(The following homily is from Pastor Dick Dahl)
I was recently asked by two friends of mine to help plan the funeral/memorial service for their mother. We arranged to meet and they talked for over an hour about their mother, what was important to her, her accomplishments and setbacks, and the experiences and relationships they had with her. It was like looking through a memory scrapbook of what they remembered and now viewed as important. Of course, so much was missing. What would their mother have added if she were in the conversation?
We don’t have a day on which to commemorate the death of Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Her son died. I assume she did also. What we have instead is this day to celebrate her transition, her transformation, her full participation in the resurrection of her Son. But just as his Resurrection would lack meaning without the life and death that preceded it, so would Mary’s.
So, like my session with my friends who described their mother’s life, we might reflect on the scattered images, incomplete as they are, we have of Mary’s life. What image comes to your mind when you think of Mary, the mother of Jesus? Here are just ten I’ve gathered from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and the Acts of the Apostles:
*A confused, pregnant teenager…with courage to believe and accept that her condition was God’s will
*A young woman in late-stage pregnancy having to travel to Jerusalem to fulfill the required Roman census
*A new mother giving birth in a barn shared with animals
*A frightened parent fleeing into Egypt due to alarming threats to her baby
*Again a frightened parent, twelve years later, having completed the annual Passover in Jerusalem and traveled for full a day toward home in Nazareth, to finding him missing
*A relieved but confused mother, after three days of searching, finding him teaching elders in the temple
*Having him, in his 30s, begin preaching in his home town of Nazareth and elsewhere to mixed reactions–some enthusiastic, some hostile.
*Frightened to learn he had been arrested, imprisoned and then condemned to die by the horrors of crucifixion
*Standing at Golgotha and seeing him die in agony while he struggled to put her under the care of his disciple John
*After his death, gathered in the Upper Room with his followers, praying fervently…where after three days he suddenly appeared to them.
Who can identify with her? Pregnant young women who feel alone and scared can. Women who must travel and give birth to their babies in terrible circumstances can. Parents fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in other countries can. Parents of a lost child can. Parents of an incarcerated son or daughter can. Parents of an executed son can.
The celebration today has its roots in all these experiences of Mary’s life. The mystery of her assumption opens a perspective beyond anything we have experienced. It is linked with the Gospel reading of this Sunday, the 20th in Ordinary Time, in which Jesus says, “The truth of the matter is…Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Everyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in them….So those who feed on me will have life because of me.”
Today’s celebration is about life. It’s about death. It’s about ongoing, transformed life.
Those who seek to know and love Jesus often experience a bond with his mother. Many of us experience her as our mother. We rely on the conviction that Mary can help us be the followers of her Son that we want to be.
Despite all we don’t know or understand about Mary’s Assumption, we have her example and intercession as we seek to surrender ourselves daily with a total “Yes, Thy will be done.” We too are called to be temples of the Holy Spirit of God. As baffling and unlikely as this seems, how do we respond? Mother Mary, help us to respond as you did.
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