Aug. 15, 2018

THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, 2018

OVERCOMING THROUGH GRACE

Readings: 1st- Rev. 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; 2nd- 1st Cor. 15:20-27; Gospel- Lk. 1:39-56

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one great Feast that celebrates victory over sin and death. Mary, at the end of her earthly life, was taken up body and soul into heaven. In Mary, we see the incorruptibility of the flesh because she dedicated herself fully to the will of God. Mary embraced the mission of salvation by consenting to be the mother of Christ.

The gospel narrates the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth following the annunciation. That encounter unfolds several theological contents for believers. The greetings exchanged by Mary and Elizabeth reveal the mystery of the greatness of God, the mystery of the plan of salvation in Christ. Elizabeth declared, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” She continued, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Her final words to Mary were, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45). Elizabeth was inspired by a supernatural joy. She knew that Mary was the mother of the Lord. The child in her womb reacted in an extraordinary fashion too.

What followed Elizabeth’s proclamation was the Magnificat, the great canticle of the Blessed Mother; “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. Mary acknowledged the favors and graces bestowed on her. She recognized her Blessedness in all generations as conferred upon her by God. God has shown mercy to those who fear him. In the Magnificat, we see the great attributes of God listed by Mary- faithfulness, justice, love, power, joy, and compassion for the lowly. God looked upon the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary and lifted her above all creatures to be the Mother of his Son. Today, the church celebrates her glorious assumption; she is the Queen of angels in heaven.

The first reading gives us the image of “the woman adorned with the Sun, with the moon under her feet, and whose head is crowned with twelve stars.” That image symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary. The battle signifies that God planned to defeat the devil through the birth of Christ. Scripture says, “Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.” (Rev. 12:4-5) It is hard to say exactly what this image is, but it is a prophecy that pointed closely to the image of Christ. The battle with the devil was real in the life of Christ. He conquered sin and death on the Cross. Christ battled for forty days and forty nights with the devil (Matthew chapter 4). Mary’s conception was prophesied by Isaiah this way, “Behold a Virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son and shall call him Emmanuel” (Is. 7:14). This male child is the one whose reign is forever and whose kingdom shall have no end.  

Saint Paul chronicles the power of Christ in the second reading. Contrasting Christ with Adam, Paul calls him the “first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” According to this passage, when Christ has destroyed every sovereignty and power, the “last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1Cor. 15:26). Obviously, there are a lot of enemies to be destroyed in this world, death being the last. Death seems to be man’s ultimate enemy. It is the enemy destroyed by the resurrection of Christ. Christ destroyed death and gave us power through his resurrection. This defeat of the last enemy means, as Paul said, “so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (1Cor. 15:22).

I think that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary communicates to us our final destination in life, the power we have over death. It tells us of the importance of God’s grace in our life. It reminds us how much battle we do and how much strength from God we need to enable us to overcome. There are so many enemies confronting our efforts to make heaven. Monsters that we have to defeat; enemies daily wrestling to devour us, or at worst to take us away from God’s presence. Peter warns us this way, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). This is real. On individual basis, we know that we face temptations on daily basis. The eyes want to look at images that result to concupiscence of the flesh. The various salacious speeches we utter. The various poor uses of God’s name. The avarice in consumption of food and drinks. The urge to refuse to help or assist when needed.

On the part of the church, there is a constant effort to pull God’s community down. The negative attitude from some members of the church -gossips, calumnies, and aspersions which come from within. Members pitch themselves against others. Sometimes, leaders are attacked and discouraged. From outside, the church is seen as an institution that opposes the way of the world and needs to be pulled down. Different forces attack institutions like marriage, priesthood, the Eucharist, etc. These are the images of the dragon attempting to devour the children of God.

Still within, there is the dragon of the flesh pulling down those placed to lead the church. Recently, the sex abuse of children and mostly boys have kept inflicting a great wound on the church. Just yesterday, we received a letter from Archbishop Lori yesterday which started this way,

Dear Friend in Christ,

I regret that I write you today regarding a painful matter that continues to shake the faith of God’s people and undermine the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel. Earlier today, a report by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury was released, revealing a pattern of institutional failure on the part of six dioceses related to the sexual abuse of children by clergy and other representatives of the Church. The report includes the names of some 300 priests accused of abuse, as well as the bishops who led the six dioceses at the time the abuse occurred.” (This is on the internet).

It is an unfortunate situation which needs all of us to continue to offer prayers. With Saint Paul, I invite the people of God; “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me” (Eph. 6:18-19). Our Mother Mary overcame through God’s grace. We can only overcome through the grace of God. May the Blessed Virgin Mary pray for us. Amen.