Assumption Revelation 11:19; 12:1–6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26; Luke 1:39–56
Jungle Survival Heaven is our destiny, and Mary wants to help us in our struggle to reach it.
The popular TV show “St. Elsewhere” deals with life in a busy hospital.
At one time, one of the show’s young doctors, Dr. Caldwell, was played by Mark Harmon. Mark is also the young person who does the Coors beer commercials.
Older football fans will remember Mark’s father, Tom Harmon, the star quarterback and Heisman trophy winner from the University of Michigan.
Tom became a pilot during World War II. One day his plane crashed in a dense jungle. His changes of survival were nil, and he knew it.
As a matter of fact, 25 planes crashed in the same jungle the same week Tom’s did. Not one crew member from those planes made it back to civilization. Tom Harmon was the only one who did.
When newspaper reporters asked Tom how he accounted for his miraculous survival, he surprised them by saying, “Prayer!” He surprised them even more, explaining:
“[I said] at least a million ‘Hail Marys’ during my trek out. In fact, as I walked through the jungle, trying to find my way
out, I used to yell ‘Hail Marys’ at the top of my voice, hoping that someone would hear me hollering.”
“Without great faith, I would not have gotten out of that jungle.”
Tom Harmon isn’t alone in his faith in the power of prayer.
Nor is he alone in his faith in the power of prayer to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Tom Harmon’s experience, as well as the experience of millions of other Christians, has given Mary a special place in the hearts of believers everywhere.
And so it is with great joy that we gather today to celebrate the feast of Mary’s assumption into heaven.
From a theological viewpoint, the Feast of the Assumption tells us that Mary is in heaven, soul and body. Because she didn’t sin in her lifetime, her body, like the body of Jesus, didn’t decay. It went directly from an earthly state to a heavenly state.
From a practical viewpoint, the Feast of the Assumption reminds us that we too are destined to be in heaven someday—soul and body.
We sometimes forget that in heaven we will have a body. It won’t be a physical body, of course, but a spiritual body.
Speaking of our resurrection from the dead, and the kind of body we will have after it, Paul writes:
“Someone will ask, ‘How can the dead be raised to life” What kind of body will they have?’ ” 1 Corinthians 15:35
Paul answers that question by comparing our body before death to a seed, and our body after death to the plant that grows from the seed.
Paul says: “When you plant a seed in the ground, it does not sprout to life unless it dies.
And what you plant is a bare seed. . . . . God provides that seed with the body he wishes. . . .
“This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. When the body is buried, it is mortal; when raised, it will be immortal. When buried, it is ugly and weak; when raised, it will be beautiful and strong. When buried, it is a physical body; when raised, it will be a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:36–38, 42–44
This brings us to a second practical point about the Feast of the Assumption.
The feast reminds us that Mary is not in heaven in a passive way, simply enjoying God’s presence. That is, she isn’t just sitting there, as it were, waiting for us to join her. On the contrary, Mary is in heaven in an active way. She is actively concerned about us. In other words, she wants to help us in our own struggle to reach heaven.
We need only call out to her for help, as Tom Harmon did in the jungle.
In conclusion, then, the Feast of the Assumption contains a theological message and a practical message.
Its theological message is that Mary is in heaven—soul and body. Because she didn’t sin, her body, like the body of Jesus, didn’t decay. It went directly from an earthly state to a heavenly state.
It’s practical message is that we too are destined to join Mary in heaven someday, and that in the meantime, she wants to help us in our struggle to reach it.
Let’s close by praying the following words from the Preface of today’s Mass:
God our Father, “today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be . . . a sign of hope . . . for all your people. . . .
“You would not allow decay to touch her body, for she had given birth to your Son, the Lord of all life.”
May we join Mary in heaven someday and, with her, praise you for eve rand ever.
Series II Assumption Revelation 11:19; 12:1–6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26; Luke 1:39–56
Inspiration Mary’s suffering, service, and prayerfulness inspire us.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American essayist, once said, “Our chief need in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.’’
Emerson’s point is a good one.
Our chief need is not to find somebody who will tell us what we ought to do. We already know that. We are painfully aware of what we ought to do.
Our chief need is to find somebody who will inspire us to do what we know we should do.
And Emerson says that this is the role of a friend, a spouse, or a parent.
And as a Christian, I might add that this is also the role of Mary.
The first thing we find in Mary’s life is suffering.
Mary’s suffering began when she and Joseph took the child Jesus to the Temple. There the holy man Simeon said of Jesus:
“This child is chosen by God for the destruction and the salvation of many in Israel. He will be a sign from God which many people will speak against.” Luke 2:34
Then turning to Mary, he said, “And sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.’’ Luke 2:35
Suffering continued in Mary’s life when in later years she saw the opposition grow against Jesus. And finally, her suffering reached a peak when she stood beneath the crucified body of her son on Calvary.
