The Jubilee Begins with Mary. But Why?

To say the least, the fact that the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy begins on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception is not lost on the priests and brothers of my congregation, the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, for whom Mary is the very font of our vocation.

The solemnity is our patronal feast day, and spreading the mystery of the Immaculate Conception is one of our charisms. When Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski founded our congregation in Poland in 1673, he did so with the belief that this mystery of our faith goes to the very heart of Christianity. He bet his own life and the future of the Marian congregation on it.

That said, why did Pope Francis choose this particular feast day for the launch of the Jubilee Year? In his own words, the Holy Father said, "This liturgical feast day recalls God's action from the very beginning of the history of mankind. After the sin of Adam and Eve, God did not wish to leave humanity alone in the throes of evil. So he turned his gaze to Mary, holy and immaculate in love (see Eph 1:4), choosing her to be the Mother of man's Redeemer. When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy."

Indeed, the Immaculate Conception is the sign of the gratuitous love of God as it was the greatest act of mercy ever bestowed upon a creature. The secret of holiness is to open one's heart to experience this love and to allow oneself to be guided and formed by it. To that end, Mary is our model, par excellence. How so?

While untold sufferings awaited her, she chose to become the Mother of God for the love of sinful man.

She brought forth for us Jesus Christ - Mercy Incarnate.

Think of how Mary saved the Child Jesus from the persecution of Herod by carrying him to Egypt (Mt 2:14).

Think of Mary's concern for the wedding couple at Cana when the wine ran out: Jesus heard Mary's prayer and worked his first miracle by changing water into wine (Jn 2:1-11).

In the Rule of the Ten Evangelical Virtues, which we Marians hold dear, we are instructed how to cultivate mercy in our own lives in imitation of Mary. The Rule says we nourish Jesus when we "love with holy feelings none other than Christ." We carry Christ to Egypt by "meditating in times of temptation on death." We minister wine and instructions to our neighbors by practicing the "corporal and spiritual works of mercy."

Like Mary did when she remained with her cousin Elizabeth for three months before the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:56), we must hold others' needs above our own.
The Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception serves to remind us that Christ saves us; that he expects our faith in order to perform miracles in our lives; that he first loved us, before we were conceived in our mother's womb; that he does not withdraw his love, seeing our life marked by sin; and that he destined us to "be holy and without blemish before him" (Eph 1:4).

We need to respond with our trusting faith because of this love, just as Mary did, when she said: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).

This Jubilee Year, let's commend ourselves to the Blessed Mother's care, protection, and guidance, and discover through her how beautiful and attractive holiness is.

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