A Reflection for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Year B).
Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 – 1Corinthians 15:20-26 – Luke 1:39-56.
The middle of August can be tinged with a feeling of sadness. Summer is drawing to a close, and for children, it’s almost the end of the school holidays. Out in the countryside, farmers are busy getting in the harvest in anticipation of shortening days and inclement weather. The Solemnity of the Assumption marks the seamless ending of the earthly life of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the raising of her body and soul straight into heaven. It is so appropriate that this great feast day has been placed in the calendar at harvest time because the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Queen of the great heavenly harvest to be gathered in by her Blessed Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What the Church means by the ‘Assumption’ is that Mary, the Mother of God, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven at the end of her earthly life. She has no grave for us to visit. She left no relics of herself for us to venerate. She was taken up to heaven at the point of her death in fulfilment of her destiny, a destiny achieved by living out her earthly life from conception to death in total loving obedience to the will of God. Her body, like the body of Jesus, didn’t decay; rather, it was changed in the twinkling of an eye at the point of her physical death from an earthly state to a heavenly state.
The Solemnity of the Assumption reminds us that we too are destined to be in heaven someday. In the Creed, we proclaim that we believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. In the same way as the bodies of Our Lord and Our Lady suffered physical death and were raised to the heavenly life, we have the hope and expectation that we too shall enter eternal life when our earthly life ends. We will be raised body and soul. We sometimes forget that in heaven we will have a body, don’t we? It won’t be a physical body, of course, but a spiritual body. Jesus told us that unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (Jn 12:24). Speaking of our resurrection from the dead, St Paul used a similar expression and compared our body before death to seed, and our body after death to the plant that grows from a seed. When you plant a seed in the ground, it doesn’t sprout unless and until its outward structure dies and is shed. What is planted is perishable. What is raised up is imperishable (1Cor 15:42).
Today’s Solemnity invites us to reflect upon Mary as the lifelong figure of stability in the earthly life of Jesus, always co-operating with her son, the Son of God. She is the daughter of God the Father, the Mother of God the Son, and the Spouse of God the Holy Spirit. It isn’t difficult for us to apply the message of Mary’s life to our own because she was not – and is not – remote from real life. Like us, she endured the ups and downs of life. What ups and downs they were! As His mother, she knew the most profound depths of suffering as she stood by the Cross and watched Him offer up His life for us. She also experienced the height of maternal joy as a witness to His Ascension into heaven. Let’s go back a little to Mary’s early life. As a young woman, the archangel Gabriel saluted her reverently as royalty, she was greatly troubled (Lk 1:29), but in loving obedience to the will of God, she graciously responded, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word.’ (Lk 1:38). Humbly she accepted God’s invitation for His will to be done in her life – and so should we. Always.
At the start of Mary’s kindly visit to look after her elderly cousin Elizabeth during the third trimester of her pregnancy, Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary, Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord! (Lk 1:43). It was Elizabeth who announced to the world that the Messiah was incarnate and on His way to birth by the blessed Virgin Mary! Today’s Solemnity reminds us that those in whom God dwells will be honoured, as Mary was and is, and will be counted among the saints in heaven. The Lord will not allow his holy one to see corruption (Ps 16:10). If we make a home for Jesus in us, we too become candidates for the glorious transformation of our bodies.
Mary is not only present in heaven; she actively intercedes for us and helps us in our struggle to reach heaven. Marian devotions and prayers are means of invoking her to help us on our pilgrim journey to eternal life. As we celebrate the Assumption, I pray that our hope in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting in God will be nourished in us. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, assumed into heaven, pray for us. Amen. God bless you.