For the contemporary Christians to appreciate the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Bible has to provide guidance. St. Luke presents Mary in a manner that challenges us to sidestep the maudlin sentimentality because though blessed, she is at the same time a mother and mentor. Mary is the woman who agreed to give birth to Jesus, making the Word of God became incarnate among us. She allowed herself to be inspired directly by the Word in all her actions. She is “the blessed womb that carried the lord who word of God and kept it” Luke 11:27, 28. As we revere her, we are equally invited to emulate her willingness to believe permanently in God.
First reading: Revelation 11:19: 12:1-6, 10
When the first structural Churches were put up as gathering places for believers, Christians dedicated most of them to Mother Mary especially those on the sites that had formerly been shrines to traditional feminine icon. These newly dedicated places assisted to elevate Mary from her position as the lowly one, as she was presented by Luke, to a great status of queen of heaven and earth. Mary’s royal role is in no doubt supported by the text in today’s first reading; though in interplay, the same woman meant Israel. It is from this woman that a child is born to become the savior “destined to rule all the nations” Revelation 12:5. In the same text, evil is presented as a dragon that stands opposing God and his chosen ones. This dragon is ready to devour the woman’s child and all faithful followers but as the child is saved “caught up to God” Revelation 12:5, so will all the faithful followers be saved. Christian tradition assumes the woman to be Mary the mother of the savior and the mother of a new humanity.
As longer as mother Mary is around, no form of persecution can totally eliminate believers. With Mary, the Christian community is ready to denounce all forms of idolatry and fight and defeat all kinds of ‘dragons’, even those wearing a variety of attractive faces. There is no method of persecution or violence against believers that cannot be repulsed when the Blessed Virgin Mary is invoked. Despite persecution, believers in Jesus through Mother Mary have remained true to their identity widely known as ekklesia, meaning, a community of believers who openly live the Gospel in all its simplicity and authenticity. A person like Mother Teresa is model example to this. She lived poor with the poor and most miserable in society, laboring to restitute dignity to the dejected and those overwhelmed by poverty, misery and weird diseases of our time. Mary’s message in Revelation challenges us to sustain 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; as Christ is raised, all who believe in him will be raised. This truth of a risen Jesus has to be perceived as a sign that faith is never deceptive. The first fruits metaphor means that the successful harvest is real and visible.
On Adam/Christ typology, Paul approaches 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 of his descendants, so also has the salvation won by Christ granted universal saving consequence on all who have kept the faith. There no sin that can dislodge Jesus’ determination to save those who love God. In Adam, all died, but in Christ, all are alive. This is why Mother Mary is a woman to be emulated; since she believed in God, Jesus has now raised her with her body and soul. Mary is elevated by the Church to such a privileged position because she conformed herself to the will of God. Her assumption is a source of hope and a taste of what is to come; her experience encourages us to cling to God even when we are in perplexity, until we achieve the goal.
Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
Artists through the centuries have tried to bring to life this meeting between two women, Mary and Elizabeth who have become important role models for all believers, though they did not figure very significantly in their own world. Rembrandt’s painting depicts an older, adoring Elizabeth embracing a younger. This visitation which results into the Magnificant wove together a loving relationship in a true family and the best human community. In the loving encounter of these two women the Old and New Testaments meet, evolving into fulfillment of the good news of the salvation for all generations to come.
It is appropriate that the Gospel is given voice by a lowly woman, one of Israel’s remnants whose poverty enabled her to welcome the Word of God in all its richness. It is also appropriate that her song is not a lament but a ‘revolutionary battle cry’. The magnificent is not the language of sweet maidens but of Maccabees where God scatters the proud and lifts up the lowly. Within this ‘battle cry’ that we call ‘Magnificat’, the good news is proclaimed by those who know that they are not sufficient in 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. 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 will continue to evolve throughout the ages.
For those who have true faith, human life is continuous parable being pronounced on human classes who consider themselves lowly or rich as depicted between the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:10-31. The Blessed Virgin Mary in her assumption invites all of us to become active participant in God’s plan to restore the fortunes of humankind. On lips of Elizabeth, Luke has placed the beatitude that not only afford Mary the honor that calls her ‘blessed among women’, but also challenges all of us to continue being mothers, fathers and mentors of a blessed humanity who believe that a better life is possible.
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; yet all Catholics believe that God reveals divine truth both through scripture and tradition. When Pope Pius XII asked bishops in 1950 whether their congregations believed that Mary was assumed into heaven; 98% answered yes, the rest of the 2%, one was deaf due to advanced age, while other was asleep during the deliberations. From this, the Pope concluded that God was speaking through the Church. As reasons for the proclamation, was the bloody world wars of the century, materialism, 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.
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 always ready to defend and intercede for us because her uncompromising relationship with Jesus. In her capacity as mother and a mentor who is free from sin, not attached to material things and with an uncompromising faith, Mary continues to be a living inspiration of imperishable life. Her courage to challenge the mighty is society calls forth the best in us. Single handed, she has put the world again on the course of prosperity and infinite blessings; our challenge is to imitate and implement her courage and willingness to say YES to God. Mary invites us to point toward Jesus, as the finger points to the sun.
Fr. Paulino Mondo