When I was about three years old, I was on vacation with my parents and grandparents, and we stopped at a McDonald’s. I was excited to explore the Play Place, so I decided to climb to one of the highest points, where there was a tunnel that crossed the entire Play Place. When I got to this tunnel, I looked out the window down at where my parents and grandparents were sitting, and I was too scared to move on. My mom saw this, so without thinking, she went into the Play Place, climbed all the way up to where I was frozen in fear, and brought me down safely to the ground. My grandparents would often tell me that story, reminding me, “Your mom climbed into the Play Place to get you.”
Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the patronal feast of our parish. But what is mercy? Mercy is love when it comes in contact with evil. In the Old Testament, one of the words for mercy is rahamim. It refers to those strong feelings of tenderness and compassion that a mother has for her child.
This is also the kind of mercy that God has for us. When He sees us sunk in the misery of sin, He is not distant from us, but like my mom climbing into the Play Place, He rushes to rescue us. And He doesn’t just rescue us by sending someone else to take care of it, but He Himself becomes man and suffers and dies for us so that we can be with Him forever in Heaven.
At this moment of Redemption, Jesus gave us His mother to be our mother also. Just as Mary gave her “yes” to God at the Annunciation, she also gives her “yes” at the Foot of the Cross to God’s loving plan of salvation even though it means the death of her Son, showing mercy to the entire human race. And this “yes” does not end there, but she continues to show this mercy to all her children who call on her. The mercy she shows to us always paves the way for us to receive God’s mercy.
But for many of us, it can be very difficult to receive mercy because we feel unworthy, or because it is difficult to face our sins. But in spite of this, we need to be open to receive God’s mercy like little children because without it, we are helpless. A child does not do anything to earn the love of his or her parents, but simply receives it as a free gift. In the same way, we need to recognize our need for God’s mercy, to accept that mercy for the free gift that it is, and to thank God for it. Like my grandparents who reminded me that my mom climbed into the Play Place to get me, we can sing with Mary, “The Lord’s mercy is from age to age.”