among us Catholics let alone beyond us, need to understand that it is not within our power to save ourselves or our children. We each need a Savior. He has come to save us and to redeem us. Let us proclaim this good news as we "instruct the ignorant."

We turn to Mary. Since she conceived and gave birth to Mercy Incarnate, she is truly the Mother of Mercy." Yes, transformed ourselves by God's mercy, and aided by the prayerful intercession of Our Mother of Mercy, we must, in turn, become convincing herald of mercy, so that the Face of God's mercy may be made present and visible to everyone!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015