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Aug 21, 2015 Written by 

Solemnity of assumption of Mary our mother, mentor, consoler Be the first to comment!

In order to truly appreciate the role and the person of Mary, contemporary Christians need no other source than the Christian scriptures. Luke, in particular, presents Mary in a manner that encourages us to sidestep the maudlin sentimentality that has accrued to her through the ages. In Luke and Acts we encounter a woman who is at once mother and mentor. Mary is mother not only in the sense that she agreed to give birth to Jesus through whom God has become incarnate in human existence; but also the mother who  welcomed the living Word of God into her life. Mary allowed herself to be inspired and be directed by that Word in all she said and did.

Even before she fully understood the ramifications of the word God spoke to her she comprehend the impact God’s word and agreed to mother the Word and to ponder it. cf. Luke 2:19, 51. For both of these mothering roles, Mary is the “blessed is the womb that carried you … blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” Luke 11:27, 28. Through the centuries, Mary‘s role as both mother and mentor has grown. We revere her and are drawn to emulate her willingness to believe God and to live in accordance with her faith. It is on record that even some non Catholics are rediscovering her, glad to find a feminine figure in the Bible worthy of honor and grace.

Mary also serves the Church as mensch. Although mensch may seem an unlikely word for describing her, Mary is clearly represented as such in the Christian scriptures. Mensch, a Yiddish word, describes a person with the admirable characteristics of fortitude and firmness. A mensch is honest, upright, responsible and decent. In her capacity as mensch, Mary represents the bridge between the testaments in that she embodies the spirit of the Jewish anawim (the remnant, or God’s least ones) whose incredible strength and survival lay in their trust in and utter dependence on God. Although women in the time of our Mother Mary were perceived as weak and powerless, Luke nevertheless placed on Mary’s lips the song that celebrated the revolutionary spirit and the reversal of values and fortunes that characterize the kingdom of God. As mensch of the kingdom, it is Mary’s privilege to sing its anthem of justice and vindication for God’s promises. Her song, as presented by Luke in today’s Gospel, is comprised of mosaic of texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, all of which is shown as coming to fulfillment in Jesus. Mary’s song acknowledges that the salvation that has come in Jesus of Nazareth is the definitive act by which God has kept covenant with Israel and the ultimate manifestation of God’s mercy to God’s servants.

Mary’s song also anticipates what Jesus will preach regarding wealth and power. Some may covet it, but it has no lasting value in God’s eyes. Rather, those who are poor and lowly are God’s cherished ones. By introducing this theme as a leitmotif in the song of Mary, Luke has already begun to introduce the offense of the cross into the very heart of the good news. Through Simeon, Luke would announce that she would be a humble participant in that saving yet sorrowful act “Your own soul a sword shall pierce” Luke 2:35 and he ably illustrated this throughout the Gospel. Mary was inconspicuous but nonetheless present at every key moment in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. As Luke has affirmed, Mary remained present to his disciples in the post-Easter era cf. Acts 1:14. We are encouraged to stay close to her.

First reading: Revelation 11:19: 12:1-6, 10

In the fourth Christian century, when the first extant Churches were constructed as gathering places for the believing community, Christians also built Churches honoring Mary on the sites that had formerly been shrines to mother goddesses. These newly dedicated places helped to elevate Mary from her position as the lowly one, as she was presented by Luke, to her eventual 13th-century status as queen of heaven and earth. Mary’s regal role was no doubt supported by texts such as today’s first reading. However, in its original context, the woman featured in John theSeer’s vision was not Mary but Israel,from whom was born the child, i.e., the savior who was “destined to rule all the nations” Revelation 12:5. Evil is represented in this text as a dragon who opposes God and God’s chosen ones. The dragon stands by to devour the woman’s child, and it keeps standing by to devour the child’s friends and faithful followers.

But just as the child is saved and “caught up to God” Revelation 12:5, so will the followers of the child be if they remain faithful to the woman’s counterpart in the Christian testament, the Church. Later Christian tradition interpreted the woman as Mary. As mother of the savior, her presence in the text is plausible and as such has been an accepted adaptation.

