16 May Mary’s Intercession Brings us the Gifts of Eternal Salvation – Homily of the Minister General on the Feast of St. Mary Mediatrix
One of the most fascinating images of Biblical mediation by a woman is found in the first reading from the Book of Esther. When the Persian King Ahasuerus banished his first wife for public disobedience, he turned his attention to a Jewish subject, Esther, a woman recognized for her beauty, intelligence, and wisdom, making her part of his harem, naming her the new queen. At a later time, Esther’s cousin Mordecai, who had raised her as his daughter, became aware of a plan to assassinate the king. He told Queen Esther who then informed the king of the plot. With this, Queen Esther’s influence expanded, and her cousin Mordecai was recognized as a hero. Later, the King took as his chief minister Haman, a very strong man who wanted to impose the worship of the King as a means of converting the minds and hearts of the King’s subjects, especially the Jews. Mordecai refused to bow down in worship of the image or name of the King, so the chief minister urged the King to kill Mordecai for public disobedience, and to exterminate all Jews in the kingdom. Ester made an appeal to the King to spare Mordecai’s life, reminding the king that it was Mordecai who had saved his life. Yielding to his Esther’s mediation, the King ordered the chief minister Haman to be killed. He then named Mordecai his new chief adviser. With this, the entire Jewish community was saved. This is but one example among many where a woman was selected by God to serve in the role of mediation, ensuring the well-being of God’s chosen people.
It is this special role of spiritual and human mediation entrusted to Mary, mother of Jesus, that we celebrate today in the Feast of Santa Maria Mediatrice. It is clear that in God’s plan, Mary has a unique relationship with God and with Jesus. Because of her participation in God’s plan of salvation, Mary assumes a special role in God’s ongoing plan to invite all people to come into a new relationship with him. This is made clear in the account of the wedding at Cana where Mary performs her first intervention as intercessor. Because of very poor planning in the part of the wedding organizers, the young married couple ran out of wine. In compassion, to spare them public embarrassment, Mary intercedes with Jesus on their behalf. Mary’s intercessory role began at Cana and extends to all those who are in need, most especially the poor, marginalized, those who are oppressed and cast down, as the Magnificat makes so very clear:
“He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty…”
But Mary’s role does not end there. As Pope Francis reminds us: “She is the missionary who draws near to us and accompanies us throughout life, opening our hearts to faith through her maternal love” (Evangelii Gaudium 286). Following her assumption into heaven, “she did not lay aside the saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation . . . Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix (Catholic Catechism)”.
Even as we recognize this special role as Santa Maria Mediatrix, we also acknowledge that Christ alone is the absolute Mediator between God and humanity, as St. Paul makes clear in his First Letter to Timothy (2:5): “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” However, Paul also tells Timothy that Christians are to pray for each other, meaning that Mary’s intercession, and the intercession of all of us who are members of the Body of Christ, form part of one united intercessory prayer, united with Christ in his singular role as the first and absolute mediator. As St. Paul writes in his letter to the Romans: “I urge that prayers, supplications, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for everyone . . . This is good, and pleasing to God our Savior.” Mary responds to this invitation; she intervenes on behalf of others, and on behalf of each of us, and invites us to join with her in this sacred vocation of serving as intercessors. Just as we share Christ’s sonship by participation in his death and resurrection through baptism (Jn 1:12), we with Mary also share his ongoing work of salvation. Mary reveals in her ‘fiat’, her absolute ‘yes’ to God’s plan for her and for all of humanity how each of us are to co-operate with the Holy, for the sake of the world. For this reason, we join our prayers with all who are in need: with brothers and sisters in Syria; in Iraq and Afghanistan; in Libya; in South and North Sudan; in the Democratic Republic of Congo; in Venezuela; and those suffering on the streets of Rome and other major cities of the world.
Let us now call upon Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and our mother, using words from a prayer to Mary by Pope Francis:
“Mary, Virgin and Mother, You who, moved by the Holy Spirit,
welcomed the word of life in the depths of your humble faith:
As you gave yourself completely to the Eternal One,
help us say our own ‘yes’ to the urgent call, as pressing as ever,
to proclaim the good news of Jesus…
Mother of the living Gospel, wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones, prayer for us!
Happy Feast to each and every one of you my dear brothers, and to all of you dear friends of this family of Santa Maria Mediatrice! Auguri!
Rome, May 6, 2017, Feast of St. Mary Mediatrix, Titular Feast of the General Curia