Dear Followers of the Beloved,
Every year, the Assumption of Mary is a holy day. This year, this solemnity falls on Sunday, so it overrides the normal Sunday scriptures. Mary is once again, the center of our focus, but only in relationship to her Son, Jesus Christ. Mary’s role in the Church is to pivot our awareness to Jesus, as her life bore the mystery of salvation, giving birth to the world’s hope. In Mary, we find a life and a lifestyle of utter dependence on and a cooperation with God alone. Her life still speaks of love, deepening our reliance of the gift of God.
Of course, there is no gospel text of Mary’s assumption into heaven. The stories we hear in the scriptures reflect her prophetic place on earth during her pregnancy. If we want to know more about Mary and her place within our devotional lives, all we need is to look, not toward heaven, but at her prophetic place in the life of her son, Jesus.
Over the centuries, Mary has been so often turned into an alabaster creature distant from our humanity. As we ponder the scriptures, Mary could not be more different. She is rugged, faithful, and unyielding in her ability to be in relationship with God. She, too, is surprised by what God is asking of her. She paid many consequences for this relationship with God the Father. Joseph almost divorced her, almost leaving her because she was pregnant out of marriage. Her life was turned upside down as a teenager. She wondered about her role in such an incredible request that she would give birth to a son. She even listened to an angel, not something that any of us would trust on any given day. Imagine, sitting in your room, an angel appears and tells you that your life will change the world, all at the age of around fourteen.
Mary is the greatest prophet of the New Testament. The prophet John heralded the coming of Jesus. Mary proclaimed God’s love and gave birth to our Savior. Mary’s life and her role still in heaven is something we all need to ponder and reflect upon in our hearts. Today’s gospel, Luke 1:39-56, gives us an incredible place to begin, the encounter Mary has with her older cousin, Elizabeth. They are both pregnant and the miracles are just beginning.
In Elizabeth’s womb is, of course, John. This scene outlines John’s role as forerunner of Jesus. John will spend his earthly life seeking his cousin, shouting in deserts for reform and repentance. Jesus is the one John points to on earth and I am sure he still does in heaven. From the womb, John’s excitement begins; he is leaping for joy.
In this text, Elizabeth is proclaiming that this encounter is greater than two cousins meeting and discussing their pregnancies. Elizabeth realizes that Mary is carrying a mystery far greater than a human child. Because of Mary’s willingness to say “yes” to God, her life will forever be holy, will forever be remembered in the story of all humanity.
Today I draw your attention to Mary’s response. Her words are inserted into this text to establish Mary as an amazing prophet. Now remember, these words are coming out of the mouth of a young girl. A woman would normally not carry such words of real cultural revolution. Her words are still being examined by us who stand on this earth figuring out her role to change to course of history. Listen attentively to Mary’s response. Do not ignore the earthiness of her place in God’s plan. These words are meant to change society. These words are flowing from a pregnant girl who in her cultural norm has no power or authority.
On this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, I leave you with her golden words that flowed from her mouth as she visited her cousin, Elizabeth. This is one of the most important prophetic poems in our history. These words are prayed in the Church every day, in the Church’s evening prayer. Remember, these words came from Mary, the teenager.
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”
God, give you peace,
Fr. Ron Raab, CSC, Pastor