Gospel Reflection Aug 15 – Sr. Teresa
Monday, August 15
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Luke 1: 39-56
Mary set out
and traveled to the hill country in haste
to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah
and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting,
the infant leaped in her womb,
and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women,
and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me,
that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears,
the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed
that what was spoken to you by the Lord
would be fulfilled.”
And Mary said:
“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 things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
Mary remained with her about three months
and then returned to her home.
This week, I am taking a little “preacher privilege.” Rather than reflecting on the Sunday Gospel, I am going to offer my reflections on the Feast of the Assumption. The Feast of the Assumption (Mary assumed into heaven body and soul) was at one time a Day of Holy Obligation. It was celebrated on August 15th. Like many things that changed along the way, it is still celebrated on August 15th, but is no longer considered one of the Holy Days of Obligation. The importance and deep meaning it has for people has not changed.
In many ways, it is a strange feast day. There is no scriptural text to support it, in fact the Gospel you just read — the story of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth (Visitation) — is the one used at Mass. Truthfully, I have started and stopped writing this reflection many times. When I get stuck like that I look back at the history to see if I can get a hint of why this came about or why it was important. Mary died about eleven years after Jesus. Scholars still debate where exactly she died. They go back and forth claiming that it was Ephesus or Jerusalem? Some argue that she did not die, she was just taken (assumed) into heaven. Others argue that she did die and her body was buried in Jerusalem according to Jewish tradition. Later, for some reason, her grave was opened, and the body was not there. This led to the belief that Mary was taken body and soul into heaven. Even though the belief began shortly after Mary’s death and was strongly held by the people, the Assumption did not become an official dogma and feast of the Catholic Church until 1950. While all of this was interesting and made me think, I confess none of the background of the “official reasons” for the feast really touched my heart. The question remained, “Why is it important for people to believe that Mary is in heaven body and soul?”
I wondered, is it really important to me? I totally believe Mary is in heaven but is it important that she is there, body and soul? Then I remembered a story I had heard long ago.
A little boy had been put to bed one night. Later, his mother and father heard him crying. His mother went in to check on him. She asked him why he was crying, and he told her that he was afraid. This had this happened before so, once again, the mom looked under the bed and assured him no one was there. She opened the closet door and looked inside, then assured him that no one was hiding in there either. The little boy said, “But, Mom, I don’t want to be alone.” The mom sat down on the bed and took his hand and gently rubbed his forehead. She told him that he was never alone. His Guardian Angel was with him but, even more importantly, God was always with him. She pointed to his heart and said, “God lives in there with you all the time.” Trying not to cry, the little boy looked at his mom and said, “But mom I want someone with skin on to be with me.”
Before you continue reading, let yourself linger with that story for a little bit. Does it reveal anything about the Assumption to you?
It was this story that opened my heart to the importance of why believing that Mary is in heaven, body and soul, is important to me. When someone we love dies, one of the things we miss about them is that we cannot see them. We cannot feel their arms around us giving us a comforting hug or a slap on the back to offer encouragement or congratulations. We cannot see their eyes reflecting back their love for us. We long to have just one more moment to hold their hand, to hug them, or to hear their voice. We want to be able to touch them and we want them to be able to touch us. We want them here with us with skin on!
For me it is very comforting to know that when someone I truly and deeply love dies, they will be greeted in heaven by all those who had loved them here on earth and there will be a grand reunion. It also gives me tremendous joy and comfort knowing that they will also be greeted by someone who has skin on. They will be greeted by Mary, our Beloved Mother, because she is there, soul and body, eager to welcome us home!
–Sister Teresa Tuite, OP