Homily for August 15, 2015Published:
This celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the principal ways we profess our faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. For if this faith of ours is to be something more than an intellectual concept, and idea which we can understand at least partially; if it is to become our guiding hope and the conviction which directs all our choices and actions, we must continually celebrate it anew and intentionally bring it to bear on our daily lives.
For if we believe that all creation has been renewed by the incarnation, death and resurrection of the Son of God, Jesus Christ Our Lord, then it is fitting that we celebrate this renewal in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin who, first of all creatures, has been taken up into that new creation inaugurated in the resurrection of her Son. This is nothing other than the fulfillment of the plan God formed in the beginning of creation, when, as we are told, God looked at everything he had made and found it very good. So infinitely creative is the love which God is, and so sovereign God’s power and authority, that not even our sinfulness was able to thwart his plan to share his life with those creatures made in his divine image. Instead, uniting himself for all times with our human nature in the person of his Son, born of the Virgin Mary, the Father has established our humanity eternally with Himself, as the Letter to the Ephesians tells us: But God, who is rich in mercy…brought us to life in Christ…raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus. And as the Apostle has instructed us today, writing to the Christians in Rome: so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order. What more proper order could there be than that the Son of God should unite her first of all with his immortal divine nature, from whom he had united inseparably to himself our created mortal nature for the salvation of all humankind? And so we celebrate today that the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit from the beginning of her existence, having passed through death, was taken as the first fully to share in the new creation won for all the redeemed.
We can say with truth that the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed into heaven because of her dignity as the Mother of God. But if that is simply the case, what is there for us in this celebration, for the Son of God can have only one mother. If this role has been filled by Mary, the rest of us are excluded, and her assumption, wondrous for her, is only to be admired by us. But in another sense, we can say that it was not because Mary was the Mother of God that she was assumed into heaven. The dignity of Mary as Mother of God is a revelation of the sovereign freedom of God and the totally free gift of God’s grace by which alone we are saved. God, in the inscrutable design of his infinite wisdom, chose Mary out of all creatures to be the mother of his Son. The glory of her Assumption, however, is not due solely to this divine choice, for she could have refused. She could have said no. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the result of her complete obedience and total acceptance of the unique vocation given to her by God; a vocation she lived until the day of her death in total and unwavering fidelity. Filled with the Holy Spirit, she was conformed so completely to the image of her Son that she now shares fully in his glorified life as a partaker by adoption of his divine nature.
If this is the case, then today’s celebration is instructive and encouraging for us, who, with Mary, are fellow disciples of Jesus. For the unique vocation given to each of us is no less a free gift of God’s grace than was that call given when in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. As Mary was given her vocation by God’s free choice, so too has each of us received a call by God’s free choice at this time, in this place, under these circumstances. Like Mary, we are free to accept, or to reject, this vocation. We, too, have been anointed with the Holy Spirit in our baptism and confirmation, and thus empowered, should we choose to accept, to live with fidelity the call we have received. Just as Mary’s vocation led her finally to the cross of her Son, so too, by that same Son’s instruction, must we, if we are faithful, take up the cross each day and follow him. Like Mary, we, too, are called each in our own way to bring Christ to birth, in our lives, and in the lives of others to whom we bear faithful witness. And just as the image of the woman about the give birth in today’s first reading from the Book of Revelation was applied first to the church and then to Mary, so too for us, seeking to give birth to Christ in ourselves and others, there is the great dragon seeking to devour the Christ before he can save us and others.
Ultimately, the key to today’s celebration is found in Elizabeth’s words in today’s Gospel: Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word spoken to you would be fulfilled. Blessed are you who believed – who trusted. Too often, in hindsight, we can romanticize the life of the Blessed Virgin, and convince ourselves that it must have been easy for her. Yet hers was a hard life. She was poor and was subject to the hard, laborious work of the other poor women of her time. Far from being Queen of Heaven, her vocation was seen by others – and quite likely by herself – as being the wife of Joseph and the mother of her son: something quite ordinary. How she was to fulfill her unique vocation as mother of the Son of God was not revealed to her in one grand, all-embracing vision. Rather, like we, she had prayerfully to discern, through the promptings of the Holy Spirit, how she was to be faithful in the given and often confusing circumstances of the moment. But she believed, she trusted, and thus she is truly blessed among women.
If, as Pope Benedict wrote in his beautiful encyclical letter, Spe salvi, that hope is a bringing of future realities into the present, then this beautiful feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the feast of our hope. For the glory we celebrate is given to her as the first of those who believed in her Son, and the first of all the redeemed. But it is therefore a glory held out to us, too. We salute in this celebration of Mary’s assumption, as though from afar and in anticipation, our own glorious inheritance if we, like she, can but believe that the Lord’s word to us will be fulfilled. Mary now enjoys for all eternity the perfect fulfillment of all God’s promises to her. As we adore God and honor her assumption, let us pray that she, our patroness, the Help of Christians, will help us too, by her prayers and example, to believe that the Lord’s word to us will be fulfilled so that we, too, may together with her and all God’s holy ones, reign on high with Jesus Christ Our Lord, to whom be honor and glory, praise and thanksgiving forever and ever. Amen.
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