Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
Queen of the Apostles Parish, Avoca
August 15, 2021
Typically during the summer months when my schedule is not quite as full, I’ll call up a pastor whose parish I haven’t visited for a while and schedule a time to do so. Not even thinking that you’d be celebrating your parish feast today, I told Father Phil that August 15th would work for me if it was OK for him and your parish. … Providence has a wonderful way of working in our lives. I can’t tell you how pleased I am to join with you today. Thank you.
It’s probably safe to say that while many of us regard Mary – the focus of today’s celebration – as our dear Mother in faith and a loving intercessor with God on our behalf, most of us likely view her experience of life as something vastly different from our own. Yet, for as exalted a place as she occupies in salvation history, her most significant place is not above but with us – the members of the Church – called to follow Jesus – desperately in need of God’s mercy and love.
Without a doubt, Mary’s words in today’s gospel are powerful words of faith. Yet, it’s the context for Mary’s words and for her life that places her squarely in the midst of our life experiences and allows her to speak so poignantly to our hearts. You see, Mary’s words emerge not from a rose-colored, pristine world that we sometimes associate with her from our vantage point today, but from a world filled with suffering and pain – a world of hardship, struggle and grief – a world in many ways no different than our own.
What does set Mary apart, however, is her willingness to believe that, despite the suffering and pain associated with her world and life, the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled. That’s a posture that she assumes for the rest of her life. Her words of praise in gratitude for God’s mercy and fidelity and her willingness to say “yes” to God’s plan to bring salvation to his people are rooted in a faith so strong that it establishes the parameters for authentic discipleship down through the ages, even to our own day.
To put her life and her faith in perspective, remember that Mary was told that Jesus would be the Son of God, not that he would be tortured, put to death, and then rise from the dead. As a result, Mary says “yes” to a future that she doesn’t know. Imagine that! For all that she teaches us, she is an example of letting God be God – of trusting in his providential care without trying to figure it out. … And isn’t that a lesson for us all? Don’t we often spend far too much time trying to figure out life instead of trusting that God will walk with us and work it out?
Perhaps now we begin to understand why a poor, young woman from Nazareth would have been seen by God as the most appropriate of vehicles in and through which his son would take on human flesh and form. … While the world has long set misguided parameters for greatness, God sees greatness not in our assertions of self-righteousness but in hearts that are humble enough to admit their need for his mercy and generous enough to extend that mercy to others. This is the simple reality of how God works in our world and in our lives.
Take a look around you. Look at the faces that you see – not just the familiar faces of family members and friends, but faces wounded by pain and grief – faces longing to be healed – faces grateful for God’s abiding presence in their lives. This gathering is so powerful and hopeful. … It reminds us that we are loved – that God hasn’t given up on any of us and never will.
It also reminds us that God accomplishes his greatest work in the ordinary moments of life and in the simplest and least likely of individuals who open their lives to his and are willing to walk in his ways. That was true for Mary, whom we honor this day. And it’s also true for us.
My friends, despite the pain and suffering that filled her world, Mary’s heart was open to God’s touch, through which she is able to teach us what it means to be a disciple of her son, Jesus. Her assumption, which we celebrate this day, is both a reminder of her exalted place in salvation history and a sign of hope for each of us, who seek to follow in her example.
Like Mary, may we have the courage and humility to open our hearts to power of God. May we allow God to use our hands, voices and hearts to bring hope and healing to our world. In so doing, may we come to know God’s peace and consolation and proclaim with Mary that “God who is mighty has done great things for me and his mercy is still from age to age on those who fear him.”