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Sunday 15 August 2021: The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary points the way to Christ

Revelation 11:19,12:1-6,10; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56

 

By Lynne Baron

Vocations Director -- Society of the Sisters, Faithful Companions of Jesus, working in the FCJ Centre for Community, Young People and Faith Development in inner city Liverpool.

Context: reflection on the Scripture for use by a diverse worshipping community

Aim: to refocus our gaze on Jesus

This wonderful Solemnity of the Assumption is one which at face value could lead us to a somewhat confusing focus on what happens to Mary after her death. Of course, that is not what this Feast is about!

At its most simple, we might consider the Assumption as the way in which the Church speaks of the fulfilment of the relationship between Mary and her Son, this drawing of her humanity so fully into God and the promise of eternal closeness to the Father. The scripture readings chosen for this day help us to understand more.

THE WOMAN WHO LEADS US TO GAZE ON CHRIST

The first reading from the book of Revelation has the evocative image of the woman adorned with the sun, moon and stars, who gives birth to the One who was to rule the nations. It’s a familiar image to many of us, and we may associate this woman with Mary, but there is also something beyond the human identification, as we are invited to understand something of the whole revelation of Christ, not only through the acceptance and ‘Yes’ of Mary, but through the whole of human history, through the Church, and in the wisdom of God. The last verses of this reading point us unambiguously to where we are being invited to gaze; namely at Christ, the One who holds victory and authority and power.

In the Gospel account of the Visitation, Luke presents Mary as the first to hear the good news of Jesus and to accept it – she is the first and model disciple. Having said her ‘Yes’ to God’s invitation, Mary immediately participates in the plan of God by hurrying to see her cousin Elizabeth. In the meeting between these two women the plan of God is revealed and felt in humanity, quite literally as the child leaps in Elizabeth’s womb and Elizabeth recognises and responds with blessing and acceptance to the presence of the Messiah, as she says, ‘the mother of my Lord’.

SINGING THE SONG OF SALVATION

Mary receives the blessing of Elizabeth and immediately sings her own song of blessing in the familiar verses of the Magnificat. In the first part of the Magnificat, Mary acknowledges all that God has done for her in asking her to be the mother of Jesus; ‘God has looked on my lowliness … all generations will call me blessed’. She reflects the great joy of discipleship and of the invitation to respond to God in our lives.

In the second half of the Magnificat, we see a shift of focus. The ordinary woman, Mary, called and responding to God, sings of what God will do, and is doing, for the world, through her ‘Yes’. God ‘has put down the mighty’, ‘raised the lowly’, ‘routed the proud’, ‘filled the starving’. Mary’s song of praise reveals Christ to us and points the way.

At the end of today’s Gospel text, we have the beautiful simple line ‘Mary stayed about three months and then went back home.’ All of this revelation, all the excitement of listening to God’s will, all her obedience to it, all the recognition of the tremendous grace and gift of God in her life, now has to be lived in reality. Mary goes back home and gets on with the living of God’s call in her life.

MARY INVITES US TO EMBRACE OUR DISCIPLESHIP

So, what does this Feast have to say to us? The Assumption of Mary doesn’t just recognise the particular place of Mary in the Church. It also calls each of us into the close discipleship of her Son.

Mary’s role is one of ordinary humanity made extraordinary by her openness and receptivity to God’s word. She consistently points us to Christ and to the good news. How, then, am I called in my ordinary, everyday humanity to listen and respond to God’s word, pointing to and orienting my life towards the presence of Jesus?

Mary is the first to hear and respond to the good news. She is the first to proclaim it by her presence to Elizabeth and the first to proclaim the good news in word as she sings her Magnificat. Mary is the first disciple. How am I invited to proclaim the good news of Jesus through my presence to others and in the words I say?

We are invited today to enter into this reality with Mary, to accept our discipleship, to see clearly where it is that Mary points towards and to turn our focus fully, not to Mary but to Christ, to whom she points. We are called together with Mary; called to open our lives and ourselves up to the intimate closeness to Jesus that Mary reveals, trusting that with her we will be drawn fully into the loving presence of God.

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