Why the Assumption?
Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. This can be a difficult teaching of the Catholic Church for some to grasp or even see the relevance of in today’s world. Catholics are called to believe that the body and soul of the Mother of Jesus was taken up into heaven a few decades perhaps after her son was crucified, to be reunited with Him, to share fully in the blessed life.
That sounds really beautiful. Impossible, pious, and naive, but lovely. What does this have to do with me? What kind of connection do I have with Mary? Her body is “up there”… in heaven. I’m here on earth. I hope I make it to Heaven someday, but that someday can seem distant from my daily life.
What difference does it make anyway whether I believe in Mary’s bodily assumption? Further, why is this a “holy day of obligation?”
Some denominations of Christianity apart from the Catholic Church often see all this talk of Mary, feast days and prayers, rosaries and medals, as distractions from our primary relationship with Jesus. To that point, there is no mention of Mary being taken body and soul into Heaven in the Bible!
But then, there is no mention of the death of St. Joseph, or what happened to several of the Apostles, or the whereabouts of the Cross or the Cup Christ used at the last supper either (although Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade did take a pretty cool take on that last one).
What does it mean for me?
St. John said in his gospel that if he were to write down everything Jesus said and did, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Let’s imagine with Shakespeare that there really are “more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies.”
What could this Assumption of Mary mean for me, right here and right now?
We are men and women, young and old. We are sweating it out here below, paying bills, stressing over work to do and work to be done, aching and longing for time just to be, to love and to be loved, frustrated over the injustice and hate we see around us, the pain and the poverty, and the inner battle of our hearts for a peace that might finally bring meaning, harmony and light.
For us this Assumption of Mary means the best is yet to come.
It means that all the baggage we carry along with us through life (and that of others we find ourselves stumbling over), the failures and the weaknesses, the crosses and the confusion, the sadness and above all the sin, cannot ultimately derail us from this destiny.
This burden we carry can be transformed, transfigured, and the dross left behind. Wholeness awaits, if we open our hearts to grace, the way Mary did throughout her whole life.
So what do I do?
If we allow the grace of Christ’s death and resurrection into our very bodies through the Eucharist, then, like Mary allowing Him into her womb, our very bodies will blossom into Eternal Life! And we can say with St. Paul, “O death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?”
Just as she received Him and ran with haste into the hill country of Judah to meet her family, Mary went before us into those Everlasting Hills beyond the rim of the world!
Her life in Heaven, the union of her body with her soul, is an ecstatic trumpet blast that tells us here below that all shall be well.
So we look around and see that the division and the divorce, the heartache and the rupture that exists between our hearts, ever young and longing for LIFE, and our bodies, fading and falling into DEATH, was NOT God’s original plan.
God’s original plan is union – body and soul. Harmony of heart and mind.
Sin creeps in to separate, to pull apart and divide. But the promise of the Resurrection that Mary is living right NOW is our promise too. Death will not win, Heaven already has! And our bodies too will one flourish in that New Land, washed clean and renewed by the Divine Whirlwind that is God’s very own Life and Love.
Mary, Star of the Sea and Sign and Hope of our Destiny, pray for us!