Today is the “Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Our Mother” to Heaven; Body & Soul.
Today’s feast celebrates Mary’s Assumption into heaven, defined as dogma in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. “Dogma” is an article of faith that has been revealed by God, which the Magisterium of the Catholic Church presents to be believed by all the faithful. This dogma teaches that Mary was truly assumed body, blood, soul, and humanity into the glory and magnificence of the “third” heaven. (2 Cor 12:2 and 1 Peter 3:22)
It is one of three feasts of Mary that are Holy Days of Obligation for Roman Catholics in the United States; though “Holy Day of Obligation” is a term, I believe, most Catholics in the U.S. have removed from their vocabulary. The other “Marian” Holy Days of Obligation are January 1st: the feast of “Mary, Mother of God,” and December 8th: the feast of the “Immaculate Conception of Mary (not Jesus).”
Next weekend I will be on a retreat with my brothers and sisters of the Secular Franciscan Order. I will pray for all your intentions, during this spiritually awesome time for me. As you can tell, I in no way consider retreats as a “chore.” I truly love encountering Christ in many, and diversified ways. Hopefully, I will be able to post a reflection next Sunday, but it may be a little later in the day or evening. Pax et Bonum.
Today is also my birthday [of sorts]. In renewing a solemn pledge: a “Total Consecration to Jesus, through Mary,” I made a spiritual rebirth. Today is the beginning of a renewed chapter in my life. By imitating Mary, I can say, “May it be done according to your will!” What are the wonderful effects of this devotion on my soul? They are:
† “First, through the Holy Spirit, Mary will convey to me a portion of her profound humility.
† Second, Our Blessed Lady also will give me a portion of her faith, which was the greatest of all faiths ever on this earth.
† Third, this Mother of fair love will take away from my heart all scruple disorder of servile fear.
† Fourth, Our Blessed Lady will fill me with a great confidence in God, and in herself. I will not be approaching Jesus by myself, but always by that good Mother.
† Fifth, the soul of our Blessed Lady will impart itself to me, to glorify the Lord. Her spirit will enter into my spirit to rejoice in God.
† Sixth, Mary will bear fruit in her own time, and her fruit is none other than Jesus Christ.
† And seventh, I gave Jesus more glory in a month, than by any other practice, however difficult, in many years.” WOW!!!
From the devotion itself
Quote or Joke of the Day:
A friend is someone who thinks you’re a good egg even though you’re slightly cracked.
Today’s reflection is about Mary’s Visit with Elizabeth.
39 During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, 40 where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. 43 And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” 46 And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; 47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior. 48 For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. 49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him. 51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. 52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. 53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty. 54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, 55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” 56 Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. (NAB Luke 1:39-56)
The Gospel for today reminds us that Mary’s Assumption into heaven might be best understood as a real experience and preview of the “Parousia” (see last Sunday’s reflection). This view covers the full realm of Catholic beliefs about the uniquely human and divine person of Jesus Christ, truly human, and the relationship of His whole family, beginning with His mother. For me, this understanding, or way of looking at the supernatural gift of Mary’s Assumption brings about an abounding and thriving meaning of God’s introduction of His Son, Jesus to the world and to His own Israel, through Mary, for my (and your) personal salvation. This is so strong that Luke actually interprets it TWICE in Mary’s Canticle, in today’s Gospel reading. The first interpretation we find in verses 1:39-45; and the second is in verses 1:46-56. The first introduction of Jesus is two-fold: (1) in Mary’s physical traveling to visit Elizabeth and her words of greeting on arrival at Elizabeth’s home; and (2) in Elizabeth’s reaction, her words, and the physical action of Elizabeth’s baby leaping for joy, while still in the womb. The two mothers-to-be come together to praise a God who is very active and paramount in their lives.
The second introduction (verses 46-56) is in God’s own action, through Mary, to bring Jesus the Messiah to us, in fidelity to His promises to Abraham and his sons, grandsons, King David, and to all Israel, as well as to all peoples. What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God intends for each one of us. (That’s you and me, Bubbas!!)
The presentation of Jesus (in the womb) to His cousin John (also in the womb) will be renewed again a little more than 30 years later, with John the Baptist honoring and proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Lamb of God to come, when Jesus’ presented Himself for baptism at the Jordan river. This is also the first of only two times in all the Gospels that God speaks, proclaiming Jesus as His only-begotten and well beloved Son.
Can anyone imagine the faith Mary had in God? WOW!!! For me, it’s beyond my mental reasoning. Her mind was uncluttered by any of the effects of sin that mar our soul. An unblemished soul is something neither I, nor anyone reading this reflection, can claim (regrettably).
Only Mary, born without the stain of original sin (the Immaculate Conception) could give birth to the mysterious uniqueness of Jesus Christ: truly divine and truly human, undiminished divinity and true humanity in one person forever. Because of Mary’s role in God’s plan of salvation, she does not suffer from the effects of sin: namely death and decay. Mary is literally the first person to receive the fullness of the redemption that her son secured for you and me, all of mankind that chooses to believes in God and His revelation of mercy.