In the late first century, the evil represented here by the dragon was experienced in the form of persecution from Rome and from the Jewish community, who thought its survival depended on their denunciation of the growing Christian movement. Through the centuries, the ‘dragon’ has worn a variety of facesand has exercised various methods of persecution and violence against believers. Some of these have been so extreme as to raise doubts about the survival of Christianity. Others have been insidious, going almost unnoticed until their threat is nearly overwhelming. Despite persecution, believers in Jesus to remained true to who we are: ekklesia, that is, a community of believers called out of empire to live the Gospel in all its simplicity and authenticity.  People like Dorothy Day lived with the poor, labored in solidarity with working people and actively resisted the evils of government and industry, all in a context of prayer, sacraments and other spiritual practices. Mary teaches us to listen to the message of hope conveyed by God. If we take this message to heart then it turns out to be good news. Too often, we look around with hopelessness at all the evils and struggles that seem to be choking the life-breath out of good people. Revelation’s message challenges us to bring our hope and make it overcome every evil fully convinced that the promise of goodness made to us would never be overcome by evil.

Second reading: 1Corithians 15:20-27

While we do not know whether Paul ever met Mary, he probably would have used the same argument to defend her assumption as he did here in defending the resurrection of Jesus. Just as Jesus was raised from death, those who belong to him, as Mary did, will also be raised to share a place with him in the everlasting kingdom. Of this Paul had no doubt and he did his best to dispel the doubts of his readers because he insisted, “If Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty too your faith” 1Corinthians 15:14. However,  and this is the ‘however’ that has altered the faith and hope of every believer for all time, Christ is raised, and all we are, all we will become, hinges upon that conviction. In support of his argument, Paul drew first upon a metaphor and then on typology. His metaphor, the first fruits of the harvest, which were offered to God, was rooted in Jewish tradition. For one man alone to be raised would have been a great surprise. Nowhere in the Jewish thought of Paul’s day was there any expectation that the Messiah would be killed and rise from death. Rather, popular belief looked forward to a general resurrection that would accompany God’s judgment at the end of time. The very idea of a risen Jesus was perceived as a sign that the end had come; the first fruits metaphor meant that the harvest was beginning.

Paul then turned to his Adam/Christ typology to approach the same point from a different angle. Just as Adam’s sin was not an isolated event but has affected all who have been born into an imperfect world, so also does the salvation won by Christ have universal consequences. In Adam, all died, but in Christ, whose saving action is greater than any human sin, all live. To appropriate Christ’s saving gift, all of Adam’s descendants are called upon to believe, and in their believing, to share the very life of Christ. Our Mother Mary is a woman to be emulated as one who believed and is now raised with Christ. She is elevated by the Church not because she started out as great and followed a privileged path but because she conformed herself to God’s will and traveled the lowly path. But then, God who is mighty did great things for her. God lifted her up and our trust in her assumption has become a source of hope for believers. Like a taste of what is to come, Mary’s experience encourages us to cling to God in perplexity, in pain and in adversity until we reach the end of the journey she has already traveled.

Gospel: Luke 1:39-56

Artists through the centuries have tried to bring to life this meeting between two women who have become important role models for all believers, though they did not figure very significantly in their own world. Rembrandt’s painting of their meeting depicts an older, adoring Elizabeth embracing a younger Mary. While El Greco and Macha Chmakoff paint the two in so close an embrace that they appear to be one person. For his portrait of this encounter, Luke has chosen words. His is a verbal tapestry of more than two dozen texts from the Hebrew Scriptures, woven together in a poignant portrayal of the loving relationship of family and community. In the loving encounter of these two women the testaments meet, promise evolves into fulfillment and the good news of the salvation of humankind is preached.

How appropriate that the Gospel is given voice by a lowly woman, one of Israel’s remnant, whose poverty enabled her to welcome the Word of God in all its richness. How appropriate also is the fact that her song is not a lament but what I can term ‘a revolutionary battle cry’. The magnificent is not the language of sweet maidens but of Maccabees; it speaks of scattering the proud and lifting up the lowly. Within this ‘battle cry’ that we call her ‘Magnificat’, the good news can be heard. Particularly sensitive to this news are those who know that they are not sufficient unto themselves but who look to God for peace, justice and salvation.

What God has done for Mary assures us of what God can do for all the poor and powerless. However, there is more involved here than the promise of relief for the struggling. Also sounded in Mary’s song is the ominous note regarding God’s final judgment, which will effect a complete reversal of fortunes: The rich and the powerful will exchange places with the powerless and the poor. This reversal has already begun, as is seen in God’s choice of Mary and Elizabeth. Their lives bear witness to a process that would continue to evolve throughout the ministry of Jesus. Recall the blessings pronounced on the lowly and the woes on the richcf. Luke 6:20-26, the parables of the rich man and Lazarus cf. Luke 16:10-31 and the great feast in Luke 14:15-24. Elizabeth pronounces Mary blessed for her willingness to become an active participant in God’s plan to reverse the fortunes of humankind. On her cousin’s lips, Luke has placed the beatitude that not only affords Mary the honor that is her due as ‘blessed among women’, but also challenge those for whom she continues to be mother, mentor and mensch to find their own blessednessin believing that the word God speaks into our lives will be fulfilled.

