Mary is also the one who obtained mercy, in a particular and exceptional way, as no other person has. At the same time, still in an exceptional way, she made possible with the sacrifice of her heart her own sharing in revealing God’s mercy.
— John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia
Struggling humanity waited with hope for centuries. Then the merciful Triune God made an astonishing and utterly unpredictable move. In the fullness of time, the Savior was sent from heaven to earth to heal humanity of sin, evil, and death. Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of the Father said yes to the plan first. He became Incarnate Mercy because humanity desperately needed a Savior to heal the infection of original sin transmitted from our first parents, Adam and Eve.
Also, the yes of another person would be required. Mary’s yes to God would forever change the course of human history. Absent original sin she was chosen to be the New Eve. Humanity needed a new Eve because the original woman of the Garden of Eden said no to God instead of yes. Saying no to God is never a good idea. The consequences are real and serious.
Mary’s yes to God is rooted in her humble, docile heart intimately attuned to God’s word. When Mary pronounced her complete yes to God’s mysterious plan for redemption, she elevated every human yes to God. With her cooperation God made her the Mother of Incarnate Mercy. Born of a dual yes, the Church is the hospital of divine mercy. God made Mary a maternal vessel of mercy for ailing mankind.
Mother of Mercy
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. No one has received into his heart, as much as Mary did, that mystery, that truly divine dimension of the redemption effected on Calvary by means of the death of the Son, together with the sacrifice of her maternal heart, together with her definitive “fiat.”
Mary, then, is the one who has the deepest knowledge of the mystery of God’s mercy. She knows its price, she knows how great it is. In this sense, we call her the Mother of mercy: our Lady of mercy, or Mother of divine mercy; in each one of these titles there is a deep theological meaning, for they express the special preparation of her soul, of her whole personality, so that she was able to perceive, through the complex events, first of Israel, then of every individual and of the whole of humanity, that mercy of which “from generation to generation” people become sharers according to the eternal design of the most Holy Trinity.
-Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misercordia, 9.
Mary Opens the Door for Healing Mercy
This article is adapted from a chapter in God’s Healing Mercy, available from Sophia Institute Press.
God sent forth his Son, but to prepare a body for him, he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of His Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life (cf.LG, 61).
Without Mary’s cooperation with grace, we would not have Jesus, The Divine Mercy. Could we consider Mary’s Immaculate Heart to be the threshold of the first holy door of mercy? Perhaps the most extravagant gift of the Incarnation can be considered the truly extraordinary Jubilee—a time of joy, of remission of sins and universal pardon for those who are sorry and welcome the Savior?
Mary not only gives us Jesus, but she also helps us to listen with our hearts, hear His voice, and receive His love. Mary helps us to rediscover God’s healing mercy.
- Mary’s faith helps to heal our unbelief.
- Mary’s humility helps to heal our pride.
- Mary’s receptivity helps to heal our resistance.
- Mary’s hope helps to heal our discouragement.
- Mary’s love helps to heal our brokenness.
- Mary’s mercy is medicine for our wounds.
- Mary’s courage helps us to slay our Goliaths (cf. 1 Sam. 17).
Mary exemplifies merciful discipleship when she ponders Mercy Incarnate, attunes her heart to the Father’s will, and abides in docility with the Holy Spirit. Who better than Mary can help us to receive the healing medicine of divine mercy?
Mary implores us to pray with the heart and listen to her Son so He can bless, enlighten, heal, and strengthen us for the arduous journey to the Father’s House. Mary is always a merciful mother. Her communion with divine mercy compels her to help us. We are comforted that the Prodigal Son’s father welcomed him back home with open arms. We are consoled when the Good Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine sheep to search for the one lost lamb. What of Mary? Perhaps our merciful Mother extends a unique spiritual umbilical cord by which we are connected to receive maternal medicine.
Through the Holy Door into the Healing Hospital
Soon the universal Church will witness the opening of the Holy Doors in four Patriarchal Churches in Rome, a sign signaling the opening of the floodgates of Divine Mercy. The Vicar of Christ called for a year of the Lord’s favor. He invites us to live this time with intensity. God, through His Church, grants extraordinary occasions of divine favor as seen in Scripture and Tradition. The Jubilee of Mercy is an opportunity for plenary indulgences for the forgiveness of sin. Who can fathom the corporate sum of humanity’s sin? It is painful enough to consider my own sins and the resulting wounds. Every authentic examination of conscience is a reality check. We need God’s mercy!
Luke’s Gospel tells the story of the healing of the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof of the house where Jesus was preaching.
“But finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When He saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” When the Pharisees protested Christ answered, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home glorifying God” (Luke 5:17-39).
Mary’s compassion functions for us as did the friends compassion for the paralytic man in need of God’s healing mercy. If we allow, Mary will carry us over the threshold of the Holy Door and accompany us into the hospital of the Church. She will untie the bandages we tightly wrapped around our wounds so they can be exposed for healing medicine. Into the crimson ocean of mercy we go to be washed, healed and recreated.
On one Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8), Sister Faustina Kowalska wrote in her diary:
I will spend this Advent in accordance with the directions of the Mother of God: in meekness and humility. I am reliving these moments with Our Lady. With great longing, I am waiting for the Lord’s coming. Great are my desires. I desire that all humankind come to know the Lord. I would like to prepare all nations for the coming of the Word Incarnate. O Jesus, make the fount of Your mercy gush forth more abundantly for humankind is seriously ill and thus we have more need than ever for Your compassion. You are the bottomless sea of mercy for us sinners; and the greater the misery, the more right we have to Your mercy. You are a fount which makes all creatures happy by Your infinite mercy. (792-793).
Beloved Mother of Mercy, graciously lead us across the threshold of the holy door of the Jubilee Year that we may personally encounter God’s healing mercy.
Editor’s note: This is largely an excerpt from the newly released book, God’s Healing Mercy available from Sophia Institute Press.