Did you ever wonder as you were looking at huge skyscrapers, or going by glass enclosed buildings, or passing through ultra-modern apartment blocks, what significance your religion has to any of this modernity and futurology? Aren’t some of the symbols of our religion ancient and inapplicable to current life? People who are religious have the reputation of being traditionalist on behalf of the past rather than modernists in favour of the present and future.
So, when we say that Jesus’ Blessed Mother was taken, body and soul, into heaven because of her purity and because of her connection with Jesus, is that some kind of traditionalism that has no significance to modern life?
Is it important to what we do when we shop for groceries or work at the office, or clean the house or take care of our children?
Today’s joyful section of St Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, as well as the Gospel, suggests answers to these questions.
Christ himself was the First Fruit of Salvation of the entire race, as today’s section of the Book of Revelation says. Although the woman mentioned is – in the literal sense – the Church, the Church has long used it to apply to Mary, whom the Church calls the Ark of the Covenant, the Chosen of God and Mother of the Church.
And just as Jesus’ resurrection was a sign of the harvest of people to come, so Mary, by her Assumption, which was really a celebration of her Resurrection, signifies the fact that the human race can be brought into this actuality. Mary’s Assumption is another pledge and guarantee of our own resurrection and return to our Heavenly Father. It is also a reminder that we will be saved body and soul. This is a reaffirmation of the greatness of the human body.
In Mary’s beautiful prayer, which has come to be called her Magnificat, she brings together a chain of texts from the Jewish scriptures, which from her get new significance.
Yes, she speaks of revolutions: not one but several. These are of God, not people, but the revolutions must begin with each one’s own person.
One side of the revolution is moral. Mary says, for example, “that God has brought low the arrogant of mind and heart”. People who believe in Jesus and compare themselves with Him can’t remain proud. People who really know Jesus and really know themselves, and put the two together become humble and want to try to bring about change.
Mary also says that God has thrown down the rulers from their thrones, but lifted up the lowly. This is a social revolution. In as much as Jesus would identify himself with the poor, the naked, the failed, the sick, and the otherwise outcast, the Christian does the same. We call no person worthless for whom Jesus died.
Mary also said that God has filled the hungry with good things, and has sent the rich away empty. This is the economic revolution intended by her son. Much of society is out for all it can get. A truly Christian society, in contrast, is one in which no person has too much while others have too little. All have a role in building a society, said Saint John Paul II “in which none are so poor that they have nothing to give and none are so rich that they have nothing to receive”.
So, Mary’s Assumption is as deeply relevant to our time and place as skyscrapers, glass enclosed buildings and modern apartment blocks.
As Mary’s Assumption is the first fruit of the redemptive love of Jesus, we too are supposed to be part of that harvest. Because of Jesus, humanity is destined for glorification; because of Mary, humanity is shown to be already involved in the fullest realisation of its potential.
There is also in today’s celebration a reaffirmation to our world of the much-needed lesson of the dignity of the human body: Jesus touches the whole human being.
We, like Mary, have a body, not only a soul, that is sacred. And like Mary, we must have faith that is meaningful and leads to commitment.
May Mary Our Blessed Mother, Refuge of Sinners, watch over us all. Fr Andrew