Homily for Votive Mass of Mary, Queen and Mother of Mercy, Night of Merciful Love at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church
Tonight as we gather for our Night of Merciful Love, we remember in a special way our Blessed Mother, more specifically as the Queen and Mother of Mercy. Mary is the Queen of Mercy because of her kindness, her generosity, and the dignity she possesses in her role as the Queen of Heaven. But there is a deep connection between Mary’s queenship and the queenship of Esther that we hear about in our first reading.
The Book of Esther tells of the liberation of the people of Israel. The passage that we read tonight is a portion of the section known as the Prayer of Esther. She is crying out to the Lord, begging Him to deliver the people of Israel from their bondage. She pleads with the Lord to be merciful to His Chosen People for their sins of the past and present, for turning to idols and for forgetting the many blessings the Lord had bestowed upon them. It is in this key moment, that Esther becomes determined to rise to the challenge to risk her life for the salvation of her people.
Throughout her life, our Blessed Mother did the very same thing. There is no doubt that Mary would have understood many of the Scriptures of the Old Testament. As a young faithful, Jewish woman, she would have heard the various stories about the people of Israel and their struggle to remain faithful to the covenants which God had established with them. Like with all Jewish children, those stories would have been passed down to her from her parents and loved ones. Because of that, Mary knew the prayers of the people of Israel and their own pleading with God for salvation, forgiveness, and mercy. Even Mary, despite being born without the stain of original sin, understood the need for God’s grace and mercy. But what did that look like for her?
We know that Mary played an important role in God’s plan for salvation. It was the Immaculate Conception which was the great divine act of grace that lays at the very foundation of that plan for salvation, a plan that was only achieved through Christ. Our all merciful God has always been the one who has taken the initiative with humanity, despite their sinfulness. The sins of the people have never stopped the Lord from intervening in human history. In fact, because of God’s love for us, it was those sins that made Him desire all the more to be merciful to humanity.
God knew that there was only going to be one way for humanity to be saved, and that was through the sending of His Son. So in order to put that plan into place, the Father fashioned “Mary’s soul from the moment of conception, preserving it from the effects of original sin, making her soul the very masterpiece of His mercy.” Likewise, “it was this unique and extraordinary foundation of grace in Mary’s soul that enabled her, years later, to [generously] respond to the angel Gabriel’s message with total, trustful surrender.” Because she was the recipient of this gracious and merciful act of God the Father, Mary was able to respond to the Angel: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to Thy word.” In other words, “the whole world’s salvation…(including yours and mine)…began with a foundational act of unmerited, unprompted, freely given Divine Mercy: that act of mercy was Mary’s Immaculate Conception.”1
In her response to that gift, Mary was willing to give everything to the Lord, everything for the salvation of the people of Israel, including being willing to risk her life. After totally surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit and conceiving Jesus in her own womb, what happened? Mary was tested and tried. If people found out that she conceived outside of marriage, she would have been stoned to death. Joseph thought about quietly divorcing her. Her life was almost turned upside down. And then, even after giving birth to Jesus, Mary’s life was likely threatened as Herod sought to kill every newborn male…because do you think Mary would have let that happen without putting up a fight? It was in those moments of motherhood that she rose to the occasion and risked her own life for the salvation of the world. It was in those moments that the Lord was allowing her to become our Mother as well. And that role continues even to today.
Whenever we experience trials, whenever we experience hardship, we are able to take our own pleas to Mary. She never ceases to pray to her Son on our behalf. We can confidently fly to her for refuge when we experience those times of uncertainty and heartache, when we experience moments of temptation and when we fall into sin. Like the waiters in today’s Gospel, we know that we can bring our requests to her with the sure faith that she is going to bring them to Jesus for us.
So if we’re stuck tonight, enduring some struggle to overcome sin, or experiencing anxiety because of something that is beyond our control, or whatever the case might be for you, may we run to Mary. Let’s beg her, as Queen of Mercy and as our Mother, to intercede for us, to lead us to her Son. All we have to do is follow through with what she tells us, to live the message that we hear in today’s Gospel: “Do whatever He tells you.”
1 – Robert Stackpole, The Divine Mercy, “What’s the Case for the Immaculate Conception?”