August 15th – The Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven
A newly ordained priest was having a difficult time getting started preparing his first sermon. He asked his pastor for a suggestion and this pastor told him: “start with something that’s certain to grab their attention. For example, you might say: ‘some of the best years of my life were spent in the arms of a beautiful woman who was someone else’s wife.” The pastor smiled at the young priest’s shocked expression, then added “she was my mother”. That Sunday the nervous young priest ascended the pulpit, sweating and shaking. Finally he said, “The pastor told me some of the best years of his life were spent in the arms of a beautiful woman who was someone else’s wife.” He was pleased in getting everyone’s attention but his nervousness overtook him, his mind went blank and he just blurted out: “For the life of me, I can’t remember if he said who she was.” Today we all can say that we are in love with a beautiful woman, Mary our Heavenly Mother.
If a small child hurts his finger he runs to Mammy crying. All Mammy has to do is to kiss the finger and it is well again. Children know their mother loves them and has made a great many sacrifices for them. In the same way we look on Mary as our heavenly mother. She is the mother of us all. We look on her as our mother who loves us a great deal, who watches over us to protect us. She is the mother to whom we can tell every joy and every sorrow. We remember Jesus’ words as he was dying on the cross; he said to Mary, ‘Woman behold your son’, and to John he said, ‘Son, behold your mother’ (John 19:26-27). We have always regarded this little incident as being symbolic for us: as Jesus was dying on the cross gave us his mother to be our mother also.
Our First reading is about the Ark of the Covenant, the sacred gold plated box that contained the Ten Commandments and on the top of which were two golden angels. The Ark was the unique symbol of God’s presence with Israel. It was constructed in the desert after Moses and the Israelites left Egypt. It led them into the Promised Land. When King David established his capital in Jerusalem about the year 1000 BC, he brought the Ark there. Today’s reading describes this solemn and joyful occasion. After the temple was built, the Ark was placed in the Holy of Holies and there it remained for 400 years until the Babylonians destroyed the temple.
In Christian symbolism, Mary is sometimes referred to as the Ark of the Covenant. As the Ark represented the special presence of God dwelling with his people, Mary carried within herself Jesus who is truly Son of God dwelling with us.
Assumption of Mary is a dogma of our faith that at the end of her life, Mary like her son, was taken body and soul into heaven. This is the meaning of the Assumption, the feast we celebrate today.
St. Francis de Sales asks the simple question in his sermon for the Assumption: “What son would not bring his mother back to life and would not bring her into paradise after her death if he could?” Who could argue with a statement like that? In Mary’s Assumption the glory of Jesus’ resurrection is first of all extended to his mother, but as we celebrate it we celebrate likewise our own hope to share in this risen glory someday. We recite this belief in the last lines of the creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.”
The Assumption tells us that God is not only concerned about our souls but also about our bodies. They are temples of the Spirit. They are part of who we are and so the feast of the Assumption is a feast that celebrates who we shall be.
Protestants sometimes have trouble with this idea of praying to Mary. Jesus is our savior and we all believe that. But Protestants believe we should pray for one another. If we can ask others to pray for us and we pray for them, why can’t those in heaven also pray for us? Are we now so separated from those who have died so that they no longer can help us or be concerned about us? If we seek the prayers of sinners on earth, for we all sinners, why not seek the intercession of the saints in heaven? Why not turn to the Queen of saints, God’s own Mother?
Therefore let us not forget to seek the powerful intercession of Mary our heavenly Mother now and always. Today we thank God for the Assumption of Our Lady. It is, as the Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer today says, “a sign of hope and comfort” for God’s people on their pilgrim way. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.