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Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

You will notice that today,
Father and I are not donning the green vestments,
but rather these white vestments.
Every August 15 we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and as is usually the case…
Mary trumps a Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Today’s solemnity is closely tied to what we celebrate every December 8,
the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
While no explicitly found in the canon of scripture,
The Immaculate Conception of Mary, and her Assumption into heaven,
have been part of the Church’s tradition since the early days of the Church.

Many of our protestant brothers and sisters
are critical of the Church’s emphasis on Mary…
that we as Catholics worship Mary,
and that somehow our devotion to the Blessed Mother
takes away from our worship of God,
from our focus on Jesus.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Saint Louis-Marie de Monfort, who lived late 17th-early 18th century,
was very devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
He describes Mary as “the echo of God.”
“The Echo of God.”
An echo is not the source of a sound,
but rather carries the sound.
Mary’s echo announces that salvation has come,
and it is not her, but rather she points us to Jesus.
Mary always points us to Jesus.

Many times in art work,
we find the image of Mary alongside the crescent moon.
Again, another image.
The moon itself does not emit light itself,
but merely reflects the source of light…our sun.
In the same way, Mary does not emit light herself,
but reflects the glory of her SON.
We are taken back to that beautiful Hymn of Mary in today’s Gospel…
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

Let me give you one more image of Mary…
The early Church Fathers believed Mary
to be foreshadowed in the burning bush.
Remember Moses approaches this sight…
a bush ablaze and yet the bush is not consumed by the fire.
Mary shines with the presence and power of God
but is not consumed by that power.

Some look at Mary’s Assumption into heaven,
body, and soul,
as a reward for Mary’s faithfulness.
Perhaps it’s a cultural observance.
In our culture, reward is the result of good works,
and punishment the result of bad works.
But that is not the way of God.
All goodness comes to us from God,
not as reward,
but rather, as pure gift.

I would suggest that Mary’s Assumption into heaven
began at that moment of the Immaculate Conception.
Mary was spared in the womb of her mother, Anna,
the stain of original sin for one purpose…
that this newly conceived child would become
the very mother of the Son of God.
Perhaps throughout her early life,
this identity was not fully understood
until that moment the angel announced that she,
with her consent, would,
by the power of the Holy Spirit, bear a Son and name him Jesus.

Mary’s Assumption into heaven not only speaks of her identity,
but also speaks of our identity.
We learn from her that the closer we are to God,
the more truly we are ourselves…
God elevates and enlightens me and you,
he makes us fully alive,
which is being fully ourselves.
God never forces us to be anything we’re not.
Within Mary’s womb,
in the most tangible and literal way,
Christ was alive…
yet she is not overwhelmed or suppressed by Christ’s dwelling in her,
she is made luminous and glorious,
she is made the beloved Mary she was meant to be.

All of us, the Church of Christ,
when we accept God’s Word,
God’s life takes root in us.
Here, Mary teaches us an important lesson…
that the new life Jesus promised comes only with radical trust in God.
It is at the limits of our strength,
the limits of what we can do as humans,
that is where God acts…
it’s when we open ourselves to God that the divine life breaks in
and God’s life is born in us.
We are made the beloved that God intended us to be.

Mary is the Theotokos…
Greek for “The God Bearer.”
Sometimes that is described as the “container of the uncontainable.”
We too are containers which can contain the fullness of God…
at this altar Christ gives the fullness of his being to us,
body and blood, soul and divinity…
at Baptism we are born again with the fullness of God’s Holy Spirit.
You and I are containers of the uncontainable God…
temples of the Holy Spirit…
and Mary teaches us what it means to respond to this reality
with faith and hope and love.

On this Feast of the Assumption,
the day the Church celebrates that Mary
has been taken up into heaven to live forever with her Son,
we see the destiny of our human nature.
But not as reward,
but rather from our identity.
We will be like Christ, with Mary, in glory,
crowned with grace…
this is the final destination of the pilgrim people of God
and the Assumption of Mary
is proof that Jesus is faithful to his promise
that he prepares a dwelling place for the human family
in his Father’s house.