Sisters and Brothers! I am not a Redemptorist but the words of the Blessed Pope have touched me too. That’s why I would like to make known to you the Divine mystery hidden in the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Before we look at the Icon we need to learn the skill of looking though. The great school to learn this skill of looking is today’s Gospel. There we take a stand next to the Virgin Mary and John, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala, to look at Jesus on the Cross. I read in a book that John’s account of crucifixion is like a series of icons. Those images had to inspire some early Christians to start writing icons, because an icon is written not painted. In an icon there is God’s word for us to hear. When we hear the John’s account of the Crucifixion of Jesus we may be surprised that the disciple, who was the firsthand witness, didn’t give us explicit details of the crucifixion. There are two reasons for that: John the Apostle didn’t want to play with our feelings but he wanted to draw us into what he witnessed when on the Golgotha the Son of God was crucified. John by his Gospel invites us to take a stand next to him and the small crowd of faithful disciples of Jesus who loved him dearly. That has been also the reason for Christians to produce icons, to allow others to enter the mystery captured in an icon. That’s why icon writers need more that a good hand. They need to be people of prayer and fasting so that what they experienced at prayer they could announce through an icon.
Today I won’t explain all details of the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I only want to start the journey which you could continue yourselves. Our Blessed Mother appears as a helper as she holds the hands of Jesus. Some could say that she is giving a hand to Jesus. However we discover that she is looking at us. She is giving a hand not to Jesus but to us. The help she offers us is Jesus. She invites us to take Jesus to our life. Jesus is looking too. He is looking at the golden background of the icon because this golden background is a symbol of heaven. Jesus whose hands we are encouraged to take will direct our vision to heaven too.
The words of the Blessed Pope Pius IX: ‘Make her known throughout the world’ were truly prophetic. Today this icon of Mary is known throughout the world. It means that we, the disciples of Jesus, can make a place for her in our homes like St John did. We know John as the beloved disciple of Jesus, the one who never grew tired of proclaiming God’s love. However John was not an easy person first. The Gospel calls him and his brother James, the Sons of Thunder. It was John who wanted to bring fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan town where Jesus and his disciples were not welcomed. I believe that was the reason why Jesus loved him so much. John needed Jesus’ love to change his abrupt and fierce attitude. When Jesus was dying on the cross the job was not finished yet. Therefore Jesus gave John as a son to Mary because John needed it. He still needed to be loved greatly so that his soul heeling could continue.
In the request of Blessed Pius IX, who asked the Redemptorists to make Mary known to the whole world, we can see a reflection of what Jesus did from the cross. My Dear Fellow Believers make a place for her in your home. You will be loved by her very much. Her love will transform you like it did transform the aggressive John into the Apostle of Divine Love.