The Assumption of Mary (Click this link for a Printable Copy of the Homily)
I have been thinking a lot about suffering lately.
That may seem like an odd way to start a homily on the Assumption of Mary, which is a Holy Day celebrated by Catholics around the world. A friend of mine told me recently that in his homeland of Malta that there are six or seven churches named for the Assumption of Mary alone.
Mary has been at the centre of Christian theology since the founding of the Church. She has been given over 6,000 different titles; the Church has pronounced four Marian dogmas, teachings of the highest order of which two of them have been proclaimed as infallible teaching– The Immaculate Conception and the today’s Solemnity- the Assumption of Mary’s body into heaven.
While all of these devotions and theologies are good and helpful, the fact that Mary was born a peasant girl in a small and insignificant town is easy for us to lose. Mary herself reminds us in her prayer in the gospel that God “has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”
It is in the town of Nazareth– where people openly question if anything good could come from there- that this young girl says yes to the angel and the history is changed. God becomes man through the birth of her child- Jesus.Despite this unique place she was given in the history of the world- arguably the most privileged place of any person- man or woman-Mary was not exempted from suffering in her life.
Mary would have know the pain of losing her parents- Joachim and Anna- she would have become a widow when Joseph her husband died and she would have wept when Jesus left Nazareth to pursue his mission. Nothing however could have prepared her for the suffering of Jesus during his passion and crucifixion.
There is a particularly powerful clip in the movie- The Passion of the Christ – and when I saw it for the first time it made an indelible impression on me. More than any piece of art I have seen about Our Lady this one scene captures for me the nature of Mary the Mother of Jesus.
The film maker ( no Mel Gibson jokes here!) captures Mary as she waits in the streets of Jerusalem for her son to pass by as he carries his cross to Calvary. She can hear the crowd coming and just as he passes the cross section of the two streets Jesus starts to fall. The film then cuts to a scene that takes place some 30 years earlier. A young boy is running up the road- this boy is Jesus and he trips and in slow motion we see him falling to the ground.
In both scenes Mary runs to her son- in one he is a boy who has hurt himself in a simple fall, in the other an older Mary rushes to her adult son who is in unimaginable pain and on the way to his death. In both these moments Mother Mary’s actions are the same- she embraces her son and simply says to him – “I’m here”
This touching and heart wrenching moment in a movie helped me to understand that in times of suffering and sorrow we can call on Mary and she will always answer with I’m here.
There are some in attendance at mass today who have lost the person closest to them- they promised till death do they part and one has departed- If you are the one still here know that you can always pray Hail Mary- and she will answer I’m here.
There are parents here, who like Mary have lost a child to death or have experienced the pain of seeing their little ones suffer for many different reasons- In your sadness know that you can pray- Hail Mary- and she will answer- I’m here.
There are those among us today that thought they had found a partner to spend the rest of their life with only to be abandoned and left hurt. In your loneliness know that you can pray Hail Mary and you will not be alone as Mary will respond simply with- I’m here.
There are children with us that have seen their parents divorce or live in homes where there is little happiness and peace. In you live with fear know that you can call on Mary and he will answer with I’m here.
There are people that have come to church this morning having lost their jobs or young people wondering if they ever find meaningful work- In your frustration remember you can always pray Hail Mary and your spiritual mother will answer I am here.
There may be some young women here that find themselves in the difficult situation of being pregnant and the person that said they loved them has hit the road- You can always pray to Mary and she will embrace you with I’m here.
Suffering it turns out is a part of what it means to be human. Jesus came into the world in part to show us that very fact- He chose not to escape it and at the hour of his death, and in John’s gospel he looked down and saw his mother standing there. She was there for him in his hour of greatest need.
In that moment Jesus looked at Mary and the disciple he loved and he said-Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
In that moment Jesus made all of us a child of his Mother Mary and in doing so he became our brother.
Mary’s role in our lives has been and always will be to be there for us in our times of challenge and suffering. She answers our prayer with a simple reminder- I’m here and then if we let her she will take us by the hand to be with her son who is our brother Jesus.
This is why we pray:
Hail Mary, full of grace.
Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.