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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.

 

 

 

Stormy Waters

shipstorm1How often amid life’s stormy seas do we feel like we are alone, abandoned by God? Our Lord is always in heaven and wherever that is, it doesn’t seem to be here where I am right now, at this moment, struggling with the demands of daily life. It is as though Jesus is away praying alone on the mountain, far removed from my woes. It can be difficult sometimes to live the hope we profess when we are on the verge of shipwreck.

The important point of today’s Gospel is that Jesus is not as far removed from us as we might think. This awareness of God in our midst puts a new perspective on those things that trouble us. Though the disciples did not know it, He had long since departed from the solitude of the mountain and was present with them in their struggles on the open waters. If this is so, perhaps a better question for us to ask might be why Jesus waits until the fourth watch of the night before He intervenes? A long, horrific night had passed for the disciples and it was almost at the break of day, when they were at breaking point themselves, when He decided to help. But why? St. John Chrysostom writes “Christ did not reveal Himself to His disciples until they cried out; for the more intense their fear, the more did they rejoice in His presence.”

Consider the difference between “rejoicing in Christ’s presence”, as Chrysostom puts it, and not hoping in Him. What difference does it make to us as Christians when we profess to believe in God, compared with many of our contemporaries who do not? It is the difference between Peter desperately clinging to life in a battered ship on a storm-tossed sea and his trodding underfoot the very waves that threatened to destroy him. Encountering Christ has the power to transform us in a very real way. It has to be this way. If our belief in God does not have any real life implications for the way we live then what is the point of it?

Jesus is the daybreak. The darkness of the night and the violence of the storm give way before the Lord who is peace. Where He is, there is hope. An awareness of Christ in our daily struggles and a deep belief that He alone can deliver us from them presents us with a new reality; a new mode of existence. Life takes on a new eternal significance. Loving Christ is not a guarantee that our voyage will be easy but it is a guarantee that when we are at the point of shipwreck, we have a safe harbour where we can hope to find refuge.

Gospel Reflection for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A (Matthew 14:22-33)