Tuesday 15 August 2023 The Blessed Virgin Mary/The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary
Created for Glory
Revelation 11:19. 12:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6; Luke 1:37-56
Context: an inner-city parish with a mix of long-standing older parishioners and more recently arrived, ethnically diverse worshippers
Aim: to underline how today’s feast calls us to be bearers of hope in a broken world
I went to primary school in a place called Gateacre, in Liverpool. The name of the Parish and the school was ‘Our Lady of the Assumption’. Every day I would walk into school past a mosaic of the Assumption, and never once did I ask what it meant or why it was there. It’s only now that I’m in my sixties that I realise it was placed there to remind everyone who walked into that school that they mattered and had significance.
The dogma of the Assumption of Mary was solemnly defined by Pius XII in 1950 after years of reflection and after consulting with all the Catholic bishops of the world. The doctrine states that Mary, after her death, was taken, body and soul, just as her son Jesus was, to be with God eternally. This wasn’t a new doctrine for the Catholic Church. Rather, it was formal recognition of what had been the faith of the Church for many centuries.
It’s a fantastic doctrine, not because of what it says about Mary, but because of what it says about all men and women in every age. The trauma of the Second World War still loomed large in 1950. The dignity and value of every human being had been called into question by what had gone on in the concentration camps. People were reeling from the effects of what had happened and the horror of what might still come. The doctrine of the Assumption was a symbolic statement that reminded us of the truth that human beings are not rubbish, to be discarded at the whim of some despotic dictator. We are made in the image and likeness of God.
The American Franciscan, Richard Rohr, says that Jesus didn’t come to change God’s mind about humanity but humanity’s mind about God. God is love and every one of us, because of that love, has true dignity, true worth, true value that nothing could destroy because it comes from God. For centuries many of us believed that God was small-minded and petty when the opposite is true. Our splendour as human beings is because of the extraordinary goodness of God.
The Assumption of Mary reminds us of all of this. This totally human woman was the one who, in her life and in her saying ‘yes’ to God, became the mother of Jesus the Messiah. She was the one who carried within her the reminder of the greatness of humanity. In today’s Gospel she sings the praises of God for all that God has done in crafting the pinnacle of creation, man and woman.
The Assumption is not just about Mary ascending from the grave. It’s not just saying that if Jesus rose from the dead, then Mary his mother would also rise from the dead because of her saying ‘yes’ to God. No, it is far more than just that. It’s the hope, the longing, the affirmation that what happened to Jesus and happened to Mary will happen to all of us.
That means we can live in hope now and that hope is to spill over into every aspect of life. So be filled with hope for the world. Don’t deny the darkness that we see in wars and horrors. That would be foolish in the face of all that happens in our wonderful yet fragile world. We have to acknowledge the deep brokenness that is all around us or we live in some sort of false utopia. However, our hope is in the person of Christ and in his promise to draw all things unto himself. Ultimately all will be well. That’s why we can be filled with hope in the midst of darkness.
Be filled with hope for the Church and for the future of the Church, too. That can be hard sometimes, but we can draw hope from the vision that the Second Vatican Council gave us sixty years ago, a vision of hope in the goodness of God. It’s final document has the lovely title, Joy And Hope (or the Latin equivalent, anyway: Gaudium Et Spes). This invites us to give the world ‘reasons for living and hoping’.
So what word of hope does the Church have to offer the world? I think it is the knowledge of God’s unconditional love and the awareness that, because of that love, there is purpose and direction for humanity. We are to live in this world full of hope for the future and to let hope flow through us so that others can know that life is not a lottery.
On this feast we celebrate ourselves. We celebrate the greatness of humanity. Despite everything, we can trust in the goodness of God and believe in our ultimate destiny. Mary’s assumption teaches us what we really are, and it teaches us not to be afraid of the goodness and the greatness and the loving mercy of God who created us for glory.
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