Assumption Revelation 11:19, 12:1–6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26; Luke 1:39–56
O lady be good Mary’s presence in heaven is the promise that we, too, will someday be with her there.
An old proverb says, The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. The proverb’s point is that a mother’s influence on a child is greater than any other influence.
Some modern critics feel the proverb over romanticizes mothers. It overidealizes them and their influence. We’ll leave that to the critics to debate.
The point remains. A mother’s influence on a child is great. It is especially great during the child’s early years.
There’s a story about a young mother who went to a lecture on parenting. After it was over, she asked the lecturer which were the most important years of a child’s life. The lecturer asked her how old her child was. She’s five, the mother said. Rush right home, the lecturer said. You’ve just missed the five most important years.
Mothers are sometimes uncomfortable with their lofty role. They are uncomfortable with their shortcomings. They wonder how they can live up to their great responsibility. If you are one of those mothers, I have good news for you. You need not feel uncomfortable anymore. The reason is the mother whose feast we celebrate today. Today we celebrate the feast of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Specifically, her assumption into heaven.
Mary is now where we all will someday be. Moreover, she is there in a remarkable way. Because she did not sin, her body, like the body of Jesus, didn’t suffer corruption. It went directly from an earthly state into a heavenly state, without passing through decay.
Mary’s presence in heaven is the promise that we, too, will someday be with her there. But because we have sinned, we will not pass directly from an earthly to a heavenly state. Our earthly body will undergo decay.
We are like plants. Take the tulip, for example. In spring this flower has a beautiful body: a lovely red head and a lovely green stem. But by the time fall comes, the tulip’s body has lost all of its beauty. And by the time winter comes, only a bare bulb remains.
But we know that when spring returns, that bulb will be planted again, and a new body will emerge from it.
So it is with us, When the fall of our life arrives, our body has lost much of its beauty. Sin has taken its toll on our human nature Soon there will be nothing left of us but the bare bulb we call our soul. But when the time for the resurrection comes, a beautiful new body will emerge from the bare bulb we call our soul. Listen to what Paul says in another passage of his First Letter to the Corinthians:
Someone will ask, “How can the dead be raised to life? What kind of body will they have?”
You fool! 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
This brings us to our second point. Mary is not just the promise that we, too, will someday be with her in heaven. Mary is also a source of help for us as we struggle to achieve the victory that she now enjoys.
She is not only a source of help to mothers. She is a source of help to all of us. We can all go to Mary for help.
One of my favorite stories of how Mary can help people concerns Douglas Hyde. He was once a dedicated Communist and former editor of Britain’s communist paper.
As the paper’s editor, he began to read up on the Catholic church in order to tear it down in his writings.
But something happened as he read. The more he read about the church, the more intellectually convinced he became of its truthfulness. But he could not yet bring himself to believe. Something was holding him back. One day he was going to work in London on the daily commuter train. When the train arrived at the Ely Place station, he saw a sign he had seen a hundred times. It read, “Saint Etheldreda’s Catholic Church.” He decided to get off the train and go to it.
When he arrived, he sat in the last pew, wondering what strange power had brought him here. Suddenly a teenage girl came in. She walked down the center aisle and went straight to a statue of Mary. As she passed, Hyde noticed the troubled look on her face.
The girl knelt at Mary’s feet for a long time. Then she got up and left the church. As she did, Hyde noticed that her troubled look was gone. She was totally at peace.
When she had gone, he decided to do what she had done. He decided to take his problem to Mary.
As he knelt down and looked up into the face of the Virgin, he wondered how you prayed to Mary. These are his exact words, written in his book titled I Believed:
How did one pray to Our Lady? I did not know. . . . At last I heard myself mumbling something which seem appropriate enough, when I began it, but petered out, becoming miserably inappropriate. But it did not matter. I knew my search was at an end. . . .
Outside the church I tried to remember the words I said and almost laughed as I recalled them. They were those of a dance tune . . .
“O sweet and lovely lady be good, O lady be good to me.” Mary is indeed a sweet and lovely lady. And she will indeed be good to you. We salute her on this Feast of the Assumption. She is the promise that we will someday be where she now is. She is more. She is a source of help to us as we struggle to win the same victory she now enjoys.
We salute you,Mother of God. And we ask you on this special feast to pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Series II Assumption Revelation 11:19, 12:1–6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26; Luke 1:39–56
Assumption symbol Mary’s assumption into heaven is a promise that we will join her there someday, body and soul.
In some small towns in Italy, the feast of the Assumption is celebrated in a simple, almost childlike way.
The celebration begins not in the parish church but on the main street of the town. It consists of two processions.
The first procession begins on the outskirts of the town and heads down the main street to the center of the town. The people in this procession carry a statue of Mary.
The idea behind this procession is that it represents Mary on her way to heaven after her life on earth came to an end.
The second procession begins on the outskirts of town, also, only on the opposite side of town. It heads down the main street, also, to the center of the town. The people in this procession carry a statue of Jesus.
The idea behind this second procession is that it represents Jesus going out to meet his mother as she arrives in heaven.
The big moment in the celebration comes when the two processions meet under an arch of branches and flowers in the center of the town.
When this meeting takes place, both processions stop. Then comes the most childlike moment of all.
The two statues are made to bow to each other three times.
The bowing symbolizes Jesus welcoming his mother at the gates of heaven.
When the bowing ceremony is over, the people carry the two statues side by side, in a single procession, to the parish church.
