Meditations given by the Rev, Bede Jarrett, O.P., during the Novena preached in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in preparation for the celebration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Apparitions at Lourdes, February 2nd - February 10th, 1933
Sorrow then is asked on our part, a sorrow that is based on fear, but of which the motive is love. Love is a mother. Love gathers and enfolds and caresses. Love inspires. Fear, of itself, might keep you down. Love gives you wings, lifts you up. Love is religion. "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God.” You shall also fear Him because love itself enshrines the idea of reverence. You do not love unless you have reverence. Without it what men call love is mere passion. It is not real love. You can give it a shorter name — but not the name of love. Love is reverence. Love is respect. This is true of our love of man and true of our love of God. There must be fear in our relationship to God, but love too, and a love which conquers and at last casts out servile fear. The fear of a son for his father, that will remain, but not the fear of the slave for his lord. For us, then, fear and love of God are essential to give us the true motive for contrition. Over it all the thought of God’s infinite mercy.
When He created the world we are told that the Spirit of God brooded over it — the Spirit of God which is the love God bears Himself, eternal, divine. This Divine Presence, the Spirit of God, the unchanging love of God which could never alter or diminish or dry up, broods still over the world. God shares His mercy with those that most love Him, they having larger share.
And so God’s Blessed Mother is the most merciful of all created beings, though perhaps she who saw the cost of sin, did she follow only human judgments would have least mercy on us sinners — we who brought about that dreadful thing. But she has mercy as a mood of her spirit. You know we have our moods, and in our moods everything is colored by the particular mood we find ourselves in. If you are angry the most innocent person who does the most innocent thing may find your anger blazing out against him. He is not the real culprit but he will be the victim of the resentment you feel against someone else. If you are in the mood of anger let no one come near you. You are in a mood to be angry with the least provocative thing. Or perhaps you are impatient, and not merely with the thing or person that happens to have made you impatient, but with everybody and everything that comes upon you in such mood. Or, contrariwise, you are happy. Then how generous you are to people to whom normally you would not have been generous. But you are in the mood to be happy. Something has happened to make you happy; and all the world is now seen through very different eyes. It is a new world. The sun is shining, or seems to shine even though the clouds hide it. For all the world is full of joy. And everyone you meet benefits by your mood of brimming happiness. God’s Blessed Mother, her eternal mood is a mood of mercy, and she looks out on everything with merciful eyes. She is merciful to mankind because mankind has been given to her by Him alone who could give it. He gave us to her: "Mother, behold thy son, behold thy children. Mother, these I give you in My last bequest.” He gave us to her and we belong to her, and so as she looks on us as her children she sees us in Him, sees Him in us: we profit through her love of Him. He, having set her in His unchanging eternity in that blessed mood of mercy, has fixed her in mercy to all mankind. Merciful she is always to all men. She in love with her Son is for His sake in love with us.
Merciful she had to be. Peter came and spoke with her, Peter, who had publicly apostatized; he came to her and she did not draw her garments about her. She welcomed him. But why? Does not she know what he has done ? She knows. Why then is St. Peter welcome? Because she is the Mother of Mercy; because He has fixed her forever in that mood of mercy; because Peter is her child, her wayward child. Do you think the mother loves the wayward child any less than she loves the others? The wayward children seem to be most loved in this queer topsy-turvy world of ours. Ah, but this is true also of that other world. There is more joy before the angels of Heaven upon a sinner doing penance than upon the just who need it not. What a strange, odd world the world of God! Well, into that strange world enters His Mother. She loves God, so she must love as God loves. She must forgive everyone. Thus it came about that she sat with the disciples and talked to them. I think it was then that she told them all about Him as a little Child. They were thinking of themselves and their failure and they were angry because they had so badly failed.
He had warned them beforehand that they would fail Him. Yet He had given them every possible reason for being faithful to Him, and still they had failed Him. Now they come back to the Mother, and all they can think of is themselves. She knows this is not the way for them to become contrite. No sorrow lies that way. They must not be allowed to think of themselves, they must think of Him. I think it was then, therefore, that she told them all about His babyhood and childhood, and told them of the angel coming to her. Only from her own lips could they have heard that. This was the time. Their thoughts must be taken away from themselves, otherwise they would be crushed. Why not? For they had gone back on Him, so blessed, so merciful, so kind, so patient. Men, they were hardly men at all — they were broken. But the bruised reed, ah no, it must not be broken; it must be brought to stand up again: the flax must be fanned again to fire. They must forget, forget themselves and remember Him. Then it was that she told them the story that St. Luke later was to write down. It was then that she told them of the chant of the Magnificat. From her lips they had to learn it; and told them of the losing and the finding of the Child, and all those early chapters of the Gospel. She told it to them then to bring them courage, to bring them back to Him, to make them depend more thoroughly upon Him.
Because she forgave and welcomed Peter, she will forgive and welcome us. He sinned. Who could measure the depth of his sin? We are sinners; ah, but at least we never saw the tenderness of Him against whom we sinned. We never saw the most comely of the sons of men. We never heard the music of that voice of His, its pathos; we never heard Him calling, "Come follow Me.” We never saw the miracles, never tasted of His glory on the Mount. We never watched the Heart show so marvelously its compassion. We never saw Him touch the sick and call back even the dead. We never saw it. He saw it and apostatized. We cannot measure sin against sin. We only know that she must forgive where He forgives, and there is no limit to His forgiveness. God is infinite in all He is and does.
"Turn, then, thine eyes of mercy towards us!” Help us to see the wretchedness of our souls. Help us to see it and be humbled but not discouraged by it. Help us to see, not that only, but the love of Thy Son for us. Help us to see that what He asks of us is love for love. Do thou, O Mother of Mercy, lead us by the happy way of contrite sorrow, to peace within and to Himself!
Turn, then, Most Gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us. Always merciful shalt thou be to us who so lovest thy Son! Help us to be sorry for our sins, and to love Him, and lead us at last to Himself.