December 2, 2016

Rejoice in the Lord

Mary draws us close to her son, Jesus

Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin

“God’s closeness to us is seen most perfectly in Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. The Blessed Virgin bore the Son of God in her womb. His humanity was formed from her flesh and from the heart of Mary’s faith-filled acceptance of God’s will. Through Mary, God became one of us. This is not an absent, remote or disconnected God. This God is one with us and draws us close to him through the intercession of a simple Hebrew woman chosen by God to be his son’s mother”
(“Rejoice in the Lord,” Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, Dec. 18, 2015).

On Oct. 8, I was privileged to pay tribute to the Blessed Virgin Mary during a reflection given at the archdiocesan Marian Jubilee for the Holy Year of Mercy at St. Bartholomew Church in Columbus.

During this jubilee celebration, I told the folks who prayed the rosary with me that we are really privileged to be an archdiocesan community at prayer. I commented on how fitting it was that our main jubilee event during the Holy Year of Mercy was one in which we honored our mother Mary, who is the Mother of Mercy, and who prays constantly that each one of us will accept God’s gifts of mercy and salvation.

Mary’s entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The mother of the Crucified and Risen One was able to enter the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of divine love.

I came to know Mary at a very early age because I watched family members pause to pray the Angelus together and gather together in the evening to pray the rosary. We prayed to the Mother of God, and it felt quite natural, for we knew that she was our mother as well.

I remember my father praying at the end of the nightly rosary in gratitude for any possible vocation to the priesthood or religious life among his 13 children. It was during moments like this when I felt the first stirrings in my heart, and I asked Jesus that, if I was being called, I would respond with the generosity of his mother.

An image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at my home parish in Detroit led me at a young age to consider prayerfully how I might assist an awareness of people in need. This powerful image of Mary was set amidst a mosaic that, on one side, portrayed the powerful of the world—both in the Church and secular society—and on the other side pictured the poor, people from different continents, the handicapped, the forgotten, all coming to the Mother of God for her merciful aid.

Throughout 38 years of priesthood, Mary has been by my side, helping me bring her Son to those whom I’ve served, and allowing those whom I’ve served to teach me a greater love for Mary.

In 1997, my fellow Redemptorists chose me to serve as the leader of our worldwide missionary order. For the next 12 years, I had the privilege of visiting more than 70 countries around the world where members of our order minister to people from many diverse nations and cultures.

In my travels, I witnessed how Mary is an instrument of evangelization today. This came home to me in a very strong way in Asia. In Mumbai, Manila and Saigon, I saw tens of thousands of people gather to pray to Mary at shrines in churches served by my Redemptorist brothers.

But an experience I had in Singapore really caught my attention. There, thousands of Muslims, Buddhists and adherents of traditional Chinese religions gathered with Catholics in devotion to Mary. I asked these non-Christian people, “Why are you here?” And they looked at me with some surprise and said, “We have to speak with the merciful lady.”

In fact, the archbishop of Singapore told me that more adults are baptized at what is commonly called the “Novena Church” than in any other church there. The “merciful lady” drew them and then introduced them to mercy itself.

Mary is the mother of a billion Catholics across the world today—Mary, who is honored in temples and poor homes and is still calling people to know the source of mercy, her son Jesus.

I rely on Mary’s love. I call on her protection more than ever. Her love ties me to my mom and dad. It ties me to the prisoners with whom I pray the rosary. It ties me with all the folks in central and southern Indiana—and now in four counties of New Jersey—to Mary, the Mother of God, the Mother of Mercy. †

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