DOGMA ON THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

 It reads this way: “The immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven.” There is no biblical basis for this doctrine. But as Catholics we believe that God reveals divine truth both through scripture and tradition. Through both the Bible and through how Christians live out their biblical belief through history. So when Pope Pius XII asked bishops in 1950 whether their congregations believed that Mary was assumed into heaven, and 98 percent answered yes, the pope thought God was speaking through the Church. As reasons for the proclamation, the Pope alluded to the bloody world wars of that century, the growth of materialism, the corruption of morals and the desecration of the human body. By extolling the body of Mary, he meant to recall the inherent dignity of all human bodies and their eternal destiny. He wrote, “In her bodily glory in heaven, Mary is a sign of hope and solace for her pilgrim people.” Through Mother Mary we can foresee our final destination as heaven without looking for further proof.

Let’s review the historical development of our appreciation of Mary. The Gospel of Mark has a fairly pessimistic view. It says that Mary and family tried to take Jesus away from his preaching because they thought he was out of control. Later, Matthew and Luke still blame the family, but leave Mary out of it. Still later, John has Mary standing at the foot of the cross. I tend to believe that when Jesus put the disciple he loved in the care of Mary, he was making her the mother of all disciples and therefore the mother of the Church. No further proof is needed more than this.

The next two centuries say little about Mary. By the 3rd Century she is universally considered a virgin. But Mary took flight in the fifth century, almost by accident. People were debating the humanity and divinity of Jesus, so the Council of Ephesus said that because Mary was the mother of Jesus she was the mother of God. And once someone is proclaimed ‘Mother of God’, her other titles easily follow: Mother of Mercy, Mother of Consolation, Mother of Sinners and Mother of everything that is helpful! Mary was popularly seen as the merciful way around the stern judgment of Jesus. Mary was the back door to heaven. Mary gained further popularity because she was the delight of poets, the love of singing troubadours, the fair maiden of noble knights. And she sat for more portraits than anyone in history. In more modern times, she appeared to make personal appearances all over the world, which greatly increased her admirer base. Were things getting out of hand? Vatican Council II must have thought so. Until that time, in Church documents, Mary has her own special section between the section on Christ and the section on the Church. But this time, Mary was noticeably placed within the section on the Church. She was put in her place, so to speak. But what a wonderful place; Mother of the Church!

Application

There is an infinite divide between God and everything else. No matter how beautiful and holy Mary is, she is definitely on our side of the gap. Her position in God’s providence, just the same as ours, depends totally on her relationship with her son. In her capacity as mother and a mentor, Mary continues to be a living resource for the Church. Her parental nurturing calls forth the best in us; her mentoring reminds us to remain open and attentive to the same Spirit who inspired and empowered her and her Son. Mary challenges us to approach life and all its blessings and burdens with strength that befits a faithful and fearless disciple of Jesus. In the same line, all of our relationship with Mary must point toward Jesus, as the finger points to the sun.

Fr. Paulino Mondo

                                        

2094
Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo

Fr. Paulino Twesigye Mondo is a Comboni Missionary Priest. He holds a PhD in Moral Theology from Academia Alphonsiana Lateran University Rome. Currently he is the Assistant Parish Priest Our Lady of Africa Mbuya- Kampala and Secretary Missionary Animation Comboni Missionaries Uganda. For the last twenty years he has worked as missionary in Kenya where he served in various capacities as National Youth Chaplain, Secretary of National Lay Apostolate, Secretary and Director Missionary Animation, Parish Priest Holy Trinity Kariobangi, Director of Radio Waumini Kenya, Program presenter of Know Your Faith Vatican Radio, Staff writer with National Mirror and New People Magazine, Theologian of Kenya Episcopal Conference, Dean of Eastland’s, Visiting Lecturer on Ethics, Social Doctrine to various Universities, Board Member various Colleges and Secondary Schools, member of College of Consultors Archdiocese of Nairobi, Theologian Delegate to the Second Africa Synod on Reconciliation, Justice and Peace and Synod on New Evangelization for transmission of Christian faith.

Tel 0787058387

Email: Pmondo@ourladyofafrica.org

Website: www.ourladyofafrica.org

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Welcome to Our Lady of Africa Parish Mbuya. We are located near Bugolobi Township in Nakawa Division. It is about 5 kms from the City Centre of Kampala. Mbuya Catholic Parish is a vibrant and diverse community made up of people from different parts of Uganda. We welcome you warmly and joyfully.

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