Today’s the 24th of the month!
Here’s a piece in honor of Mary, Help of Christians, penned by Br. Alvin Francis F. Lozano of the Diocese of Paranaque.
In the Gospel according to St. Luke, we find Elizabeth astonished and filled with awe upon the visit of her cousin. Come to think of it, Mary was already pregnant. This would be enough reason for her not to visit her cousin. Taking on a journey to that hilly part of Israel would not be the most practical thing for a pregnant woman to do.
If Mary were just an ordinary woman, she would reason out, or even justify her point of not going. She is already the mother of God. She could just sneer on Elizabeth in order to rub this in. She could even say “I am already the queen of heaven and earth, I should not be the one visiting; they should be the ones to pay homage to me.”
But I believe that these thoughts were never present in Mary’s person. What she remembered were the words of the angel during the Annunciation, “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;” (Lk 1:36). The very thought that her elderly cousin was pregnant urged her to come rushing to her aid. In spite of the fact that she herself was pregnant, too.
She never considered that she was already the mother of God. That she was already a “somebody;” that all she should do was to enjoy the privilege of being such instead of undergoing suffering. This explains why Elizabeth, upon seeing her, showered her with praises, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:43-44),
Because she was filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary was endowed with the gift of understanding, and consequently, mercy. In Tagalog, these two are encapsulated in a term: Maunawain. Loosely translated as an understanding person. But, in the original, it means one who puts mercy first above all, that is, una ang awa. That is why, the righteousness of Mary is not mere human righteousness. For if it were, she would find a thousand reason to set aside concern for others in favor of convenience. Her righteousness is of God: mercy. And that is what Mary inherited from her Son, the very face of mercy.
That is why when we greet her during the Salve Regina, we sing of her as Mater Misericordiae, a mother who has a heart for those who are miserable and suffering. Indeed, Mary is our model in being configured to our merciful Lord. That is the real mark of a Christian: mercy. Mary is a person who values the good of others before her own. A real merciful person. A Christian, likewise, should have a heart and preference for those who are miserable, neglected, and marginalized.
Mary who is the mother of mercy is also … the Help of Christians.
In the prayer of St. Bernard, the Memorare, we recite the words “Despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me.” But to call upon Mary as the help of Christians entails a responsibility. If we call on Mary as help of Christians, it is our responsibility to be merciful for it is a mark of an authentic Christian. We need to follow Jesus who is the face of mercy through imitating Mary, the mother of mercy. By being persons who put mercy first above all in our thoughts, words and deeds.
In this way alone can we call upon Mary as our mother, as help of Christians.
In an old pious invocation, we call on Mary, Monstra esse Matrem! (Show yourself a mother!) We beg her from the depths of our hearts to be a mother to us whenever we implore her mercy. Today, as we honor Mary Help of Christians, we are challenged by Mary, as she responded to St. Bernard, the author of this invocation, Monstra te esse filium! (Show yourself a child!)
And we know what this means.
Let us strive to be merciful. So that we may truly, and rightfully, call Mary as our mother and help of Christians, and that we may be truly called Christians, followers of the face of mercy, Jesus Christ.
Mary, Help of Christians … Pray for us!