Homily for the Assumption of Mary “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…He has looked with favor on his lowly servant…All generations shall call me blessed.” (Luke 2:46-48)

Tizian_041Some accuse the Catholic Church of deifying Mary, of setting her equal to God. Let’s face it, if we fail to understand what we say of her, we run that risk. We see Mary, explicitly or not, in four different passages from Scripture today.

“A woman clothed with the sun…the moon under her feet…on her head a crown of twelve stars…She labored to give birth.”

“The queen stands at your right hand arrayed in gold / The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.”

“Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen sleep…In Adam, all die, so too in Christ all shall be brought to life, but each in its proper order.”

“Blessed are you among women…And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Each of these excerpts from today’s readings speaks of Mary in one way or another. You have to admit they all sound big and dramatic. If we say that Mary is the object of each, though, one can easily step from a right understanding of our relationship to the Blessed Mother to deifying her, making Mary equal to God. However, today, Paul and Mary herself give us the right key to interpret these passages and guard from that error.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…He has looked with favor on his lowly servant…All generations shall call me blessed.”

What did Mary do to deserve our respect of the reward God gave? She said yes. Her yes set in motion the final act of God’s great plan for salvation. But even Mary gives God the credit for all that was to happen – even for the blessing of her name.

“Just as in Adam all men died.”

The original earned death for mankind. Eve stretched out her neck in pride’ she wanted God’s job, to decide good and evil for herself. Adam failed in his only job: to guard the garden, to give himself up for Eve, to offer God right worship.

“In Christ all shall be brought to life.”

Christ overcame that first sin of Adam and the sin of pride of Eve. Christ gave himself up for man, the perfect exemplar of self-gift. He mounted the cross as a perfect gift of love and worship to God the Father.

“In Christ all shall be brought to life, but each in its proper order.”

Christ rose from the dead, the firstfruits of the resurrection. The Lord drew Mary into heaven, body and soul, when “completed the course of her earthly life.” (Pius XII: Munificentissimus Deus) How could it be otherwise? From the first moment of her conception in the womb of her mother, God preserved her from any stain of sin in preparation for the yes he knew she was to offer, a yes that unraveled the pride of Eve. Christ’s grace travelled back in time, as it were, from the cross to fully prepare Mary to carry our Lord and Savior as the Ark of the new Covenant. But Christ’s grace still motivated that great gift. Mary could never have been preserved or offered so perfect a yes without grace. So, if Christ rose from the dead as the firstfruits, Mary was assumed as the secondfruits. We are finite beings who can never attain the full perfection of Christ’s divine person, but we can strive to follow the example of Mary by announcing yes to God’s plans for us, by taking up the cross of Christ and suffering with him and his own mother, and thereby participating in his resurrection as she has.

“The queen stands at your right hand arrayed in gold / The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.”

We call Mary the Queen of Heaven. Does this mean that we believe her equal to God and the Word Incarnate, Jesus Christ? Certainly not! However, her unique participation in God’s salvific plan earned her a special place in heaven. Mary already enjoys the resurrection of the body that we profess to desire in the Creed.

“A woman clothed with the sun…the moon under her feet…on her head a crown of twelve stars…She labored to give birth.”

Here, John is not specifically speaking of Mary, but rather the Church. That doesn’t break the illustration I am offering, here, though. Mary, from the moment of her yes to the angel prefigured the Catholic Church. Mary labored to give birth to the Christ; the Church gives birth, also. To what does the Church give birth? Christians. Saints. Through the Church God gives new life, a second birth in water and the Spirit, to each of us, saints, the end goal of his great plan of salvation.

So what’s the point? Are we expecting an angel to come to us and announce that we are to give birth to Christ?

Exactly.

To live as Christians means to always look to the promise that was fulfilled through Mary in Christ, to hope for the reward that Mary already enjoys in her assumption into heaven. When God comes to us with a call, we must always answer with a resounding yes so that we can hope for our reward in heaven and, at the end of time, enjoy the resurrection of the body. God may come to us with a big or a small calling, a vocation, if you will. In fact, he comes constantly to call us in small ways. Each time we say yes to those small calls, we make ourselves ever more ready to follow Mary’s example and say yes without delay or resistance so that we can fulfill the Lord’s plan for us on earth and enjoy eternity with him.

God calls out to you today. His plan for your life stretches out before you. Will you follow the first Eve or the new Eve?

He awaits your answer.

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