By Father Pete Iorio
I heard on the news about a father whose daughter was killed 6 months ago in the Florida school shooting. It was a difficult day and the family joined together to remember her. For those of us who have loved ones who died, we remember them on those dates each year. And for many of us, we honor their memory in a special way… have a Mass offered for their souls, visiting their graves, looking at picture albums and sharing memories with living family members. Doing these things are ways in which we connect earth where we live and heaven where we believe in hope that they now enjoy. Jesus showed us the way …that human death leads to eternal life.
Today’s feast of the Assumption of the BVM is our celebration and remembering that Mary shares in the gift of the resurrection to eternal life when her earthly life came to an end. It has a fixed date of August 15th however, we do not know the actual day when her earthly life came to an end. The teaching of the Church about the Assumption is a simple statement that does not contain a lot of details.
On November 1, 1950, Venerable Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.”
On a solemnity of Mary, we do not celebrate Mary so much as we celebrate something God has done. Every feast is about God. The Assumption is about the heavenly Jerusalem and our place in it. It is about the glory that has been offered us. Our vision of Mary’s assumption is a vision of what God will also do for us. Mary placed her trust in God, and in God’s hands she is victorious over life in this world. She, through God’s blessing, is not defeated by pain, suffering or death. This is something this solemnity tells us that God is going to do for us.
Mary is a model for us. Mary is an example of trust in God and of the consequence of trusting God throughout her entire life…which was not easy. She trusted when she was not even married, and the Angel told her she would become pregnant with the Son of God. She trusted when she was about to give birth and there was no room at the inn. She trusted when the Holy family had to flee Israel and go to Egypt as refugees for two years because of a threat of violence against her child. She trusted day by day that she was doing God’s work of raising her son in the faith and that God would provide for their daily bread. Mary trusted when Joseph died, and when Jesus entered public life and people criticized him. Mary’s Heart was broken when she saw her son beaten and scourged and condemned to death on a cross. She trusted when Jesus told her to take the beloved disciple as her son: woman, behold your son.
Her life is a mirror for all of us…life is not easy nor perfect. Mary models perfect faith and trust in God at all times and in all circumstances.
A word about the first reading from the Book of Revelation. It is what we call apocalyptic literature. It projects humankind into the future to comment on current threats and failures and to offer a vision of what we might become.
Revelation presents our promised future to help us comprehend the present. It utilizes all kinds of improbable visions to assist readers in making personal judgements about their lives and the life of the early Christian community. Unfortunately, many grab Revelation and mistakenly use it to predict the future, condemn the Church or the pope, or to frighten gullible believers into unfortunate strains of religious belief.
What Revelation does is tell us one thing and only one thing about the future, and that is the most comforting thing that can be said to us. Revelation says that, ultimately, God’s reign will conquer sin and death. God has and will always be triumphant just as He has been through the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and in the Assumption of his Blessed Mother.
The story of birth in our first reading from Revelation tells us of the new age, that God is in full power and authority, and sin and evil have been defeated forever. Our struggle to enjoy the new age however, like human birth, is a struggle that involves suffering but rewards with joy.
We read of the woman clothed with the sun whom we have traditionally thought of as Mary; but the woman here is not Mary. She is us, the people of God– as Mary is us. The woman in our reading is the heavenly Israel (us) who has struggled against evil, been protected by God, and then given a place in the kingdom. The woman had to go into hiding to protect her son as sometimes we too must do to flee evil. But under God’s protective hand, we will emerge to be with God in the heavenly Jerusalem.
Today’s story is a wonderful, poetic way of encouraging us to stay faithful. This is the message of Revelation: If we place our trust in God to take care of us, we can survive every evil and pain that comes our way.
Mary reigns now in heaven. She is our model and our advocate. The beautiful prayer called the Memorare invites us to seek her strength and faith to continue our lives, especially in difficult times, as she did during her earthly life.
If you know it, I invite you to pray it with me: Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by his confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins my mother. To you I come, before you I stand sinful and sorrowful. O mother of the word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.