August 15, 2020
Fr. Joseph Jacobi
The blessed Virgin Mary is constantly on the move, going from place to place. She teaches us that this one wild and beautiful life we’ve been given by God is a journey, a pilgrimage of hope.
Mary always has her travelling shoes on, because she is going somewhere, love propelling her forward on her pilgrimage of faith.
After the receiving news from the Archangel Gabriel about God’s plan for her to be the mother of the Son of God, Mary goes up into the hill country to care for her cousin Elizabeth. She then travels far from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judah, where she gives birth to the child for whom all the world had hoped for and longed for. But even after Jesus is born, Mary continues to be on the move, as on the protective wings of the Spirit she joins Joseph in their flight to Egypt with the child.
Upon returning from exile in Egypt, she journeys to Jerusalem every year for the great feast of Passover, even losing Jesus and then “finding” him in the temple on one of these journeys to Jerusalem. Then Mary feels like she truly loses Jesus when she trudges up the hill of Calvary to stand at the foot of her son’s cross.
One would have thought that journey would have been Mary’s last, but it was just the beginning. Because with Jesus’ resurrection a doorway into a new life opens and she starts an incredible journey deeper and deeper into the mystery of God’s life-giving love.
Today we remember one final journey taken by Mary, the model pilgrim, the journey from this earth into the halls of heaven. She was taken up by God, body and soul, into the fullness of life everlasting, to her eternal rest.
But this woman of faith, who was constantly on the move or earth, cannot rest in heaven, for she has too much good to do on earth for her children. She accompanies us in our own journey of faith, pointing us always to Jesus her Son. She teaches us that we, too, are on a lifelong journey, and that heaven is our destiny.
On this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, our hope is restored, because where our Mother has gone we long to follow.
By her life and this glorious celebration of her Assumption, body and soul, into heaven, Mary teaches us the sacred value of the human body. That each and every-body is of eternal value to God. God becoming human testifies to that truth, and the Son of God being raised up in a glorified human body also gives witness to the eternal dignity of the human body.
Pope Pius XII declared the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin to be a dogma of our faith in 1950. He did so more than simply to officially ratify a tradition in the Church which had existed for fourteen hundred years. For he declared this dogma in the aftermath of World War II, where human bodies had been treated like trash, with between 70 – 85 million bodies were destroyed, many of them innocent civilians.
But it was more than just this War to end all Wars degradation of the human body, it was also the horror of Auschitz and Dachau and all the concentration camps, where the Jewish body was treated like trash, burned and thrown away.
In this context, Pope Pius XII declared this dogma about the Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven. Basically emphasizing this truth—that flesh and blood in the eyes of our Creator is not trash. That we are more than just souls, for after all Jesus came to save the entire person, body and soul. We are enfleshed spirits, and our bodily existence is an essential part of who we and always will be. That’s why Jesus, risen from the dead, appeared to his friends in a glorified body.
That’s why his mother Mary, since she carried the Son of God in her womb, would not have her body suffer decay. Rather, she would experience immediately Risen life with her Son in a bodily way. After all, every time we profess our faith we say we believe in the resurrection of the body. We don’t say we believe in the resurrection of the soul, but the resurrection of the body.
These bodies we have been given become temples of the Holy Spirit, God dwelling in us. These bodies are sacred, holy, of immeasurable worth. No body is worthless because their bodies are different from ours – a different color or shape or not able to function as well..
The body, which has become a vessel of God, is holy and sacred to God. How might we treat each person today if we saw them as sacred vessels of God? What would happen if we finally understood and acted upon the truth that one bodily life is not more valued than another?
White bodies and bodies of color are of inestimable value. Bodies that are young and old are both of lasting value. The bodies of those who are free and those imprisoned behind iron bars and in cages are of the same incalculable value.
How might we treat each person today if we saw them as sacred vessels of God? By her life and by her being assumed into heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary wants to teach us every day this truth, and like a good mother, drill it into our hearts, so it becomes a part and parcel of who we are.
It is the path of love we walk with Mary on our long journey home, recognizing the presence of her Son in others.