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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Wednesday

Mary and witness

Four Redemptorists participated in a special three-day celebration in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, June 25-27. We have shared the homilies from each day’s Mass on redemptorists.net.

Feast Day, Part 2: To magnify the Lord — Mary and witness

By Rev. Patrick Woods, C.Ss.R.
 
I have an Apple iPad. I often bring it with me when I visit my family since I like to keep up with my emails. However, when I arrive home, my great niece, who is six, and my great nephew, who is four, descend upon me, give me a hug, and then ask me if I brought my iPad.
 
They love playing games on it, and quite honestly I think they are more skilled in using it than I am. I assign them each fifteen minute shifts so they both get to play with it equally. However, oftentimes an argument breaks out, and one of them wants to hold onto it longer than the other. Sometimes this leads to loud wailing, some pushing back and forth, and my iPad becomes like a rope in a tug of war match.
 
I sternly tell them to stop. I threaten to take the iPad away from them. I tell them that they will never get to play with it again as long as they live. None of these threats have much impact. Then, my niece Claire, the mother of the children, just looks at both of them, her eyes make contact with theirs, and they grow silent, say they are sorry to one another, and begin happily sharing with one another. I am amazed at this miracle. What power the eyes of a mother have.
 
In the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, one of the most powerful features of this painting is the eyes of Mary. The artist has painted the image in such a way that whether you are in front of her, or on the left, the middle or the right, Mary’s eyes are upon you. She is gazing into your eyes.
 
Some would say that her eyes are sad. The two archangels in the picture are carrying the instruments of the crucifixion. Our Blessed Mother knows the terrible suffering that her son will endure out of love for all of us. One day she will stand under that cross and experience the devastating pain of seeing her son die on the cross.
 
Other people see a sense of mystery in the eyes of Mary, something akin to the famous Mona Lisa smile. Mary’s eyes invite the viewer into the mystery and wonder of God, a God who calls a young woman to bring Jesus into the world by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Mary is filled with mystery, the mystery of knowing that she has given birth to the Word made flesh, that the Divine Creator of Heaven and Earth has met in her womb. Her eyes reveal a woman who pondered and treasured all these things in her heart.
 
My own interpretation is that Mary’s eyes are inviting. Although her eyes are on us, since she is our mother given to us by Jesus from the cross when he told all generations, “Behold your mother,” there is also a slight glance downward at her son. Her eyes direct us to her son, Jesus, the Savior of the World. Certainly, the long graceful fingers of Mary that are centered in the image are pointing directly to her son. All five fingers of her hand are directing our eyes to Jesus. We think of the words that Mary spoke at Cana when her intercession brought about the first miracle that her son would do by turning water into wine. At Cana she says to the waiters: “Do whatever he says.”
 
My brothers and sisters, the story of the Blessed Mother is so beautifully revealed in this beloved icon. She is the woman of mystery, in awe that that Almighty God has given her this call to be the bearer of the Son of God. She is the Mother of God. Her eyes, loving looking at each one of us, her sons and daughters, tell us that we are her beloved children. She is our mother, too. She gives us a most simple and profound message: “Do whatever He says. Follow my son. Make Jesus the Lord of your life. Walk with him through life.”
 
We live in a very complicated world of iPads and computers, of DNA and quantum physics, of political debates and financial concerns, of family joys and sorrows, of health concerns and vacation plans. Our minds can be going in a thousand directions at once. Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother, in the simple beauty of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, calls us to behold her Son, the God who loves and redeems us. Her eyes speak to us: “Follow Him. Do whatever he says.”