Homily – Assumption of Mary into Heaven–a new look at this old friend

My friends, as I mentioned in the bulletin this week, “The Assumption” is somewhat of a curious feast in that we don’t hear of this event anywhere in Scripture and it was only promulgated as a holy day of obligation in 1950 by then, Pope Pius XII.  The “obligation” piece, that is, to attend Mass on that day, no matter which day August 15th would fall on, should tell us something about the mindset at the time in “controlling” the narrative. 

   Thus, I would propose that, even though part of the thinking may have been to give, honor and glory, and rightly so, to Mary, our mother, sister and friend, the primary purpose was to keep her in her place—a place that the powers-that-be had determined for her. And of course, by extension, to keep all women in their places.  If this were not the case, why not lift her up in more profound ways, for the life she lived on earth? For, in reality, she was the first woman priest giving the world the body and blood of Jesus! But, for obvious reasons, given the hierarchical Church’s stance on women priests, this is something they wouldn’t want to be teaching.  So, let’s leave that for a bit and go to the Scriptures that I have selected from those available for this Sunday.

   If today weren’t August 15th, the designated day for this feast, as mentioned above, we would be using readings from the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  As a result, I chose the 1st two readings from the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time and the gospel from the feast of the Assumption—Mary’s wonderful canticle to Elizabeth in the face of Elizabeth’s faith in what God had done in her, but more so, what God had done within Mary.  The interesting thing is that I found the three readings fitting marvelously, together.  Each of these readings, from Proverbs, Ephesians, and Luke speak of “wisdom.”  Let’s take a look.

   Proverbs is already considered, “Wisdom Literature,” so it would not be unusual to find the theme of “wisdom” there.  My take on this reading is that we are being called, “past the words on the page,” to see a deeper meaning, and to grow in “understanding” of the nature of life.

   In both the Proverbs and the Ephesians’ readings, the idea of being, “foolish” in how we live, and act, is raised.  Paul writes to the Ephesians, “Keep careful watch over your conduct. Do not act like fools, but be wise and thoughtful…”

   And then the gospel! —talk about wisdom and in one so young!  Scripture doesn’t give us the details, but this trip to see Elizabeth had to be quite treacherous, yet Mary knew that this was what she needed to do, no matter what, and we see how she is blessed in this effort—the confirmation of what her, “yes” truly meant and that what she knew instinctively had happened within her body, was true—as Elizabeth confirmed it! Imagine a presence coming to you, conveying in some way that you would conceive an unearthly child and that your, “yes,” would give this ONE, humanity! Think about that!

   Why do we never hear the wonder of this preached about in our churches?!  Probably because it is much easier to have a docile virgin who once in time uttered a simple, “yes,” and was then relegated to a pedestal—out of sight, out of mind, never to be heard from again.  Talk about “foolishness” and who is and who is not, “foolish!”

   But, my friends, Mary’s canticle gives the lie to this type of thinking—she has a voice in this reading that must be heard, again and again, and that is why I have chosen the words of the sung, Canticle of the Turning, by Rory Cooney to be prayed today as our beginning and ending prayer.   Within both, Mary speaks of a God who, “has done great things in her,” which would seem to attest to the fact that this same God thought her quite capable to minister in this world.  She speaks about a God that has and continues to show, over-the-top mercy to each and every one of us.  Additionally, she speaks of a God who has and will continue, “to scatter the proud in their conceit, and depose the mighty from their thrones…raising up he lowly,” in all justice.  This God she says, “will fill the hungry and turn the rich away empty.”  Wow! No withering vine here! There is a reason that those of us women who have, “attempted,” in the words of the hierarchy, ordination within this Church sing this beautiful and powerful canticle at our ordinations!  And, it would seem, those into their power and with controlling on their minds, would not lift up such a memory! It is kind of like lifting up, “the subversive memory of Jesus of Nazareth!”  If we do so, in both cases, it calls us all to quite a different reality, I would think! 

   But instead, our hierarchy is satisfied to proclaim a feast that takes Mary into heaven, body, and soul.  Part of me wants to say, without insolence, but more, just as a query— “So what?” Is this all you can come up with? —in the face of so much!

   Mary, our mother, sister, and friend came into existence as a singular, faith-filled, strong, and devoted woman—someone to be taken seriously, as many do, because of the love, mercy, justice, and honesty she gave the world through her wonderful son, Jesus, the Christ! She is a model for women and men too! The time has come that our Church, in its hierarchy, take her seriously too, by giving us a truer picture of who she truly was and can be for all of us!    Amen? Amen!