Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tuesday word

Assumption of BVM (15 Aug 2006) Rv 11.19,12.1-6,10; Ps 45; 1Co 15.20-26; Lk 1. 39-56
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Awaiting Our Destiny

Consider this question for a moment. Which is first: dogma or worship? [Pause] No trick question that. If you are uncertain, here’s a clue by asking the question slightly differently. Which existed first: worship or dogma? Anyone venture a guess? Yes, worship is first.

The foundation of our Christian religion and our reason to practice it in our lives was and is the experience of the risen Lord. That is why we profess we are “apostolic.” The apostles proclaimed Jesus risen from the dead, Messiah and Lord. You and I have inherited their experience, and our vocation is to make their experience our own.

The experience of the risen Lord transformed everything for the apostles and all the first disciples. Their response to it and their devotion to the risen Lord gave birth to worship. Thus from repeated worship dogmas crystallized. The one that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven is recent, a dogma proclaimed in 1950. Long before it was part of the church's worship of our Lord. The church in Palestine made it a feast in the 5th century; Rome in the 7th; and the entire church in the 8th century.

Like everything about Mary, especially her feasts, she points to her son Jesus, the risen Lord we worship. As one ancient doctor of the church put it, “It was necessary that the Mother of God should share the possessions of her Son, and be venerated by every creature as the Mother and handmaid of God.”*

What then do we celebrate today? The opening prayer suggested our destiny of which Mary’s is the model: “May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory.”**

This has practical consequences in our daily living. They pose this question to us: do we cherish more dearly the values of the world or the love of God? Money, position, control and other “ways of the world” always seduce us. Yet Mary is our model and mother because she valued God’s love for her above all. She had nothing, and in a culture which valued many children over few and no children, her virginity guaranteed her no esteem.

What may be more important and encouraging to us Luke’s gospel relates: the unsensational encounter with God’s messenger, the directness of Mary’s prayer and her simple response to attend to Elizabeth. Little things of great significance.

Take some time before you retire this evening--you could make this your night prayer: ask Jesus’ spirit to free your mind and heart to imagine Mary visiting you. How is she dressed? What color is her complexion? her clothing? What does she say to you? Notice above all your response to her. Close with a Hail Mary. The one who first shared in the resurrection Jesus promised all of us desires to deepen your hope in it and to make you more at home with it.

* John Damascene, quoted by Pope St. Pius XII; reprinted in the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings for August 15.

** The Sacramentary, the Mass of the Day.

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