Vigil of the Assumption of BVM (14 Aug 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Today’s solemnity allows us to recall in a focused, festal way the destiny of Mary, the Mother of God, and to deepen our hope that her destiny in the kingdom her son proclaimed we will one day experience as our destiny. Our Christian destiny is both gift and mystery.
As gift we remember that sharing in the kingdom of God, which Jesus proclaimed, is not some human achievement. We respond to what we hear: blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it. Mary heard Gabriel announce her vocation to mother God into the world. As it steadily unfolded Mary turned over in her heart everything she had heard and noticed, allowing all of it to affect her.
The effect of this gift—astonishing and at the same time refusing to be understood in a satisfying way—points to the destiny of Mary and our future destiny in the kingdom her son proclaimed as mystery. For Christians mystery is not merely unknown or beyond human intelligence. Nothing lays bare everything about itself: the human brain as well as subatomic physics continue to puzzle us even as we learn more about either! For Christians mystery is most real, a truth participating in God’s life and which links us to God and one another by a living bond.
The effect of this bond is one that people of faith intuited over the centuries. On 01 November 1950 Pope Pius XII did not on a whim declare the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith. His consultation with bishops, theologians and lay people allowed him to declare as dogma a common belief of Christians from the earliest days of the church. We might say that men and women of the church intuited that as Mary was part of the mystery of God becoming flesh by the power of Holy Spirit, Mary would always be intimately associated with all the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of her son.
The Second Vatican Council affirmed that but not without debate. The members of the Council debated whether to issue a document on Mary. Some felt not to do so would be an affront. Others felt they ought to include Mary in council documents. The decision, John Cardinal Dearden of Detroit told me years ago, was to conclude the Document on the Church with a chapter devoted to Mary. The title of that chapter reminds me of the human desire and the longing, which moved people to intuit Mary’s intimate association with the mysteries of her son: “Mary the sign of created hope and solace to the wandering people of God.”1
“Sign of created hope” describes our great gift. “Solace to the wandering people of God” reminds us that in every circumstance God accompanies us by the mystery we call God’s providential love. God accompanies us, not in some abstract manner, but in the whorl and whirl of life at each moment. God’s presence now continues to open onto our destiny, the kingdom of God proclaimed by Mary’s son. We live that kingdom already in partial ways.
Mary is “a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth” that the kingdom her son proclaimed is within us now as a seed maturing toward completion, which will happen when the “day of the Lord shall come.” The glory Mary shares with her son is meant for us now2: to encourage us to live the kingdom her son proclaimed and to be its ambassadors, ambassadors of gift and mystery, which we allow to shape and reshape our lives.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the light of the Trinity who create and redeem you. Ask Mary to present you to her son. In your words thank Jesus for being the flesh and blood mystery of God with you; ask Jesus for the grace to act on the word of God you hear in scripture and in countless other ways God communicates to you. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words, who art in heaven, do not describe space or locate the kingdom Jesus proclaimed. Jesus’ words on our lips remind us that God is with us as a living bond, a living bond we cannot fathom until we share fully God’s presence, as Mary does already.
- Chapter V of Lumen gentium, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council.
- “In the interim just as the Mother of Jesus, glorified in body and soul in heaven, is the image and beginning of the Church as it is to be perfected is the world to come, so too does she shine forth on earth, until the day of the Lord shall come,(304) as a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth” (Lumen gentium, 68).