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Blessed Virgin Mary

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.


Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God

January 1, 2019

Fr. Joseph Jacobi


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I’ve always found it challenging getting into the “spirit” of a “new year”. Why is that?

January does not seem to hold anything new, at least in the northern hemisphere. Rather everything seems to be the same—the same old dreary days of winter: cold and gray, short days and long nights.

It just does not feel right, to me at least, to say “out with the old and in with the new” when nothing about this time of the year feels “new” to me. Now, if New Year’s Day fell in mid-March when the leaves are starting to green up the grey sky and tulips are starting to paint the ground—now that would feel new to me.

And why do people decide year at this time of year to make “resolutions,” which they know they are not going to keep. I’ve been a regular at exercising ever since I was a kid—part of the blessing and curse of having a mom who majored in physical education—so working out at a gym or fitness center has been part of the fabric of my life. It never fails that this time of year new faces show up at the fitness center, and then they are gone by February.

Maybe I’m just getting older and turning into an old fuddy-duddy, but I don’t see the reason for saying January is a fresh start.

So, in the midst of all this looking ahead, I take great comfort in the example Mary gives at the start of it all, showing us the importance of looking back. On this solemnity celebrating her role as the Mother of God, she teaches us on this 1st day of the year to look back. Or this is how the evangelist Luke puts it:

She “… kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

There are no New Year’s resolutions for Mary, Rather, she teaches us how to pay attention to what is said about her Son. She shows us how to listen to what Jesus says and observe what he does, and ponder what this all means for our salvation. In the Gospel for this past Sunday, where Mary and Joseph finally find Jesus in the temple and he somewhat scolds them for not looking for him first in his Father’s house, the evangelist Luke notes that when Jesus goes home from the temple with Mary and Joseph that she “kept all these things in her heart.”

As the first disciple, as the One who models for us a life of discipleship, Mary teaches us that the first and most important thing is to reflect upon what Jesus says and does. To treasure these things in our heart, to look back at them and learn.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, taught his followers a specific way of looking back in prayer. Ignatius called this prayer the “Examen. It’s full title is the “Examen of Consciousness.” Ignatius instructed his brother Jesuits that if they were to do only one prayer in the day, then they needed to do this 5-10 minute prayer at the end of the day.

The structure of the “Examen” is quite simple. First, you call upon the Holy Spirit to illumine your day, to reveal what needs to be seen. Then, as you look back on the day by the light of the Holy Spirit, you give thanks for the specific blessings of God given that day. Next, and this is the heart of the prayer, you ask: “How did I respond to the visits of the Lord this day? When God’s face shone up me, did I turn toward Him or turn away? When I was given the opportunity to love the Lord Jesus coming to me through the people I encountered this day, did I choose to love Him or did I refuse?” Then follows a simple prayer asking the Lord to forgive you for not loving Him, for not responding to an invitation of love. Only after “looking back”, after reflecting in such a prayerful way do you then complete the Examen by looking ahead with hope to do better tomorrow.

As we conclude these 8 high holy days of the Christmas season, hopefully we have learned during this octave of Christmas that God became human so God could meet us in our lives as they are.

God is with us, Emmanuel. The Son of God walks with us. The Son of God wants us to open our eyes to see His presence.

Unlike the dramatic pledge of a New Year’s resolution, the slow work of reflection is a daily commitment to do something ordinary. But it uncovers the extra-ordinary presence of God. Right where we are, the Lord with us. In the middle of things. In the middle of our messy lives. The Son of God walking with us and CALLING US TO NEW LIFE!


Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 8, 2018

Fr. Joseph Jacobi



Carlo Maria Martini, a deceased Italian Jesuit cardinal and former Archbishop of Milan, once described grace as knowing that “you have been loved for a very long time.” Cardinal Martini, who died in 2012, defined grace in this beautiful way: knowing that “you have been loved for a very long time.” So, take your age plus nine months and then add in eternity— that is how long you have been loved by God. Grace is knowing this everlasting love of God and living out of that love.

St. Paul states the same truth in a different way, saying that God the Father chose us in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in his sight. From the beginning of Creation, God knew each one of us and intended us to be born. So that we are loved not so much for what we do, but for who we are, because we have been chosen in by the Father in His Son.

Pope Francis teaches that each one of us “is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody…the Gospel”

Being chosen by God also means God has a plan and a purpose for our life. You matter, I matter, and so does our mission in this life. Pope Francis teaches that each one of us “is a mission, planned by the Father to reflect and embody…the Gospel” (On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, #19 ).

Since Mary was chosen from the beginning of time to be the Mother of the Son of God, Mary’s Mission is a unique one. So much so that God prepared her to be the Mother of the Son of God by freeing her from sin and the effects of sin from the very first moment of her existence in the womb of her mother, Anne. Mary is full of grace, free to allow God who is love to take her flesh, to say a complete and full Yes to God’s plan to live in her womb and be born into the world through her.

The archangel Gabriel’s greeting is our greeting as well to Mary on this great Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception: “Hail Mary, full of grace.” For this humble virgin from the backwoods town of Nazareth was indeed full of grace. To be full of grace is to be filled with life and love and light. To be full of grace is to live out the marks of holiness described by St. Paul VI in his great encyclical, “Evangelization in the Modern World.” This saintly pope said: “The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice.”

To be full of grace is to yearn for peace in the world, to do acts of kindness every day, to have an inclusive heart, to be able to laugh and cry, to feel deeply the sorrows and joys of the world. To be full of grace is to accept what God gives and to give what God takes, a lesson that St. Teresa of Calcutta taught her sisters and the world.

But you and I are not full of grace. Something blocks us from completely embracing the mystery of God’s love and mercy in Jesus. Call it pride, call it ignorance, call it fear, something holds us back from uttering the fully obedient “YES” that Mary proclaimed the Annunciation.

From the beginning, our first parents chose not to believe in God’s love for them. Instead of saying “YES” in obedience to all that God offered them, they disobeyed, failing to trust in God’s goodness, trusting only in themselves and their desire to be God. Thus sin and the affects of sin entered the world. Instead of standing erect and raising their heads to bask in the light of God’s love, our first parents hid in their shame and passed the blame.

We, too, still wrestle with sin and the affects of sin in our lives, but by Mary’s “YES” which reversed the “NO” of our first parents, we have been given a Savior who frees us from the obstacles in our lives which prevent us from living out of the love of God for us. So, one of the cries of Advent is, “Come O Lord and set us free.” Set us free from the sin which binds us, the fear which enslaves us, heal us of our blindness.

When we embrace the truth which Mary knew, that we have been loved for a very long time, our lives are transformed. Knowing how much we are loved by God sets us free to give love away.

In the giving away of God’s love, more space is created for a new influx of divine grace.

It is this rhythm that defines the life of discipleship. It is this rhythm of receiving and sharing God’s love that Mary, the 1st disciple, teaches us.