Fr. Roger J. Landry
Espirito Santo Parish, Fall River, MA
Solemnity of the Assumption
August 15, 2002
Vigil: 1Chron15:3-4, 15-16;16-1-2; 1Cor15:54-57; Lk 11:27-28
Solemnity: Rev 11:19,12:1-6,10; 1Cor15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56
“The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.”
1) We celebrate today several things. We celebrate the Blessed Mother, and all she is. But we also celebrate the fact of heaven and the love of God that calls us there, just as he called her. Because of the heat today downstairs, I’ll make this very brief, if you promise to pay very close attention.
2) We celebrate first Mary, the Mother of God, the one whose yes to God led to our salvation. She was blessed above all not just because of her physical relationship with the Lord, but because she heard the word of God, treasured it and put it into practice. The best way we can celebrate her today is to follow her lead, to listen to the word of God, to treasure it, and to put it into practice. Sometimes we can be like those people in the crowd who think you’ve got it made if all you do is have some type of close relationship to the Lord. Sometimes Catholics smugly rest on their laurels. We’re baptized. We’ve got all the sacraments Christ instituted, especially the Eucharist, to help us get to heaven. But the Lord wants us to listen to what he says and put it into practice, just like Mary did. And if we want to follow Mary and her Son Jesus to heaven, we’ll do just that.
3) Secondly, we celebrate the fact of heaven. Mary shares in the full destiny of the human vocation, to spend eternity in the kingdom of love in heaven. During the last Supper, Jesus promised us that he was going to prepare a place for us, so that where he is, we also may be, and that he would come back for us. What we celebrate today is that he fulfilled that promise in Mary. The Blessed Mother was taken up body and soul into heaven by God. Hence, this is a unique feast in the Church’s calendar. We celebrate lots of saints throughout the year, who, through the presence of miracles God grants through their intercession and the heroic virtue of their lives on earth, are declared to be in heaven — but only their souls are in heaven, awaiting reunion with their bodies at the resurrection on the last day. With Mary we celebrate that fact for sure, but we celebrate the fact that not only her soul is in God’s presence in heaven, but also her body. Both her soul and her body are experiencing eternal beatitude. Why her body? Because her body never knew sin, so, just like Jesus’ body, it would not know corruption after death.
4) Our destiny is heaven as well, but that involves a choice here. It involves a choice for heaven, for eternity, for God in this life, just like Mary did. It involves saying yes to God’s great love by our responding in love. And loving God, as Jesus said during the Last Supper, means keeping his commandments. To choose heaven, eternity and God, we first have to desire heaven, eternity and God. We’ve got to hunger. With the Bible Study here at ES, we’ve been focusing on the 12th chapter of St. Luke, which is all about being ready for death. Jesus wants us to be so ready for him that whenever he comes and knocks, we rejoice in his presence and embrace. Mary hungered for heaven. Do we? Are you right now?
5) To help us desire and choose as we ought and come to our eternal destiny, God in his love, who didn’t even spare his own son, has given us everything else besides. He’s given us his mother to help us to get there. She’s not a heavenly couch potato, but with maternal love is interceding for us constantly with her Son, so that one day we might come to that place for which she knows we were made. We pray to her, “Pray for us now and at the moment of our death.” In essence we’re asking her to pray for us so that both now and whenever we will die, we will not only be hearing the Word of God, treasuring it and putting it into practice, but eagerly awaiting the return of her Son like a child awaits the return of a father or mother he loves from work, ready to open the door whenever he knocks. The old sailors used to call her “Stella Maris,” the star of the sea, because no matter how stormy the seas, she was the morning star on the basis of which they could guide themselves to port. She is our stella maris, and no matter how stormy the seas we confront are, she’s there to guide us across the ocean of life to that eternal shore which is heaven. May we follow her lead! Amen!