Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. It is a Holy Day of Obligation (Click here to see the readings). Here are some of the thoughts I shared in my homily.
The fact that today is a holy day of obligation (there are just six in the United States) should tell us how important the Church sees this dogma. Even more so the Assumption of Mary was declared an infallible dogma of the Church by Pope Pius XII in 1950 in his Apostolic Constitution, Munificentissimus Deus. This places it at the highest level of church teaching.
Even though the Assumption was not declared an infallible dogma until 1950, it is not a new teaching of the Church. It has been part of the Tradition of the Church since the early centuries of the church. The Assumption is not found in Scripture, in part because it would have happened sometime after most (if not all) of the events described in the Bible.
However, the Bible does tell us a lot of key items with Mary. Like the story of the Annunciation found in Luke 1:26-38. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary and tells her she will be the mother of Jesus. She does not understand how this can be. Gabriel assures her it is by the Holy Spirit and the power of the Most High. She believes and says yes to God, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.”
Then today’s gospel (Luke 1:39-56) immediately follows the story of the Annunciation. Mary could have claimed special status but she did not. Instead she goes to visit Elizabeth who the angel Gabriel tells her is also pregnant. When Mary arrives, Elizabeth (and John the Baptist in her woman) immediately recognize the divine presence in Mary and praise her. Mary receives the praise but replies with the Magnificat where she says “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” but that it is so because of the great things God has done for her.
Then it is Mary who nurses Jesus and raises Jesus. Even when Jesus becomes an adult and then begins his public ministry Mary is there at the Wedding Feast of Cana (John 2:1-12). When they run out of wine, Mary knows Jesus can help. With total trust in Jesus, she tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Mary is even present at the foot of the Cross (John 19:25-28) along with the beloved disciple. Jesus says to the beloved disciple and to us, “Behold your mother”.
Mary is the Mother of Church because of these words of Jesus but also as the one who gave birth to Jesus and who is the perfect disciple always saying yes to God.
Because God knew Mary would say yes, she was conceived without sin – this is the Immaculate Conception. Because of this, Mary’s yes, and Jesus’ love for her as his mother, he did not want her body to lie in death. So, when it was time for her to pass from this world, she was assumed Body and Soul into Heaven. This is what we call the Assumption of Mary.
This is the Assumption we celebrate today. Mary is our mother and the example of the perfect disciple. With the help of her intercession may we always say yes to Jesus.