The symbolism behind this procession is that Jesus is leading his mother to her throne, or place of honor, in heaven.
When this procession arrives inside the church, the two statues are enthroned in the sanctuary, and the townspeople celebrate the Mass of the Assumption. This childlike celebration expresses in a simple, visual way the profound truth that we celebrate today. It is the truth that after Mary’s life on earth, she was taken bodily into heaven.
From a theological viewpoint, the feast of the Assumption tells us that Mary is in heaven, soul and body. Because she did not sin in her lifetime, her body, like the body of Jesus, did not 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 will 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 the kind of body we will have in heaven, Saint Paul says:
Someone will ask, “How can the dead be raised to life? What kind of body will they have?” 1 Corinthians 15:35
Saint Paul answers that question by comparing our body on earth to a seed, and our body in heaven to the plant that grows from the seed. He 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, perhaps a grain of wheat or some other grain, 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. 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.
It reminds us that Mary is not in heaven in a passive way, simply enjoying God’s presence. That is, she isn’t 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, Mary wants to help us in our own struggle to reach heaven.
This is the good news that we celebrate in today’s feast. This is the good news that is revealed to us in today’s readings.
Mary’s reward for a life of service on earth is a promise that we, too, will receive a reward someday for our life of service on earth. We too will join her, body and soul, in heaven. Let’s close by praying these 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 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 ever and ever.
Series III Assumption Revelation 11:19, 12:1–6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20–26; Luke 1:39–56
Mary She can help us and wants to help us. All we need do is ask her.
Mary said, “My soul praises the Lord . . . because of the great things the mighty God has done for me.” Luke 1:46, 49
Marjorie Holmes is a prolific spiritual writer. One of her favorite themes is trust in God. And its not by accident that it is.
One day, her teenage son, Jimmy, ran away from home, taking with him only the clothes on his back.
The agonizing days ahead grew into weeks of sorrow and worry. Marjorie became paralyzed with fear.
Two days before Easter, she decided to do some shopping.
Going from store to store, she realized that she was just going through the motions. Her mind and heart were with Jimmy.
Then she heard church bells ringing. A few minutes later she was on her knees in the church.
It was Good Friday, and her thoughts turned to Mary and the sorrow and worry she suffered on the first Good Friday 2,000 years ago.
Marjorie wrote later: My heart broke for . . . that courageous little peasant woman whose agony was so much greater than mine. . . .
And as I wept for her, my own soul was healed. . . . It was as if God had spoken to me clearly and quietly, saying, “Trust Me. . . I will give you strength. . . . Trust Me.” Marjorie said, “At that moment a deep peace and stillness entered my whole being.”
It was this strength and peace that sustained her in the months ahead, until Jimmy returned safe and sound.
This leads us to today’s feast in honor of Mary.
Marjorie Holmes is one of the countless Christians who has discovered a great truth. When sorrow and worry overwhelm us, and we don’t know what to do or where to turn, Mary is always there waiting to help us.
This is especially true when our sorrow or our worry has to do with situations over which we have virtually no control situations like those she, herself, experienced in her own life.
Consider some examples.
When the angel told her she’d bear a son by the Holy Spirit, she knew this could cause Joseph to break off their engagement. How could he possibly understand such an explanation And, indeed, it took an angel to clarify things.
In any event, she had no idea at the time what to do or where to turn. All she could do was put her trust in God. Later, when Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple, Simeon told her, “Sorrow, like a sharp sword, will break your own heart.” Luke 2:35
Again,Mary had no idea what this was all about. All she could do was put her trust in God.
Later still, when the child Jesus was 12, he turned up missing for three days. Mary and Joseph had no idea where he was.
When they finally found Jesus in the Temple, he simply said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Mary didn’t understand. Once again, all she could do was put her trust in God.
This turns our focus back to each one of us in this Church.
Mary is not only the mother of Jesus, but also our spiritual mother, as well. And like every mother, she wants to help us especially when we are filled with sorrow and worry. For example, we may be a parent whose son or daughter has stopped going to church. Or perhaps one of them is involved in a potentially harmful situation.
No amount of prayer or reasoning with them does any good. That’s a time when Mary can help us and wants to help us.
In other words, after doing all we can, we ask her to help us place all of our trust in God. Or we may be a young person who is concerned about the future. We aren’t sure what we want to do.
We’ve talked to our parents and counselors. We’ve even prayed for guidance, but we are still in the dark.
That’s a time when Mary can help us and wants to help us. After doing everything we can, we ask her to help us place all of our trust in God.
Or we may be concerned about our faith. We know it isn’t strong. We feel it growing weaker and weaker.
We have prayed to God for help, but God doesn’t answer us. We may even have begun to wonder if God has abandoned us completely.
And that’s when Mary can help us do what she herself had to do. After doing everything possible, we ask her to help us place all of our trust in God, as she did. And so today’s feast of Mary reminds us of something that we may have forgotten.
Mary is not only the mother of Jesus, who is now in heaven, but also our mother, as well. She is someone who knows what we are going through, because she went through it herself.
She is also someone who can help us and wants to help us. We need only turn to her for the help to put all our trust in God.
If we do this, we can rest assured that we will experience the same strength and peace of soul that Marjorie Holmes did in her hour of sorrow and worry.
This is the Good News that is contained in today’s readings.
This is the Good News that we celebrate at this Eucharist.
We have a mother, and her name is Mary. She can help us and wants to help us. All we need do is ask her.