Her role in salvation had been pre-conceived by God before the beginning of time, and any role God would give Mary would be a uniquely special one for her. Even though she apparently discerned that she was being asked to do the impossible, when the archangel Gabriel said something to her about having a baby, Mary displayed a total and unconditional faith and trust in God AND in the Son that God was promising. Thank God the Planned Parenthood offices were not open, and trying to encourage Mary to avoid the “inconvenience” of an unexpected pregnancy, and the “embarrassment” of a “virginal” conception! How often have we done anything as unconditionally as Mary did for God, and for us!?
Was Mary ready for the rigors of being the Mother of God? This question is answered in the following verse, “Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah.” It is not an easy feat for a 14 year-old Jewish child, being pregnant at the time, making a rugged four day trip by herself. And to accomplish this feat “in haste” even adds to her abilities to handle the bad, as well as the good. Mary is a tough opponent to evil: one heavenly tough lady!
Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation in their lifetime. Upon arriving, “She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb.” These verses made me recall a similar thing happening with the leaping of Esau and Jacob in Rebekah’s womb. This story can be found in Genesis 25:22-23: “the children in her womb jostled each other so much that she exclaimed, ‘If this is to be so, what good will it do me!’ She went to consult the LORD, and He answered her: ‘Two nations are in your womb; two peoples are quarreling while still within you; but one shall surpass the other, and the older shall serve the younger.’” Interesting to me is that this is a preview of the relation between John and Jesus, just without the quarreling!
“Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice … saying, ‘most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb …’” Having been graced to be filled with the Holy Spirit during an ACTS retreat several years ago, I can appreciate the energy, joy, and charisma associated with the event of being as one with the Holy Spirit. I felt literally “on top of the world,” and so filled with love that I felt like I was truly going to burst. Now, I need to emphasize that I never considered myself a “Charismatic Catholic,” and have never talked in tongues. Until I had this retreat experience, I thought of “those” people as a little strange. Through this encounter on my retreat with the third person of the Holy Trinity, I no longer have doubts in the capabilities of God’s graces.
Calling Mary “Most Blessed” brings up the image found in Revelations 12:1: “A woman clothed with the Sun.” For me, Mary was wearing the mantle of God long before her conception with Jesus. God, the first person of the Holy Trinity, presented to Mary the grace of bringing into this sinful world, the second person of the Holy Trinity, the complete image of Himself, and His Word – her Son Jesus, through the action of the third person of the Holy Trinity: the Holy Spirit. This is a mystery of faith probably more complex than the United States Internal Revenue Code for most of us to truly understand.
Mary asks, “How does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Even before his birth, Jesus was identified as the Lord. There were no pre-conceived notions from Mary, Elizabeth, or any other individual aware of the promises about the coming Messiah. No one alive at that time knew exactly what the Messiah’s role would be. Some, maybe even most, thought Jesus would become some type of warrior king, similar to David. If so, how surprised were they to be. All Mary knew was that SOMETHING special was in store for all of them, and that even though totally blind to any future events, she put her total faith and trust in the hands of God!
“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke portrays Mary as a believer whose faith, trust, and fidelity stands in contrast to the disbelief of Zechariah with Elizabeth’s pregnancy of John. In Luke 1:20, “But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time” Zechariah becomes mute, in response to his questioning of God’s grace. But when Mary asks a similar question, unlike Zechariah who was disciplined for his doubt, Mary is praised and reassured.
The difference between the two, I believe, is the level of their faith and trust in God’s capabilities. Zechariah, an elderly temple priest, had doubt and lack of trust, probably due to the many years of A) strictly human reasoning, and B) concupiscence’s effect on his soul, thus making him skeptical. Mary, on the other hand, had no sins to mark her soul, and had been nurtured by the faith of the Patriarchs and the Prophets. Even in her young age, and with a perfectly sinless and grace filled soul, she knew nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37).
Mary’s role in this beginning of this infancy narrative should be seen in connection with her presence among “those who believed” after Jesus’ Resurrection that unique Sunday Morning. Why? The answer can be found in Acts 1:14, “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” Mary was with Jesus His entire life. Mary saw Jesus, as her son AND as her Lord on earth (But don’t most Jewish mothers? – OK, sorry). Mary trusted in God wholly and completely, and she continued to say “YES” to God, without fail, her entire life. We need to see the totality of Mary’s life as we see Jesus in the totality of His life.
The nature of God in Jesus’ conception is proclaimed in Mary saying, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord ….” There is an Old Testament parallel for this New Testament verse: “the Song of Hannah,” found in 1 Sam 2:1-11. A whole separate reflection can be written on the correlations between the two, so I urge you to find it in your bible and read it. This “song” is credited to Hannah after her birth to Samuel as her thanksgiving to God because of her giving birth to a son, despite her previous years of sterility. She praises God as the helper of the weak who casts down the mighty and raises up the lowly, and who alone is the source of true strength.
