An interview with Bishop Jesse Mercado, D.D., bishop of the Diocese of Paranaque, Philippines
Totus Tuus Maria (TTM) staff: Does Marian devotion go hand in hand with devotion to the Eucharist? Why?
Bishop Jesse Mercado (BJM) : Devotion to the Eucharist is devotion to our Lord; Marian devotion is devotion to Mary.
However, these are devotions to two intimately-connected persons of our faith: Mary and her Son, Jesus. So, the relationship and closeness are already there.
Even when we pray the Rosary, the mysteries of Mary are linked with the mysteries of Jesus.
Furthermore, we pray to Mary not only as a Mother but as somebody who leads us to Jesus.
TTM: How does the Church handle ecumenical dialogue with separated brethren on the issue of the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?
BJM: First of all, it has been the conviction of the Church, even in its earliest understanding of the faith, that when Jesus said the words, “This is my body…” He did not mean it in a symbolic or figurative sense but that the bread and wine really would become His body and blood. Thus, we believe in transubstantiation, wherein the bread and wine become the body and blood of Jesus without change in appearance of bread and wine.
However, while standing firm in our belief in the Eucharist, we do not fight those who don’t believe in it. We should not even belittle them.
To a certain extent, we realize that belief in the Eucharist is an article of faith.
Faith is a gift from God – God gives this to us.
We pray that one day this gift of faith be given to our separated brethren.
TTM: What concrete actions can you recommend to the faithful in order properly practice devotion to the Eucharist and to Mary?
BJM: We recall that the Holy Father added the Luminous Mysteries which dwell on the public life of the Lord.
I would recommend that the faithful contemplate more deeply the life of Jesus.
In this sense, Mary accompanies us. When we say the Rosary, we should really meditate more deeply.
With regard to the Mass, the faithful should
look at Sunday Mass not simply as an obligation.
We need the Eucharist to sustain us in this pilgrimage in life.
Jesus gives us Himself, the Eucharist, to nourish
and strengthen us.
Didn’t He say “I am the Bread of Life”?
When we realize this, we see that going to Sunday Mass is not just a mere obligation.
As a matter of fact, Vatican II strongly advocates the participation of the people in the liturgy.
We should get involved because the Mass is a communal act of worship. Thus, nowadays we have the lectors and commentators, the lay ministers of the Eucharist, the choir members and other people who are involved in the Mass.
TTM: Do you have a personal devotion to the Eucharist and to Mary? Please share with us.
BJM: In a way, my vocation grew from out of my devotion to the Eucharist and Mary. When I was a child,
every time my mother brought me to hear Mass, I was attracted to the colorful vestments of the priest.
It was really very childlike but I suppose God calls you through simple things.
This lasted for about a year. As I grew older, I became attracted to the homilies.
My father and mother were both very Marian. Every Wednesday, we would gather around the radio at 6 p.m. to say the Novena to Mother of Perpetual Help.
The awareness of my vocation really was caused by these two devotions.
Do you agree with me when I say that the best thing that God has given us is a Mother? In this case, our Mother in Heaven never thought of herself.
When you focus on her, she says,” Follow Jesus”.
What is so noteworthy about Mary is her belief in her lowliness.
This could be seen in the Magnificat wherein she lowers herself and thanks God.
We can see how identical the Magnificat of Mary and the Eucharist are.
Both give thanks.
How closely linked indeed are the Eucharist and Mary!.
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