Monday, August 23, 2010

Sermon For Feast of The Assumption

"A great sign appeared in the sky,
A woman clothed with the sun,
and on her head a crown of twelve stars. "
(Rev 12:1)

"She was with child
and wailed aloud in pain
as she labored to give birth. "
(Rev 12:2)

"She gave birth to a son, a male child,
destined to rule all the nations
with an iron rod."
(Rev 12:5):

The Book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible. In it the Apostle John describes the vision of Heaven that he experienced.

This book is also called the “Apocalypse” because it is the primary example of apocalyptic writing in the Christian portion of the bible that we call the New Testament.

Apocalyptic literature is very rich in symbolism and hidden messages. This type of mystical writing often come from a time of persecution when its hidden meaning would be understood by and give encouragement to the victims but would seem meaningless to the persecutor.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Mary’s Assumption. The Catholic belief that Mary, at her death, was assumed bodily into heaven.

Our first reading from the book of Revelation is very relevant to this celebration. Clearly John saw Mary in Heaven, The woman who gave birth to a son, a son who was caught up to God and Throne. (Rev 12:5)

The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary was not a formal Catholic Doctrine until 1950 but had been widely believed by many Christians, including Martin Luther, prior to that time.

The woman in our reading today is also a symbol of the church laboring to bring the Son to the world. The church is also represented in the book of revelation by another powerful feminine symbol, the bride of the Lamb.

In our second reading Paul tells the Corinthians that ,

“Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
(1Cor 15:20)

and that,

“In Christ all will be brought to life,
but each one in proper order.”
(1Cor 15:22)

The Doctrine of the Assumption is that Mary was the first in that order due to his love for his human mother.

One way to appreciate the importance of Mary to Christians and the critical role she plays in God’s plan is to think of those people in your life or my life whose openness to God’s creative plan made our very lives possible.

Very often we explain the importance of Mary being due to the fact that she was Jesus’ Mother. For most of us our mother plays a crucial role in our lives. In a very real way your very existence can be traced to your mother and father saying yes to love and to God’s creative purpose for their fertility.

Even if you are adopted it is was an amazing “yes” that your parents made to nurture the life God had created in you.

Imagine, for a moment, your grand parents’ decisions that led to the conception of your mother. Even if their “yes” does not become explicit until a few weeks later this “YES” will account for a good hunk of the people you know and love in the world.

In my family, that one “yes” accounted for over 60 human lives in the years since! Go back another generation or two and the numbers will amaze you.

Another way to imagine the impact of saying yes to God’s creative plan for men and woman is to consider what would be the case if our grandparents had chosen alternatives so popular today.

Had my grand parents opted to use birth control to avoid saying “yes” to God that night my mother would not have been conceived. Or had my grand parents decided a few weeks later to avoid the “burden” or the “expense” of another child by visiting the local abortion clinic my mother would not have survived.

Obviously any one of us is the result of many creative “yeses” in our family tree.

In March we celebrated the feast of the Annunciation when we celebrated the visit of the Archangel Gabriel to the young Mary and her “yes” to God's amazing plan to become human!

Today we celebrate Mary’s great blessedness. There is no scripture directly speaking of her assumption but we read from the Gospel of Luke about Mary’s arrival at the house of her cousin Elizabeth who is pregnant with John the Baptist.

The beginning of our Marian prayer, the “Hail Mary”, is taken directly from the words of the Angel Gabriel to Mary as reported by Luke in Chapter 1.

Hail Mary
Full of Grace (“highly Favored Daughter” in NAB)
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed are you among women.”
(Luke 1:28)

It continues with Elizabeth’s greeting of the pregnant Mary upon her arrival. Elizabeth feels the child in her womb leap with excitement she greet Mary,

“Blessed are you among women and
blessed is the fruit of thy womb.”
(Luke 1: 42)

Since we believe that on the Cross Jesus requested that we accept his mother as our mother, our prayer ends with a request that she pray to her son for us.

Mary then responds to Elizabeth with one of the most beautiful prayers in the New Testament. It begins:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
My spirit rejoices in God my Savior For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The almighty has done great thing for me
and holy is his name.”
(Luke 1:46-49)

What an great gift Mary’s “yes” to God’s plan has been for all of us. As a result of her son’s coming and his saving passion each of us is now an adopted son or daughter of the most high God and of his human mother, Mary.

Mary’s Assumption is the crowning blessing of her “yes” to God’s covenant as the promise of resurrection is the blessing we anticipate in our own “yes” to God’s call in our lives.

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