I wrote this homily twenty-five years ago, just a couple of months after being ordained. I share it now because I think the message — simple as it is — is relevant today as it was then.
SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION – St. Anne’s Parish, Littleton, MA
August 15, 1987
Today we celebrate the feast of Mary’s Assumption — a day on which we affirm that Mary, as the earthly mother of the Divine Son of God, now lives body and soul and the fullness of her person in the presence of God. But even as we affirm the truth of Mary’s existence in heaven, if we are truly to celebrate this feast, we need, in a sense, to bring Mary a bit more down to earth. I say this because on such an occasion the tendency seems to be to see Mary only as the Queen of angels and saints now reigning gloriously in heaven. And while she may be all this and more, to see only this aspect of her is to rob her of the power to speak to each and every one of us in this church today, to speak to us as a model of faith and obedience to the will of God.
In the Gospel of Luke, we find Mary’s beautiful song of praise — the Magnificat — and in that passage we hear Mary describe herself not as a Queen but as a lowly servant — in the original language, ”anawim,” one of the little poor ones, one of the powerless on the lower rungs of society’s ladder. She was on earth without privilege or rank, yet God chose her to bring His only Son into the world.
“Well,” we may say, “that in itself is certainly greater than any earthly glory” — and while this is true, we do well to remember that Mary’s saying “Yes” to God’s will for her did not bring her a life of joy. For she endured society’s scorn for being an unmarried woman with child, thus allowing herself to be placed at the risk of being ostracized from the society in which she lived. And then, she lived to see this son grow up to be rejected, arrested, and executed as a common criminal or a slave would be on a cross.
She knew the pain of a parent losing a child. Surely her faith was challenged to the core, yet indeed she did keep faith. She continued to believe in spite of all that she saw and experienced. For she trusted that God would somehow make things right, that her son’s sufferings and her own in turn were not in vain. Mary was not blessed with foreknowledge or superhuman powers. Like the other disciples, she too had to suffer and endure until she saw God’s promise fulfilled in her son’s resurrection. Thus, for her obedient “yes” to God’s will, for her persevering in faith in spite of the cost to her personally, in spite of her own sorrow and suffering — it is for these reasons that we celebrate Mary today. For on earth, she was one of us, and as such she is a model for us so that we too can follow her lead, we too can say “yes” to God’s will for our lives; we too can persevere in faith in spite of what sufferings come our way in this life, and although the Assumption we reserve for Mary, we too can trust that if we keep faith, we shall one day live as Mary does now, body and soul in the presence of God. For as we are now, so once was Mary — as she is now, so we hope to be. This is truly cause to celebrate the feast of her assumption.