Saturday, August 14, 2010

You're just like your mother!

HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, August 15, 2010:


Have you ever been told, “You’re just like your mother?” I hear this often, and I take it as a great compliment as my Mom is one of my favorite people and closest friends. I’m proud to be just like my mother. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard this. Many of us have been told at one time or another that we are just like our mother. Sometimes it can be a good thing, sometimes not so good. Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, our Mother, and today, it is a very good thing to be told that we are just like her, our mother.

As Catholics, we treasure our devotion to the Blessed Mother, this special relationship that Jesus leaves us with His mother. From the cross He said to the beloved disciple and to us, “Behold your mother.” We celebrate today the fact that Mary was assumed into Heaven body and soul. This was proclaimed a dogma of the Catholic Church on November 1, 1950 by Pope Pius XII, who stated this belief that had been commonly held by the Church for centuries. There are homilies on the Assumption of Mary dated from before the sixth century, and by the thirteenth century, there was universal agreement concerning this reality. When declaring the dogma, Pius said, “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be more fully conformed to her Son the…conqueror of sin and death.”

When you think about it, Mary’s assumption makes sense. After her time on earth, Mary did not suffer the corruption of death the way most humans do. Why? Well, we also believe that Mary was immaculately conceived, that she was conceived in the womb of her mother, Anne, without the stain of original sin. We know from scripture that death is partly the result of original sin. So, if Mary didn’t have original sin, then she shouldn’t suffer the result of it, and so after her 72 years on the earth, she was assumed into heaven, body and soul.

So, what does this have to do with us? Today’s celebration is so much more than a mere commemoration of a moment in the life of Mary. We commemorate this event because it is also an invitation for us. The Preface of the Eucharistic prayer today says, “Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection.” The beginning and the pattern of the Church. That’s what today celebrates. So, Assumption is not only about Mary; it's also about us. Mary sets a pattern that we are meant to imitate – where Mary has gone, we hope to follow.

The Assumption of Mary into Heaven is closely linked to what we find in the Book of Genesis. We know that in the story of Creation, that from the very beginning, God did not intend us to die. God created us for eternity, for immortality. But, because of sin, we lost that eternity. But, of course, Jesus, born of Mary, welcomes us back into that eternity that God had planned for us.

And, this is precisely where we need to hear the words, “You’re just like your mother.” What we celebrate in Mary today is what God promises for all of us. We have been created for eternity, we have been created for immortality. In his encyclical on the Rosary, Pope John Paul II reminded us that we “sit at the school of Mary and are led to contemplate the beauty on the face of Christ.” Mary shows us the way to follow her Son and how to reach eternity in our own lives.

In the Gospel we heard, “Blessed is the womb that carried you,” Jesus replied, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it.” Jesus is talking about His mother. Jesus reminds them, it was not Mary’s womb that masw her blessed, it is that she repeatedly over the course of her life heard the Word of God and observed it. She said “yes” to what God would ask of her in life. And her “yes” was not only in response to the question of the angel. She didn’t say “yes” in that moment and then once Jesus was born return to Heaven. She continued to say yes to God throughout her and her Son’s life. She raised her son, she followed Him during His ministry, she endured the piercing of her heart by watching her son be tortured and killed by the very people He came to save, and even after Christ rose and ascended to Heaven, Mary went on saying “yes” to God. She became the spiritual mother to the disciples. Mary became their strength, their guide; the link between Jesus and His followers. She was there in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended. Mary continued on to spread the Good News, to give witness to a life dedicated to God, to help establish what would become the Church. Tradition holds that Mary made it as far as Ephesus and it was there that her earthly life ended.

Look at Mary and see her life – she believed in the potential of God to do anything from the moment that the angel came to her until the moment of her Assumption into Heaven. Mary trusted that God’s plan would unfold in her life.

The great news of today’s feast is that what we see in Mary, we can see in our own lives. We see Mary reach eternity with God in Heaven and we’re reminded that “we’re just like our mother.” We too can achieve that eternity in our own lives by hearing the Word of God and observing it. At the School of Mary we learn that the most fundamental lesson that our Mother has to teach us about our spiritual lives is that it all comes down to hearing God’s Word and having the courage to follow it. It is about obedience; it’s about listening, hearing with heart and mind, and following. What God promises in Mary, He promises in us – nothing short of Heaven.

Let us all strive to be just like our mother, Mary. Let us pray today, through her intercession, that Jesus will say of us as he said of His mother, “Blessed are you, all of you, who hear the Word of God and observe it.”

May God give you peace.

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