Homily, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: 1 Chr 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2; Ps 132:6-7,9-10,13-14; 1 Cor 15:54b-57; Luke 11:27-28 (Vigil); Rev 11:19a;12:1-6a,10ab; 1 Cor 15:20-27 and Luke 39-56(Day).
Mary Shares in the Victory of Christ, Over Death
Ordinarily each of us would appreciate compliment, especially when we feel we have done our work, we have “won the Olympics.” We like to say “thank you” to our friends and neighbors when we receive gifts. We also feel good when someone acknowledges how beautiful you are, how handsome you are, how personable and approachable, how hard working you are, in your different fields and roles. We also like to aspire, to imitate some “role models” who have succeeded in life. Here we are on August 15th. It is Mary the mother of Jesus whom we have gathered to celebrate today. She is the same Mary of the Fatima apparition who appeared to those three little shepherds (Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta). She is the same Mary of Lourdes who appeared to Sister Bernadette of Soubirous, that she was the Immaculate Conception. (It was such a joy to have recently made a pilgrimage, with others in May 2013 to these places). We celebrate her today. We celebrate her success. Not just her material success, but her spiritual success, her virtues! We celebrate her achievements, her obedience, humility, patience, endurance, her hope, Mary’s love and faith! We want to pray for one another. We want to learn to imitate Mary. We celebrate today, the 4th Glorious Mysteries!
Of course this celebration has long been established in the church! It is part of the deposit of our Christian faith received from the Apostles. It goes back to the time of Pope XII, who in 1950 declares this essence, dogma of our faith that, Mary because of all her hard work, humility, virtues , at the end of her earthly life was lifted up body and soul into heaven, where Mary lives forever, where Mary shares the victory of Christ on the cross, his resurrection!
This is the victory, the resurrection that St. Paul, for instance, talks about in the second reading, 1 Corinthian chapter 15. Death, Paul says, “comes through one man, the resurrection of the dead came also through one man, (Christ), who “must reign until he has put all his enemies (the greatest being death) under his feet” (I Cor 15:20-27). For Paul, when we “mortals”(human beings) are closed to Christ, when we clothe ourselves, cover ourselves with Christ who is immortal, who is divine, then death is swallowed up in victory, death is defeated on the Cross as Christ did! And “Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15: 54b-57).
The foundation of Mary’s success, her privilege to share in the victory of Christ, addressed by Paul goes back to the privilege of her immaculate conception and of her role as the mother of Christ (she bore Christ, the Ark of the Covenant), prophesied by Israel Prophets (Isaiah 7:14), and fulfilled in the gospel narratives.
In that infancy narrative for instance (Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2) all that Mary said to the Angel was, “behold I am the handmaid of the Lord be it done to me according to your words.” And Mary remained so, very humble, docile and opened to the voice of God, throughout that Christmas stories. Look at her encounter with Elizabeth, her cousin today! She travels on foot to visit with her, to assist her and to share the Good news with Elizabeth. Mary does not puff up, because Elizabeth has acknowledged or affirmed her as the “mother of my Lord.” But as humble soul as she always is, Mary rather gave glory to God, in the Magnificat (Luke 1:39-56).
For Mary all honor, greatness, power and glory belong to God. How many of us today are able to say this especially in world that is driven by power, the tendencies to dominate and rule over others. This is the basis of her victory. This is the basis of her being lifted up. She lived for others, Jesus and Joseph. When Jesus “got lost” in the temple, Mary and Joseph trekked on foot, found and brought Jesus home. Mary is used to trekking. She trekked to visit with Elizabeth. She trekked from Nazareth/ Bethlehem, to Egypt, to make sure Christ was saved from the hatred and onslaught of Herod. This is also what is symbolically presented in the book revelation today (Rev.11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab). Again, she trekked to the temple. She trekked to bring Jesus home.
She accompanied Christ his son, stood by Christ when he was falsely accused. She stood by Christ through his trial. She was right there on the foot of the Cross. This is what won Mary the victory we celebrate today. This is what won Mary her assumption, body and soul in to heaven. Mary would not see the corruption of the tomb. This is what won Mary the 4th Glorious mysteries!
Many of us have had our own trials, worries and difficulties, as parents, as children, as women, as men. We have once worried about our children, our friends, our partners, our seniors, our health. We have once worried about even our jobs. Christ is constantly watching over us from heaven. And Mary her mother is right there with him. As we travel this life, let Mary continue to be our model. She is the one we want to imitate, her love, her humility, her gift of reaching out to others (Elizabeths), her perseverance, her faith and hope in eternal life, a share in Christ’s victory over death.