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The Assumption of Mary

 

AssumptionWe live in a world of much sin and death. All around us, in both our personal lives and in the news, we see signs of great tragedy and misfortune. Wars, persecutions, famine, and economic hardship are the misfortune of many. Yet, amidst all these difficulties, there is a women who has gone before us into Heaven. Today we celebrate the Virgin Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. The Assumption is an event which should give hope to all of us who journey through life thirsting for the Kingdom of God.

Mary has not gone up to a place where she no longer cares for those of us here below. She has not gone to some exotic Nirvana where she no longer feels or cares for those who suffer on Earth. She has gone to the place where Love Himself lives. It is in this place that she intercedes for us on Earth. She sees each one of us from Heaven, and prays for us to continue our journey towards Heaven.

In the Assumption, Mary shows us our final destination. We see where we eventually hope to be. She is like a mother who waits at the finish line of a long and hard race. At times the running may be hard and we may become tempted to slow down or stop altogether. At moments such as this we turn and look up and see Mary our mother waiting at the finish line. She waits for us in Heaven. She tells us to continue our journey of repentance from sin and to continue in faith and hope because the race can be won, thank God.

This is a message that our world needs to hear. So much of the sin and violence we see in our world is committed by people who have stopped making that journey to the finish line. Somewhere along the way they decided to stop the race and make the race track their home. They fight among themselves over who will own the race track.

But the Christian must never stop the race. We must always keep our eyes on Mary, who reminds us where we are going. This world, and everything in it, are not our final destination, Heaven is. To the extent that they lead us towards God, we should use and enjoy the goods of this world. But the home of an athlete is not the race track. Our final home is not this world but the Heavenly Jerusalem.

There is something pathetic about all perpetrators of sin, injustice and violence in the world. While some strive to finish the race and, like Mary, live in Heaven, others choose to fight over a piece of the race track here below. Unfortunately for them, they do not own the track. The owner of the Stadium will return and judge the performance of the athletes. Those who ran the race and kept their hearts close to Mary, will be in better shape than those who forgot she was there at the finishing line, supporting us. To forget the Assumption of Mary, is to forget what it is we are called to.

 

 

 

The Garden of Eden and the Concrete Jungle

Frankfurt Skyline PanoramicThe big news story in the wake of the Local and European elections held last week has been the rise of the far left and far right in various parts of Europe. The ascension to power of those who are dissatisfied with modern European society and the direction it is taking threatens the status quo. This might not be such a bad thing. If the new political landscape inspires in us a collective examination of conscience about who we are and how we are to live together in community, this election will have been a success.

There is another, more important ascension that we as believing Christians assent to every Sunday at Mass. We claim that ‘He (Jesus) ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father’ each time we recite the Creed. It is a fact largely ignored in our post-Christian society and yet this heavenly perspective must somehow shape any authentic examination of conscience, whether collective or individual. If it does not, the dissatisfaction of a divided human society that has expelled God from its version of paradise will reappear time and time again. The European project has all the marks of a Tower of Babel, striving for the sky but creaking unsteadily under the weight of its own expectation. Its foundations are unsure. There is something missing.

Contemplating our Lord’s ascension and viewing our earthly affairs in relation to their eternal significance puts perspective on how we live, vote and build societies here on earth. Or at least it should. Faith in God is not something distinct from our everyday lives – it is the salt that flavours it. If our new band of Councillors and M.E.P.’s cannot see that, we Christians need to help them. ‘Go therefore, make disciples of all nations’ we are told (Matthew 28:19). We have been commissioned by the Lord to help people realise there is a bigger game afoot. That is our job as witnesses to this authentic Christian understanding of human existence. Our assent to God has to shape our choice of who ascends to the echelons of political power and ultimately, our own hopes of ascending to heaven with Him.

Gospel Reflection for the Ascension of our Lord – Year A (Matthew 28:16-20)