The Real Mary - Mother of Mercy

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Start your meeting with Prayer
Someone read: A reading from Luke 7:11-17

Soon afterward Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the town gate, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother (who was a widow), and a large crowd from the town was with her. 
When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then he came up and touched the bier, and those who carried it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!"  So the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
Fear seized them all, and they began to glorify God, saying, "A great prophet has appeared among us!" and "God has come to help his people!"  This report about Jesus circulated throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

Mary did you know?
Fr Thige O’Leary

Hello everybody, my name's Thige. This is the first time I've had the privilege of talking to you through this medium and I'm sitting here with a little piece of music which I don't know if the microphone will pick up but it's a lovely one that I have on my phone. All this wonderful technology we have these days, you know, to carry all sorts of things on our phones and sometimes they work as a phone as well!

Anyway I'm wondering if it's going to come through. Let's see …

Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water? …

The singer is Hayley Westenra and I discovered this lovely song about Mary some years ago, maybe only five years ago, and was captivated by it. And Hayley sings it really beautifully. Someone told me subsequently that it's been around for a while and various artists have sung it. And I think part of the captivation for me was in the words, what it's about. It's kind of like a Christmas Carol and those words, "Mary did you know?" referring to Mary the mother of Jesus – "did you know that the baby you bore would one day walk on water. Mary did you know?" and that refrain again and again … "Mary did you know …" It might be the wrong time of the year for a Christmas Carol! But the example of Mary mother of Jesus – what did she really know when she accepted that call from God that she be the mother of Jesus. "Mary did you know?"

One of the titles our Church gives to Mary is the "Mother of Mercy". You may know there are lots of titles that throughout the Tradition of the Christian Church and the Catholic Church, Mary has had lots of titles given to her - some of them are picked up from Scripture, some are from little reflections on the role of Mary. Some I can remember from one of the Litanies, a litany is a series of statements with a little prayer, "pray for us" at the end. "Ark of the Covenant:– pray for us".

One of the titles though is "Mary Mother of Mercy". In this particular year throughout the Church we have a Year of Mercy which Pope Francis has called. Pope Francis has wanted us throughout the Church to focus on the Mercy of God. And it's precisely because Mary is the mother of Jesus, that she could be rightly called "the Mother of Mercy". In a very real sense as Pope Francis says, Jesus reveals in a very special way the Mercy of God for us. Jesus is God among us, Emmanuel, God born among us in the person of Jesus, the son of Mary, born in a stable at Bethlehem, growing up in Nazareth with Mary and Joseph and in that family. Jesus then goes on mission and ministry. And what does he do? He doesn't only just preach and talk about God and God's love! He heals people. He heals a leper, he raises a young man who was being carried out to his funeral and behind this young man is his mother who is a widow. And it says Jesus looked on her and "he felt sorry for her". It's in Luke's Gospel. Jesus felt sorry for her and without anyone beckoning him or anything he goes and stops the people who are carrying the body and says "Young man, I tell you to arise! I tell you to get up!" And he does! But the thing that motivates Jesus here as we are told in that Gospel is that he felt sorry for this widow. Because she had lost her husband obviously and now she has lost her son! And because of that her whole place in society and her means of income and support - her life just takes such a radical change. And Jesus felt sorry for her.

And then of course we have the suffering and the dying of Jesus – his crucifixion, death and resurrection to new life. All of these things, the teaching of Jesus, his ministry of mercy, his dying and rising for our sakes speak to us of God's mercy. And who is the Mother? Mary! Mary is the mother of Jesus, Mary is the Mother of Mercy.
Did Mary know these things? Did she fully comprehend them when she became pregnant and was carrying Jesus? When she heard that Angel's message "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you"? That message that she is to be the mother of God's chosen one, the one that God has sent among us. Did she know all these things
I think people take various viewpoints on this, on what Mary knew. I find it helpful and instructive to think that Mary, like us, was called to live by faith; to simply believe that these things that God promised would be fulfilled in her. And so as Mary journeyed through her life, as Mary progressed along her journey she was finding out about Jesus and about God's plan in, sort of, special ways. And she pondered these things in her heart.

This year we recognise Mary as the Mother of Mercy in a particular way, the woman called on to bring to life among us, God living among us. God who is merciful, choosing to live among us in the person of Christ Jesus. And so we can pray confidently to Mary that she lead us to understand more and more deeply God's mercy, God's mercy among us made know in Christ Jesus and Mary the one who can lead us in this because, I suspect, she was learning so much of this herself as she journeyed through life recognising the great gift that God had made us in her Son, Christ Jesus.

…did you know your baby boy is the Lord of All Creation, that your baby boy would one day rule the nations? Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb and the sleeping child you're holding is The Great I Am?"


Did you know that Mary's title "mother of mercy", refers to her in relation to Jesus who is the mercy of God? What is your biggest need for mercy at the moment?

Fr Thige asks us to reflect on Mary needing to live by faith and find out more about Jesus and God's plan as she journeyed through life. How might that understanding of Mary help you as a mother and woman of faith ?

Silently re-read the Scripture above and reflect briefly on what strikes you. Jesus showed mercy on the widow without being asked. When have you felt Jesus's unexpected care for you?

The 8th September is Mary's birthday. She was a flesh and blood woman now assumed into heaven. How would you describe your relationship with Mary ?

by praying for each other, then share the following prayer together.

Mary, you experienced the mercy of God through your Son our Saviour.
Mary you run, you skip, you play, you dance, you share, you remember, you help, you laugh, you cry—
and so does your God.
Blessed are you indeed and blessed the God
who imagined a woman like you.
So bless me Mary (for never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, was left unaided).
Give me your strength, your mighty arm, to break my vision of a passive God who never laughs, or skips, or plays, or longed to flesh himself inside your flesh.
Pray that I have the courage to embrace the Mercy of God in new ways. Pray that I learn to enjoy God, to be happy and courageous as a mother, and to let it show.
Help my life give glory to God just by being me.

Adapted from Meditation on the Visitation by Mary Neil
(Bringing the Mother with You)