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Homily for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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.

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

The dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, body and soul, into heaven was declared in 1950, but this great “Easter feast” had been observed ever since the 5th century in the Church. How fitting that the mother of the Crucified and Risen Jesus should share with her Son in his bodily glory in heaven. Mary has experienced the resurrection of the dead, and in this great Marian feast, we glimpse our destiny—where she has gone, we hope to follow.

So, Mary was lifted up into heavenly life as a complete person, body and soul. We, too, long to follow where she has led.

This is a very “bodily” feast, a grand celebration reminding us of the importance of the human body. We human beings are enfleshed spirits. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience, not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We learn about God and experience God’s tender, life-giving care in and through these bodies of ours. We learn in and through our 5 bodily senses. In fact, that great scholar of the Church, Thomas Aquinas, taught that the only way we learn is in and through our senses, in and through these bodies.

This grand feast of the importance of the human body makes me pity the angels. That’s right, I pity the angels. Because they are pure spirit, they will never experience the joy and delight of being human with bodies that revel in God’s goodness through our senses.

I pity the angels, because they have never tasted a homemade chocolate chip cookie or savored a cold drink on a hot summer day. I pity the angels, because they have never heard their name sound forth from the lips of a loved one nor heard the soaring beauty of a Mozart symphony. I pity the angels, because they have never seen a glorious Oklahoma sunset nor seen their child take his very first step. They have never felt snowflakes on their face nor the caress of a loved one. I pity the angels because they have never smelled bacon cooking.

In and through our bodies, we experience the beauty and delights of being human, of God’s care. In and through these bodies, we also love others and love God.

Mary loved her son, Jesus, in and through her body. She loved Jesus not in an abstract way, but in a very concrete way through her body.

Her body was the Ark of the New Covenant, containing and holding and protecting and nurturing the Son of God in her womb. She felt him growing in her womb, moving at times, kicking at times, and her body was intimately joined to his. For 9 months she carried in her body the One whom the whole universe could not contain.

Then she fed the newborn babe with milk from her very own body as he suckled at her breasts. Later she would feed him through the work of her hands, fixing thousands of meals for Jesus.

With her hands she would wipe the dirt from his face and the tears from his eyes and fix up a scraped knee or mashed finger from a hammer. (Joseph!) As a mother, she would shower her son with bodily affection— with countless hugs and kisses.

Mary held him tight when he decided to leave home and strike out on his own, and then had to let him go. Mary held the broken body of her son against her own body, as he was taken down from the cross and placed in her arms. Then she had to let him go as he was buried in the tomb.

In and through her body, Mary sings the praises of the God who has done great things for her. Who lifted her up to be the mother of His Son, and who lifted her up to share in his eternal glory.

Our destiny is to join Mary in enjoying the fullness of life, body and soul, in heaven. Our preparation to be loved in such a perfect way, is to give ourselves away in love of others through these bodies given to us by God.

For we love God our Maker and Creator not in an abstract, thinking about Him kind of way but in the very concrete actions of love expressed in and through these bodies.

These bodies of ours have become temples of the Holy Spirit by baptism. In these bodies, we are joined intimately to the Risen Lord as we eat His body and drink His blood in Holy Communion.

With the Blessed Virgin Mary, we sing the praises of God who has done great things for us. With our Mother in faith, we sing the praises of God who one day will lift us up body and soul to share in the fullness of life in heaven.