The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. This feast celebrates our faith, that Mary, as the mother of God, was taken up, body and soul into heaven. We hear in our second reading (1 Corinthians 15:20-27), “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to his God and Father…” And so, we believe that Mary received this promise as one first among those “who belong to Christ.”
For me, this feast tells us that Mary’s trust in God, and her hope in Jesus was vindicated. And that the promise fulfilled for her has been offered to everyone.
It’s not always easy to live in hope and trust. I usually don’t mess with the Book of Revelation because there always seems to be wild speculations about whether the visions described in that book are being fulfilled in our times. But in our first reading (Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab), the image of a terror-inducing dragon, standing before a woman about to give birth, ready to devour the child when she gave birth, gives expression, I think, to what many people might be feeling today.
Does it not seem sometimes that fear and a feeling of helplessness in the face of poverty and violence are ready to “devour” our hope? Or that resentment and a desire for vengeance are ready to “devour” mercy? Or that greed and prejudice and indifference and complacency are ready to “devour” our capacity to love?
The future can seem bleak. But our faith reminds us that out of God’s love for us, the virgin Mary did give birth to the Son of God, Jesus, who is our Savior and Lord! We believe that that Son of God died for us on the Cross and rose from the dead to give us all the promise of everlasting life. So we need not let our hope and mercy and love be devoured by the ways of the world. We can live in hope and show mercy and share love. We can, in the words of Pope Francis, care for our “common home.” But the time to act is now.
In our Gospel reading (Luke 1:39-56), after Elizabeth gives Mary a greeting which comes from the Holy Spirit, Mary gives a testimony which is often referred to as the Magnificat. And in part of that testimony, Mary describes how God has often turned the wisdom of the world on its head (scattering the “proud,” casting down the “mighty” and lifting up the “poor;” filling the “hungry” and sending the “rich” away empty). To care for each other and our common home, we will most likely need to stand worldly wisdom on its head in many ways. But with the grace of God, and a willingness to work together, we can do our part in building up the kingdom.
To paraphrase Elizabeth’s words to Mary: Blessed are we who believe that what has been spoken to us by the Lord will be fulfilled.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior of the Passionist Community in Birmingham, Alabama.