15 August – Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mass during the day)
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are the readings for the day of the feast itself – Monday.
Mary is taken up body and soul into the glory of Heaven, and with God and in God she is Queen of Heaven and earth. And is she really so remote from us? The contrary is true. Precisely because she is with God and in God, she is very close to each one of us. While she lived on this earth she could only be close to a few people. Being in God, who is close to us, actually, “within” all of us, Mary shares in this closeness of God. Being in God and with God, she is close to each one of us, knows our hearts, can hear our prayers, can help us with her motherly kindness and has been given to us, as the Lord said, precisely as a “mother” to whom we can turn at every moment. – Pope Benedict XVI
The sanctuary of God in heaven opened and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. Then came flashes of lightning, peals of thunder and an earthquake, and violent hail.
Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with the twelve stars on her head for a crown. She was pregnant, and in labour, crying aloud in the pangs of childbirth. Then a second sign appeared in the sky, a huge red dragon which had seven heads and ten horns, and each of the seven heads crowned with a coronet. Its tail dragged a third of the stars from the sky and dropped them to the earth, and the dragon stopped in front of the woman as she was having the child, so that he could eat it as soon as it was born from its mother. The woman brought a male child into the world, the son who was to rule all the nations with an iron sceptre, and the child was taken straight up to God and to his throne, while the woman escaped into the desert, where God had made a place of safety ready, for her to be looked after in the twelve hundred and sixty days.
Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, ‘Victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now that the persecutor, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.’
1 Corinthians 15:20-26
Christ has been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep. Death came through one man and in the same way the resurrection of the dead has come through one man. Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then, after the coming of Christ, those who belong to him. After that will come the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, having done away with every sovereignty, authority and power. For he must be king until he has put all his enemies under his feet and the last of the enemies to be destroyed is death, for everything is to be put under his feet.
Mary set out and went as quickly as she could to a town in the hill country of Judah. She went into Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. Now as soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. She gave a loud cry and said, ‘Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord? For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy. Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.’
And Mary said:
‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
and my spirit exults in God my saviour;
because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid.
Yes, from this day forward all generations will call me blessed,
for the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name,
and his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him.
He has shown the power of his arm,
he has routed the proud of heart.
He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.
He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy
– according to the promise he made to our ancestors –
of his mercy to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back home.
“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste”
The first verse in today’s gospel comes immediately after the angel’s annunciation to Mary. So why would Mary, a young and newly pregnant mother, make that arduous trip from Nazareth to the hill country of Judah, a journey that from all accounts, was about 100 miles long? Why do we ever do anything that is impulsive or illogical? Because in our hearts, we feel moved by faith – we just ‘know’ it’s the right thing to do.
Ecclesiastes says, “There is a given time for everything and a time for every happening under heaven” (Ecc 3:1). Mary knew instinctively that it was time and that she was going to be the agent of change through which salvation would be manifest into the world. She knew, and trusted that it would be alright, even if she did not have all the facts just yet. These moments of grace are truly special. Touched by God, we are blessed with a sense of ‘knowing’, a certainty to act outside of ourselves without seeing the whole picture – a job turned down, a proposal not consummated, a road untravelled. In that moment, we have an inkling that we have received grace, even if full realization comes with the passage of time.
I experienced being touched by His grace last Sunday. I have been angry for a long time, frustrated by politics in the ministry, dejected and disillusioned by the glacial pace at which things are achieved within the bureaucracy of the church. And I confess to allowing these dark thoughts to take a hold of my heart. But when I least expected it, certainly when I least deserved it, God granted me a grace whose significance I can only guess at. I’m humbled by the experience. When it happened, it was like a bolt of lightning. I was overcome with an awareness that He does see, that He is in control and that He hears my deepest thoughts. It was as if He wanted to remind me that I am not as alone as I thought myself to be. And that I should know, things will happen but in His time, not mine. Being ‘caught out’ in my thoughts like that is both terrifying and uplifting. He knows! He hears! And He’s gently reminded me that I should take Mary’s lead; I ought to know too.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We ask for His forgiveness, when we give up too easily, and lose faith in His ability to effect change.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for His unending love and mercy, that even when we least deserve it, He offers us a measure of grace to save us from ourselves.