Mary bore her suffering with courage and with patience. And that’s where she becomes a source of inspiration to us. She inspires us to bear our suffering as courageously and patiently as she did.
This brings us to the second thing that we find in Mary’s life. It’s a spirit of service to others.
This spirit manifested itself when the angel announced that she was to be the mother of Jesus. Her answer was short and to the point: “I am the Lord’s servant . . . may it happen to me as you have said.” Luke 1:38
Mary’s spirit of service continued to manifest itself when she learned of Elizabeth’s pregnancy and went to help her cousin. (Luke 1:39–45)
Finally, that spirit of service continued to manifest itself when Mary asked help from Jesus for the young married couple at Cana. (John 2:5)
Someone once said, “My life turned around when I stopped asking God to do things for me and asked God what I could do for him.’’
It is this kind of spirit of service in Mary that inspires us to want to try to serve as she did.
This brings us to the third thing that we find in Mary’s life. It is a spirit of profound prayerfulness.
This spirit of prayerfulness is seen in her prayer of praise to God. Mary offered this prayer right after learning that Elizabeth’s child leaped in the womb when she approached Elizabeth with Jesus in her own womb. (Luke 1:46–55)
Mary’s spirit of prayerfulness continued at the birth of Jesus, when the Gospel tells us that Mary “remembered all these things [connected with Jesus’ birth] and thought deeply about them.” Luke 2:19
And it reached a special peak when the Acts of the Apostles tells us that she “devoted’’ herself “to prayer’’ with the apostles in preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:14)
Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, “Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God’s gift of himself.’’ This is what prayer did for Mary. And this is what it can also do for us. And so Mary’s special relevance for us today lies in being an inspiration to us.
Three things, especially, stand out in her life: the suffering she endured courageously, the service she rendered joyfully, and the prayer she offered ceaselessly.
As a result of this, Mary inspires us to want to carry our cross patiently, as she carried hers.
She inspires us to want to serve others joyfully, as she served them.
Finally, she inspires us to want to pray regularly, as she did.
And if we imitate her in these three things, then we too will rejoice with her someday in heaven in the presence of the Holy Trinity, as she rejoices there now.
This is the message contained in today’s feast. This is the good news we celebrate together. This is the invitation that God extends to each one of us in this liturgy.
Series III Assumption Revelation 11:19a, 12:1–6a, 10ab; 1 Corinthians 15:20–27; Luke 1:39–56
God’s promise We will join Mary body and soul. From now on all people will call me [blessed], because of the great things the Mighty God has done for me.” Luke 1:48
Years ago there was an outdoor shrine to Mary on the grounds of the Catholic church in Saint Marys, Kansas.
The shrine was especially popular with a tribe of Native Americans living nearby.
As the years passed, the statue lost most of its paint. As a result, it looked drab and colorless.
Worse yet, Mary’s face looked old and her eyes looked as if she were blind.
When a new pastor wanted to repaint the statue, the tribal chief opposed it vigorously.
“Why?” asked the new pastor. “Don’t you want Mary to look beautiful? She looks old and blind this way!”
“Yes,” said the elderly chief. “But we could never make her look as beautiful as she is in heaven.
“On the other hand, if we keep the statue the way it is now, it reminds us of how Mary looks down on us from heaven.
“Her eyes are blind to our faults, but her ears are open to our prayers.” Idon’t know if they ever repainted that statue of Mary, but I hope they didn’t.
In a very real sense, that unpainted statue in Kansas portrays Mary the way she would like us to think of her on this great feast.
We tend to forget that Mary is in heaven as she was on earth.
She is not just the loving, caring mother of Jesus, but also the loving, caring, spiritual mother of each one of us.
That brings us to something else we tend to forget about Mary.
Mary’s assumption, body and soul, into heaven is a promise that we, too, are destined to join her in heaven—body and soul.
People sometimes ask, “How can we join our mother, Mary, body and soul, if our own body is going to die and decay.”
The answer to that question is as simple as it is beautiful.
Each year we see the answer dramatized in nature. Listen to Saint Paul. He writes:
Someone will ask, “How can the dead be raised to life? What kind of body will they have?” . . . When you plant a seed in the ground, it does not sprout to life unless it dies.
And what you plant is a bare seed . . . not the full-bodied plant that will later grow up.
God provides that seed with the body he wishes; he gives each seed its own proper body. . . . This is how it will be when the dead are raised to life. 1 Corinthians 15:35–42
It is this good news that we celebrate in today’s feast.
It is the good news that Mary’s assumption is God’s promise that we, too, will join her in heaven someday—body and soul.
There we will join her in the never-ending presence and joy of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
And so we can say with Saint Paul in his Letter to the Romans:
I consider what we suffer at this present time cannot be compared at all with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18