Feast of the Assumption

God created us in his own image and likeness. We can reflect on Our Lady’s Assumption in light of this deep truth from the creation story. Mostly we are tempted to reverse the process and try to shape God in our own image and likeness. Thus it is all too natural for us to invest in a God that suits our needs and temperament. At times we might like a docile God, who will grant our wishes if only we ask him in the right way. At another time we might prefer an indulgent God who will turn a blind eye on the double standards in our lives. Perhaps in the past the temptation was to live in trepidation of a vengeful God, whom we obey only out of fear.

None of these ideas resemble Mary’s vision of God, especially as in today’s gospel when she says, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” Here Mary combines sincere worship of God with deep joy in his presence. Mary is enraptured by God, she does not ask anything for herself, she is not worried about the future; she thinks only of the goodness of God up to the present moment, and of the gratitude she owes to God. In her we have the supreme example of someone totally captivated by the love of God. In this sense, she is the fairest of all God’s creatures.

I once had a lovely picture of Mary as a young teenager, stepping out in joy to visit her cousin Elizabeth. She seemed to skip over the hills with sheer joy and only delighted to be the handmaid of the Lord. That sums up Mary for me who lived solely for God and therefore God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, gave her the fullness of grace. Mary has often been described as the moon and Jesus as the sun. That is to say that the glory of Mary is a reflected glory. She received all that she is and has from God as gift. The beauty of Mary was her willingness to realise her own lowliness and to accept all as gift. ‘The almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name.’ Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Mary disposed herself freely to cooperate with the fulfillment of God’s promises for his people.

Those promises were accomplished with the risen Lord’s victory over sin and death. From a first reading of the book of Revelation one may get the impression that life is full of struggle and war. Yet the bottom line is not struggle but victory. God has overcome the red dragon with seven heads and ten horns. And so the text boldly proclaims: ‘Victory, power and empire have been won by our God’. This is not a restricted victory, limited to a chosen few. It is a joy for all the people. We are all beneficiaries of this great gift which has ushered in a whole new life, a whole new way of living in Christ Jesus. This new life began in baptism and it reaches its full flowering in the general resurrection of the dead.

And this is where the Assumption comes in. For Mary the lowly one, who is and always will be one of us, is already enjoying that full flowering of the resurrection that is promised to all of us. If Jesus is the first fruits of the resurrection, then Mary surely is the second fruit. The preface for this feast spells it out: ‘today the Virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the beginning and pattern of the Church in its perfection and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way.’ Mary now enjoys what no eye has seen, nor ear heard. She is the beginning and pattern of our future journey into God’s holy mystery.

There is a long spiritual tradition that from her place of honour and privilege Mary intercedes for us. Just as Jesus did not abandon us when he ascended to heaven, so Mary has not been separated from the Christian community by her Assumption, but remains for each of us a sign of hope. So while we are called, like her, to share in the fullness of Christ’s glory, let us ask especially for the grace to be like her, Christ bearers in our world. She prayed that he proud would be scattered, the lowly lifted up and the hungry be given good things. May this be our prayer too.

I often wondered where Paul McCartney got his inspiration for the hit song, ‘Let it be’. Google came to the rescue. Paul’s mother died when he was only fourteen. By happy coincidence her name was Mary. Years later when he was going through a rough passage, she came to him in a dream with the simple words: ‘let it be!’ From her vantage point in heaven, this good mother knew so well that all is in God’s hands so her son can simply ‘let it be’. Her words echo Mary’s words at the Annunciation and Mary could only have uttered these same words because of her deep trust in God’s plan for her. “Let it be done unto me according to thy will.” So while McCartney, in composing this song was thinking of his mother, these words are even more appropriate for us in our relationship with Mary who is already enjoying the fullness of the resurrection. “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be!”

Saturday, August 15, 2015

 

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