In the Holy Father’s homily on December 8, 2015, the start of the Extraordinary Jubilee, he emphasized, “the simple, yet highly symbolic act of opening the Holy Door, which highlights the primacy of grace; the same grace that made Mary worthy of becoming the mother of Christ.” The Pope continued, “The fullness of grace can transform the human heart and enable it to do something so great as to change the course of human history. The feast of the Immaculate Conception serves as a reminder of the grandeur of God’s love in allowing Mary to avert the original sin present in every man and woman who comes into the world.” (CNS quoted in “Inside the Vatican” p. 11, Jan. 2016)
The Father willed that the grandeur of His love, the extravagance of divine mercy would come to us through a holy doorway: The Virgin Mary. That the Church began the Jubilee of Mercy on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception signals: Walk with Mary on the jubilee journey of mercy so she can help you live intensely the grace of these important days.
Now the Lenten season approaches beginning with Ash Wednesday. We desire this Lent to be unique, the best ever, the most fruitful for good, beautiful in communion with God, transformative. The cry of the human heart, “Father, I need your love in the most desperate way.” Our Father heard that cry before we could utter it. His Paternal Heart aches for us: “My child, I want you to be with Me forever. I will send you a Savior, a spotless Lamb who is one with My Heart. He will take away your sins so you can come home to Me.” And the Father sent the Savior, born of a woman, the Virgin Mary. Her distinction? Sinlessness!
Absent the stain of original sin, there is nothing to hinder the flow of divine mercy to Mary’s Heart. The Immaculate Heart is where I can more deeply encounter Divine Mercy since no one can know Christ more than His Mother. I will remain with Mary on the hard road to Calvary. She will help me to see Jesus through her clear eyes. My vision is veiled in the darkness of sin but Mary’s vision is without obstruction or corruption. I will experience more of Jesus by entering into Mary’s seven sorrows for these are the portals of maternal love. Divine mercy is a spirituality of accompaniment.
Accompanying Jesus Through Mary: The Seven Sorrows of Mary
The First Sorrow: The Prophecy of Simeon: Luke 2:25-35.
When Mary and Joseph present the infant Jesus in the temple, the prophet Simeon predicts that a sword of sorrow will pierce her soul. Mary pondered the meaning of this.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in union with Mary’s sacrifice of obedience, sorrow and faith, I approach You with my heart that has suffered because of sin. Though my suffering is only a shadow of Your perfect sacrifice, I offer it to You in reparation and gratitude. Thank You for rescuing me. I will live in hope of Heavenly joy where all suffering will cease.
The Second Sorrow: The flight into Egypt: Matthew 2:13-15.
Mary and Joseph flee to Egypt with the infant Jesus when King Herod orders the death of all male children age two or younger.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in union with Mary’s trusting faith and her obedience in protecting You from Herod’s sword, thank you for protecting me from the sword of eternal death. You are my Redeemer. Please forgive me the times when I have been deaf and blind to your holy will for me. Please open my heart, mind, ears, and eyes to know You more.
The Third Sorrow: The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple: Luke 2: 41-50.
Mary and Joseph search for the child Jesus for three days, and after agonizing sorrow, at last, find Him in the temple.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in union with Mary’s persevering love and humility, I implore the grace of virtuous discipleship that I may never lose You. Like Mary and Joseph, I do not understand all that occurs within Your permissive will but I choose to trust You who are Mercy Incarnate. Thank you for finding me when I have been lost.
The Fourth Sorrow: Mary meets Jesus carrying the cross: Luke 23: 27-29.
Condemned to death by crucifixion, Jesus walks the way of Calvary and meeting His mother Mary, their pure eyes meet in mutual agreement of the Father’s will. Mother and Son are inseparable in sorrow and courage. “Onward” they silently urge one another for the fulfillment of the salvation of humanity.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in union with Mary’s courageous fortitude in the midst of the horror of crucifixion, I offer You all the hurts, injustices, rejections, and sorrows of my life. Please take my history into Your pierced Heart, immerse me in the present moment and prepare me for Your future plans. As You accompany me, I’ll accompany others who carry their crosses too.
The Fifth Sorrow: Mary at the foot of the cross: John 19: 25-30.
Mary stands near her dying Son unable to help as He cries, “I thirst.” She hears Him forgive His enemies and promise heaven to a repentant thief. His last words, “Behold your mother,” are written on our heart. He wills it with dying breath.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in union with Mary’s compassion and mercy, I desire to alleviate your thirst by giving You to drink of my stream of love. My imperfect offering is made with all sincerity of my will. It’s all I have to give. Thank You for breaking Your Heart open to satisfy my thirst.
The Sixth Sorrow: Mary receives the body of Jesus: Psalm 130.
Jesus is taken down from the cross and His body is placed in Mary’s arms. The passion and death are over, but for His mother, grief continues. His body in her arms, she lavishes maternal love on her Son.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in union with the inconsolable sorrowful heart of Mary, I offer You my heart filled with the sorrow of causing You to suffer so cruel a death for love of me. If You hold me in such merciful love, then I am consoled in the truth that sets me free.
The Seventh Sorrow: Mary witnesses the burial of Jesus: Luke 23: 50-56.
The body of Jesus is laid in the tomb. The most tragic yet triumphant day in history ends, Mary alone in sorrow, is awaiting the Resurrection.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, in union with Mary’s steadfast faith, hope and love, in union with her tears of sorrow and of unceasing hope, I offer You my life. I am but ashes, yet my soul will proclaim your mercy forever. Thank you for burying my guilt, covering me in the cloak of your mercy. You have overcome the tomb; changed death into life.
Lenten Liturgy: Ashes to Easter Lilies
The gravitas of Lent motivates us for the sacrifice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. By these we are refined in the crucible of self-emptying love. The Mother of Jesus, a devout Jewish woman, undoubtedly prayed, fasted and gave alms also.
The ashes that we receive remind us that we are marked and set apart for Christ. We belong to Him. We are His creatures who will return to dust. This most powerful reminder corrects my short-sided thinking that interrupts my consideration of the final four things: death, judgment, hell and heaven. Humility never forgets these.
In the first reading of this year’s Ash Wednesday liturgy (Jl 2:12-18), the prophet Joel exhorts, “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Perhaps he will again relent and leave behind him a blessing, offerings and libations for the Lord, your God.”
In the Gospel we are reminded to “pray in secret”. Mary undoubtedly prayed in secret, communing constantly with God in an intimate way. She can only help us to do the same. During Lent when prayer can become an arduous battle, when we wrestle with self, the world and the devil, we need Mary’s help.
We go full circle from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday: from forgiveness to forgiveness; witness to witness, death to life, repentance to resurrection, sorrow to joy, wounds to victory, ashes to lilies. With Mary’s accompaniment, we can become less a sinner and more a saint.
Lent in the Jubilee shines the bright rays of the Father’s mercy into the deep recesses of our heart. We remember the Jubilee theme: Merciful like the Father. We echo Mary: Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. May the Lord make our Lenten journey a Jubilee of Mercy with Mary as we engage in the spiritual and corporal works!