THEME: ASSUMPTION OF MOTHER MARY
READINGS: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6,10/ 1 Corinthians 15:20-27/ Luke 1:39-56
Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
As Catholics, we believe that at the end of the sinless earthly life of Mother Mary, she was taken up, body and soul, into heaven.
Some early Christians witnessed the death of Mother Mary, as well as the mysterious “disappearance” of her body after her burial. Hence, early Christian oral tradition passed on the event of her assumption into heaven. For instance, St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and his wife, Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven.
Subsequently, the teaching or doctrine of the assumption of Mary developed in the Church for centuries. However, in the 20th century, in the wake of the so-called Enlightenment some scholars questioned the usefulness of religion in general and Christianity in particular. In this light, they raised doubts about some doctrines of the Church. In response to this, Pope Pius XII, reaffirmed, among other things, our belief in the assumption of Mary.
On 1st November, 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly declared: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.”
Entrance into Heaven
Many of us know how special our beloved mothers are to us, and we would like to share with them the glory or honour of our earthly achievements. If that is the case, why would Jesus, in His heavenly glory, not bless His most beloved mother, Mary, with a place in heaven – as He has promised to all who believe in the Father and in Him (John 14:1-4)? Indeed, Jesus has given His mother the most special place in heaven as Queen.
Why honour her so much? Because she was full of grace (as announced by Angel Gabriel: Luke 1:28), her faith in God was extraordinary (as Elizabeth testified to: Luke 1:45), she has become the mother of the Son of God (cf. Luke 1:31; 2:6-7), she remained faithful to God and sinless throughout her earthly life, etc.
Assumption not visible
According to Acts 1, the eleven disciples witnessed the ascension of Jesus. Why, then, should we believe in the assumption of Mary since the Bible does not explicitly state it? Now, for the sake of illustration: we may not be aware that someone had the visa and ticket to travel. However, if we meet him/her abroad, we cannot deny the fact that he/she has travelled there. Similarly, though the Bible has no record of the actual moment of Mary’s assumption, today’s first reading describes her glorious presence in heaven as a woman wearing a crown of twelve stars who gave birth to the Saviour of the world (Rev. 12:1-5). Furthermore, do we not believe that St. Peter, St. John, St. James and the rest of the apostles are in heaven, though the Bible does not talk about the moments when they entered heaven?
Taken up body and soul
Someone may believe that Mary is in heaven but may doubt that she was assumed body and soul into heaven. Now, the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). So, sin is the cause of the perishability of our body. Mother Mary, on the other hand, was sinless, full of grace, and she carried in her body the very Son of God. Thus, even before Jesus was born as man, Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, would call Mary, “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43).
It, therefore, follows that the body of the sinless Mother of our Lord could not perish in the dust of the earth. And so, our Lord would assume her body and soul into heaven. Furthermore, the Bible tells us of the unique transitions of Enoch (Gen. 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). If the Lord has thus favoured some of His servants, we should not think that the assumption into heaven of His most faithful servant is incredible.
Some Lessons from Mary’s Assumption:
- Our Hope
By granting Mother Mary the glory of heaven, God gives us the hope that, in view of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension, we shall also enjoy the glory of heaven if we remain faithful to Him. Let, therefore, confess our sins and strive with God’s grace to remain faithful to the end.
- Our Comfort
As we journey through this earthly life, especially in difficult times, the fact that Mother Mary, though human, is enjoying heavenly glory should be a great source of comfort for us.
- Trust in Mary’s Intercession
Mother Mary, who now ceaselessly beholds God in His heavenly majesty, is best placed to seek God’s grace, mercy and other blessings for us. Let us, therefore, constantly rely on her powerful intercession.
Finally, for many young Africans, Europe and America are dreamlands. So, after they have secured a stay there, they take their parents also there. Similarly, Jesus, having returned to His glorious heaven, came for His Mother. At the pleasure of our Lord and through the intercession of His Mother, may we also enter the glorious places which He has prepared for us in His Father’s house. Amen!
By Most Rev. John Kobina Louis