Homily for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
SUNDAY HOMILY THEME: THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES!
By: Ben Agbo (Rev Fr)
Rev 11 : 19 – 12 : 10, 1 Cor 15 : 20 – 26, Lk 1 : 39 – 56.
A. WHERE IS MARY
Several years ago, while I was doing my apostolic service after my first degree in the Seminary, one of the jobs I did with passion was going round to revive all the Block Rosary centres around the Urban City of Nsukka. One of my greatest obstacles was the one posed by one Pentecostal Pastor living around the vicinity of St Theresa’s Road, who kept on confusing these children and discouraging them from praying with Mary with one argument : THAT MARY WAS A DEAD PERSON IN THE GRAVE AND THEREFORE CANNOT HEAR PRAYERS. It was such a powerful and plausible argument! And I didn’t find it easy refuting this argument and its effect on the minds of those gullible children then. Today, as an accomplished theologian, I feel like revisiting that argument at the behest of this year’s celebration of the feast of Assumption. I want to ask a metaphysical question : ‘Where is Mary?’
Our first thesis from the conclusion of the first reading of today is that ‘the salvation and authority of Christ has come’, no doubt about this but the big question is : Has this authority any intrinsic association with Mary? The ancient promise / revelation remains sacrosanct : ‘I will put an enemity between you and the woman… between her offspring and your offsprings’, Gen 3 : 15. This promise was fulfilled in this passage of victory of ‘the woman clothed with the Sun, with the moon under her feet…She was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth’, Rev 12 : 1 -17. The conclusion of this eternal war has it, according to this vision of John, that ‘the woman fled into the wilderness where she has a place prepared by God’. Despite other exegetical possibilities, the definitions of this chapter give us a giant clue that certainly tilts the balance of interpretation in favour of a Marian reading among biblical theologians. The enemies of ‘devotion to Mary’ are of the view that Mary is still in the grave and has no metaphysical capacity to hear prayers nor assist people in intercession against the backdrop of biblical information that there is a communion of Saints and Angels in heaven and a great rejoicing over anyone that repents on earth, Lk 15 : 10. We are asking a vital question here : Where is Mary? In the grave or in heaven seated at the right hand of her Son Jesus?
Today’s 2nd reading makes it clear that Christ has been raised from the dead, the 1st fruits of those who have fallen asleep (the dead believers)… As all die in Adam, so also in Christ shall all be made alive’, 1 Cor 15 : 15 – 26. We need to clear the eschatological confusion here about those who die in Christ. Before Christ they remain in a spiritual state of inactivity ( limbo) but Christ used the miracle of the resurrection of Lazarus, Jn 11 and the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, Lk 16 to teach us that those who live and believe in Christ will never die ( metaphysically). They therefore remain alive and can spiritually commune with us.
B. THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES
Mary is the most blessed among women; She is more blessed than Deborah, Judith, Esther, Ruth and all the other holy women mentioned as ‘blessed among women’ in the Old Testament. She is blessed as “full of grace” and mediatrix of all graces, Lk 1 : 29. She is blessed as the “mother of my Lord”, Lk 1 : 42. She is blessed because she “believed that there will be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord”, Lk 1 : 45. Therefore, from henceforth, “all generations ( of true believers in Jesus) shall call her Blessed. She is not blessed because she is in the grave. She is blessed because she was assumed into heaven after her death as we learn from some of the apocryphal writings. Everything that Jesus did and her mother did is not contained in the Bible, Jn 20 : 30, some were handed over as apostolic traditions, 2 Thess 2 : 15.
Mary can never be deprived of sharing in the glory of Jesus as his mother. The 1st glory of Mary is the glory of Jesus’ resurrection because the promise made to all believers is that they must share in this glory, 1Jn 3 : 2. The 2nd glory of Mary is the glory of Jesus’ Ascension. He must have assured her that she would follow suit before long – a privilege reserved only to special men of God like Prophet Elijah in the Old Testament, 2 Kg 2 : 12. The 3rd glory of Mary lies in the Pentecost outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Mary was there fully present, Act 1 : 14 and was full of the Holy Spirit, Lk 1 : 29.
The 4th glory of Mary, according to the dogmatic definition of Pope Pius XII in 1950, states that ‘when the course of her earthly life was finished, “the Blessed Virgin Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven”. Unfortunately, this historical event is not contained in the canonized scriptures. Of course, even the whole things that Jesus did could not be contained there, Jn 20 : 30 talk more of the speculative stories told about Mary. But other apocryphal gospels like the Protevangelium of St James give us the important information about her early and last days. This is the feast the mother Church celebrates today.
The 5th glory of Mary is her coronation in heaven. The book of Revelation (ascribed to John the beloved apostle) did not fail to capture this glorious mystery in the vision of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. No matter how controversial the exegesis of this passage may be, one can never fail to draw the analogy to Mary the mother of Jesus as we find in today’s 1st reading. We are then told in the 2nd reading from St Paul’s epistle to the Corinthians that the last enemy to be destroyed by the kingdom of God is death. We must recognize from the Genesis account that the leader of this destruction team of heavenly hosts is Mary, the oldest but youngest holy woman mentioned in the scriptures, Gen 3 : 15.
Today’s gospel says that she is blessed among other women ; more blessed than Deborah, Jael, Judith, Ruth, Elizabeth and other blessed women of the scriptures. She said ‘from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed’. Her glory comes from her unparalleled humility. Even as the mother of God, she went to serve her cousin sister Elizabeth, thus excelling every believer born of women in the virtues of both love and faith – Yes, ‘Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was promised her from the Lord’.
We cannot afford to run a brand of Christianity that lacks devotion to this great woman. If Jesus wanted us to neglect her mother, he would not have interrupted his last moments of pain on the Cross of Calvary with the necessary hand over of His Blessed Mother to His beloved Apostle John as her Son and vice versa, Jn 19: 26 – 27. As Christians we must imitate that relevant pattern. Happy feast of Assumption beloved friends!