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The Assumption of Mary

1. Revelation 11, 19 to 12, 6 and 10

  • A great sign appeared in the sky.  The vision describes the victorious struggle of the chosen people of God (the woman with child) against the powers of this world (the huge red dragon with seven heads).
  • A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.  I repeat the features of la Guadalupana and so many other virgins, since in our tradition we refer this image to Mary.  In our sports competitions we hype the opponents in every match as if each one has already won.  This time the assembly knows the outcome.  I should help them to instinctively identify with her, swelling with pride as I speak out her attributes.  And I should help them to keep a safe distance from the huge red dragon, the enemy of our human nature, so that we long for her conquest.
  • There is agony in this struggle.  She was with child and wailed aloud in pain.
  • There is a cosmic perspective.  Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky.  A slight pause here, with a sense of my own awe, may remind us all of the spectacular photos of countless galaxies we have seen through space telescopes.
  • There is confrontation with evil, and for a moment the outcome hangs in the balance.  The dragon stood before the woman to devour her child 
  • Her child was caught up to God and his throneThe woman herself fled into the desert.  The seer refers us back to ancient reports, of the death of Elijah and the exile of Hagar.  The legend cinema has adapted much of this imagery, but I want to reclaim it today for our own celebration of God's achievement in Mary.
  • A loud voice in heaven proclaiming salvation and power.  Victory clearly emerges at the end of the reading: the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed.  I will make this my climax, because like Mary we are called to witness to the final triumph.
  • The message for our assembly: Are we mere onlookers or participants in the great struggle for God's kingdom of truth, justice, love and peace?  The seer despises those who refuse to take a stand.
  • I will challenge myself: to reveal the confrontation starkly, with a sense of the cosmic battle still in progress, leading my listeners on to the final victory.

2. I Corinthians 15, 20-27

  • As I listen to the reading I am overwhelmed by unfamiliar images and terms.  Perhaps I can make sense of each sentence on its own, but the flow of one thought into another loses me at the halfway point.  That is why I will need to rehearse and hear it a dozen times or more.
  • Christ has been raised from the dead.  We hear this passage on Assumption Day because Mary's assumption completes her death.  The Orthodox call this day the Dormition, her falling asleep.  Let me recall our belief in final resurrection.
  • Our faith is inclusive; we are full players.  In Christ shall all be brought to life.  He is the forerunner, the firstfruits.  And we belong to Christ.
  • Our king does not participate in that elite sovereignty, authority, power that we identify with royalty.  Death and the power to put to death are not his allies but his enemies, the last enemy to be destroyed.
  • He hands over the kingdom to his God and Father.  We may think of territorial limits, because the idea of kingdom means little more than geography today.  The original understanding of kingdom was that it was personified by, and even belonged to, the king.  I hear that idea repeated in the psalms.  That is what it means here: Everything is subjected to him
  • Central point: In Christ we shall be transformed into a kingdom where God will be all in all
  • The message for our assembly: We are being taken up into a reality greater than we can imagine.  Jesus takes us there just as he took his mother.
  • I will challenge myself: To engage the ancient images of God's sovereignty, giving a personal testimony in my reading.

Gospel. Luke 1, 39-56

  • Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste.  Let me remember that she is pregnant during this time, just like the woman of Revelation.  Everything is recapitulated in this gestation period, this birth.  What can we learn from it?
  • She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted ElizabethWhen Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting ...  No hushed voices or secret entrances here!  I will think of the photos of villages I have seen in the Middle East and Afghanistan, where people live close together and have to share so much with each other.
  • Blessed are you among women.  Many commentators heard in these lines the first announcement of the Good News, by which Mary became the earliest apostle.  The women witness to each other the achievements of God. 
  • Blessed are you who believed.  Elizabeth speaks as a prophet, and she repeats the evangelist's own conclusion about Mary: "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it."  A popular hymn says of Mary "You were chosen," and in this passage I hear the reason why she was chosen.
  • Climax: The Mighty One has done great things for me.  I point to the entire Magnificat, the wonderful hymn of victory which Mary proclaimed just as we should do.  These two women knew and took ownership of the coming salvation events before anyone else.  Let those women in our times take courage from this insight of the evangelist, while they are second-guessed, harassed, humiliated and even excommunicated by male-dominated institutions in society and church.
  • Message for our assembly: How warmly do we welcome this Gospel in our lives?
  • I will challenge myself: To make my listeners overhear a visit of relatives.  It might be a day like those of our summer vacation time.  What do we say when our dear ones come to visit us?  I doubt that we would use hushed tones.

 Toward the Eucharist: We see in the victory of the woman, of Mary, our own victory.  As we process to the table let us grow in longing for the final exaltation of the humble.

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