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  • Writer's pictureImmersed in Christ

Holy is His Name

Tuesday , August 15, 2023

by Fr. David M. Knight

View readings for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary Lectionary Readings 622 (Luke 1: 39-56; Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26)

All three readings for the feast of the Assumption celebrate God’s victory over sin and death, over all that is evil and life-diminishing for the hu­man race. And all three emphasize the role that human nature, in all its weakness, plays in this victory.

A woman “crying out in the pangs of childbirth” is the image of total helplessness and awesome power. On the one hand, nothing can stop the birthing process; she must surrender to it, cooperate with it, or die. On the other hand, through the weakness of her flesh, through the surrender of her body to the inevitable, she is going to accom­plish the greatest thing any hu­man person can do: she is going to bring a hu­man being to life. It is an exercise of power un­surpassed in human existence.

This is the image God chose to express the reality of the Church on earth. On the one hand, we are as helpless and vulnerable as a woman in labor, undergoing pain, suffering from the re­sistance of our own flesh and from the opposi­tion of the world around us as we labor to “bring Christ to full stature” (see Ephesians 4:13). On the other hand, we are actually bringing about the presence of God on earth in human flesh and establishing the reign of God in human affairs.

The Assumption -- the “taking up” of Mary’s body into heaven which exempted her from the disintegration of the grave -- is a sign and preview of the triumph of fragile human flesh over all that threatens our existence on earth. It is God’s assurance given to us that these bodies of ours, so vulnerable to sickness, injury and death, will share in the Resurrection of Je­sus. Jesus rose as the “first fruits” of a human race delivered from the power of sin and of death. His Resurrection is a sign that God has given to him all “sovereignty, authority and power,” that the reign of God will be realized. Mary’s Assumption is a sign that the human race will share, body as well as soul, in his victory and his glory in heaven, just as we have shared in the weakness and humiliation he accepted to experience on earth.

The human race came under the power of sin and death when a man and a woman, Adam and Eve, freely chose to sin. Jesus broke this power by freely choosing as God to become a member of this race that had sinned, and by freely surrendering himself to death. But he chose to become hu­man only through the free surrender of a woman who accepted to give him flesh -- and who, standing under the cross, accepted with him to endure the birth pangs again as her heart was torn open with his flesh and the hu­man race reborn. Mary had to be under the cross. And she had to be there, not just as a spectator, but actively offering her son to the Father for the life of the world. She had to join him in his act of priesthood and offer her son as he offered himself, just as all of us do at Mass. She had to take part.

The Assumption, by proclaiming the share human beings have in the reward, the Resurrection of Jesus, also proclaims the share human beings have in the redeeming work, the sacrifice of Jesus. Like Mary, all of us who have “offered our bodies as a living sacrifice to God” in Bap­tism have accepted to give flesh to Jesus on earth. We have accepted to become his Body so that he might continue in us his human pres­ence in the world, and through our actions continue his ministry. Like Mary, we are called to em­brace his way of redeeming the world through vulnerability, through human powerlessness, through sacrifice and the offering of ourselves for others in love -- especially for those who violate our rights, oppress us and kill us. Like Mary, we have accepted to give our bodies, our “flesh for the life of the world,” so that in us Je­sus might continue to live and act, to give him­self up to death in love, to redeem the world.

Mary triumphed through surrender. In celebrating her Assumption we celebrate the tri­umph of fragile humanity, of vulnerable human flesh, over all the death-dealing power of this world, and over all those who claim sovereignty and authority to direct the course of human af­fairs in disassociation from God. With Mary we celebrate freedom from all fear of death. We proclaim the greatness of the Lord, for he who is mighty has done great things, even through the lowliness of his servant. Holy is his name.

Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

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