“The LORD, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior; he will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals.” (Zep 3:17-18). These words of the prophet Zephaniah, addressed to Israel, may also be referred to Mary, the Church, and every person, all of whom are loved by God’s merciful love. Yes, God loves us so much that he even rejoices and takes pleasure in us. He loves us with gratuitous love, love without limits, and without expecting anything in return. This merciful love is the most striking attribute of God, the synthesis of which is condensed the Gospel message, the faith of the Church.
The word “mercy” – misericordia – is composed of two words: misery and heart. The heart indicates the capacity to love; mercy is that love, which embraces the misery of the human person. It is a love that “feels” our poverty as its own, with a view to freeing us of it. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn 4:9-10). “The Word became flesh,” with the intention of sharing all our frailties – with the intention of experiencing our human condition, even unto taking upon himself the Cross, with all the pain of human existence. Such is the abyss of compassion and mercy: a fusion, in order to make himself company, and to place himself in the service of a wounded humanity. No sin can cancel his merciful closeness or prevent him from unleashing the grace of conversion, provided we invoke it.
Indeed, sin itself makes more radiant the love of God who, to ransom a slave, sacrificed his Son. That mercy of God comes to us with the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, enables, generates and nourishes the new life of his disciples. For, howsoever great and grave the sins of the world, the Spirit, who renews the face of the earth, makes possible the miracle of a life that is more human, more full of joy and hope. Let us, too, shout with jubilation: “The Lord is my God and Savior!”“The Lord is near,” says the apostle Paul, and nothing should make us anguished. The greatest mercy lies in his being in our midst, in our being in his presence and company. He walks with us, he shows us the path of love, lifts us up in our falls, holds us to our labors, accompanies us in all circumstances of our existence. He opens our eyes to see themselves and the world miseries, but also fills us with hope. “The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4-7). This is the source of our life made peaceful and happy; nothing can steal this peace and joy, despite the sufferings and trials of life. Let us cultivate this experience of mercy, peace and hope during Advent, through which we are making our way in light of the Jubilee year. Announcing the Good News to the poor, as John the Baptist, performing works of mercy, is a good way to look for the coming of Jesus at Christmas.
In Mary, God rejoices and is especially pleased. In one of the prayers most cherished by Christians, the Salve Regina, we call Mary “mother of mercy.” She has experienced the divine mercy, and has hosted the very source of this mercy in her womb: Jesus Christ. She, who has always lived intimately united with her Son, knows better than anyone what he wants: that all men be saved, and that God’s tenderness and consolation will not fail anyone. May Mary, Mother of Mercy, help us to understand how much God loves us.
To Blessed Mary we entrust the sufferings and joys of people throughout the Americas, who love her as a mother and recognize her as Patroness under the beloved title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. That “the sweetness of her gaze be with us in this Holy Year, so that we might rediscover the joy of the tenderness of God” (Cf. Bull Misericordiae vultus, 24). We ask her that this jubilee year will be a planting of merciful love in the hearts of individuals, families and nations. Let us convert and become merciful people, and may all Christian communities be oases and sources of mercy, witnesses to a charity that does not allow exclusions. Let us implore her to guide the footsteps of the American people, a pilgrim people looking for the Mother of mercy and asks her to show them her Son Jesus.[Original Text: Italian] [Unofficial translation by Vatican Radio]