Mary praises God for what He has done for mankind through her child, Jesus; and rejoices in God’s fulfillment of His promises in the verse, “my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” Mary was totally FILLED with the Holy Spirit, so there was NO room for sin, or for the least little self-centeredness. Mary literally surrendered herself, and gave all she had, body, soul, and spirit, to serve God, in order for Him to live within, and to work through her! This is EXACTLY what we need to do each and every day of our lives!!! (TRUE!!!)
In this new era of salvation, Mary will be hailed as the Mother and Queen of Israel and us all. “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.” Mary was humble. So humble in fact, that I believe she may have had a hard time saying that all generations will honor her. However, we still have to remember, always, that she WAS absolutely and truly FULL of God, thus making her actions and remarks as truly true. Mary allowed God to work through her, and to work without any impediments from her, in any way. This is reiterated in Mary continuing her Canticle, saying, “The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” Her “lowliness,” her humbleness, is contrasted against with the might and majesty of God; for NOTHING is impossible with God. (Are you getting the “nothing is impossible with God” theme yet?)
Should we be afraid of GOD? After all, the next verse says, “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.” “Fear” of the Lord is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Isaiah 11:2-3: “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide.”
The fullness of Jesus Christ, as shown through Mary – both physically and spiritually, is also available to any Catholic in a state of grace. We receive these seven gifts when given “sanctifying grace:” the life of God within us. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 1831) notes on the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, “They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.” When we are infused with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in the way that Christ Himself would.
Fear is a curiously strange word for most Americans. Most of us take this word as “bad.” Instead we need to see this word as more of a “healthy fear.” Healthy fears keep us from burning ourselves when cooking, shocking ourselves when plugging in a lamp, and keeping us from sinning when tempted. So, we need not fear God as the world experiences fear, but we need to delight in the healthy fear – the profound respect for an infinitely good and powerful God.
Luke 1:50 ends the first part of the Canticle of Mary and transitions into the second part of the Canticle. What God has done for Mary is universalized into what God does for those who faithfully and respectfully “fear” Him.
Verse 51: “He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart. He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.” These six past-tense verbs describe God as the one who performed these actions, and is now in the present tense, operating in the virginal conception of Jesus within Mary. My question is, “Who are the rich, and who are the hungry?” Are the “lowly” the Jewish people of Israel, the sick, or the downtrodden? Is being “rich” a measure of materialist wealth, or is it the proud and arrogant people who have no time or need for God?
God, through Jesus, is creating a new “exodus,” a new journey that shows a preference for the humble, the poor, and the downtrodden. This is manifested in Jesus’ ministry, and in the future missions of His disciples.
Being “poor,” for God, does not come with a social status, or ethnic heritage. The humble, poor, and downtrodden have to respond to God’s good news, in order to complete this journey with Him. In the next verse of Mary’s Canticle, “He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever,” God builds a “new covenant” upon the old foundation of Abraham’s. God’s gift, His grace, that Mary is proclaiming, is NOT contingent solely on the ethnic heritage of Abraham’s genealogy. It is NOW open to All, regardless of social status, ethnicity, previous religion, or any other origin.
“Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.” Why would a young woman with the love and charity we all admire in her, leave prior to the birth of Jesus’ precursor: John? Elizabeth certainly could have used the help with the delivery and other “nursing” and household issues. Luke, I believe, does this solely in explicitly emphasizing the three main characters in each birth narratives: Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John in one; and Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the other.
Mary is praised for being the mother of the Lord, Jesus Christ; and, because of her strong faith and belief, she responds as the servant in this psalm (song) of praise, the “Magnificat.” The Magnificat, with the possible exception of verse 48, “for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” may have been an early Jewish-Christian hymn that Luke found appropriate at this point in his story. Even if not written by Luke, it fits in well with his themes found elsewhere in his Gospel: joy and exultation in the Lord; the lowly being singled out for God’s favor; the reversal of human fortunes; and the fulfillment of the Jewish family prophesies.
In Summary, Mary’s faith and trust is what God wants each of us to imitate. Can we imitate her faith? Even though Mary was sinless; and we know ourselves to be sinners endeavoring to sin less and less, these virtues are not something beyond our grasp. In fact, we can grow in these virtues. We do this when we try our best to follow her, and HIS path to salvation and redemption. Imitating Mary leads us to her Son because they walk and exist together. What is really awesome is that we don’t have to walk this path alone. As a child of God, we can hold the right hand of Mary – our Heavenly Mother – with one hand, and the left hand (making Him our right hand man) of Jesus – our loving brother and kinsman redeemer – with the other, on the path that we take to the glory of paradise, in the salvation of the third heaven (2 Cor 12:2 & 1 Peter 3:22).
“The Hail Mary”
“Hail Mary, Full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death. Amen.”
Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO
(Actually yesterday’s Saint of the Day, but he is one of my personal patron saints, and the main reason I am a Secular Franciscan)
“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!” How many parents have said that? Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me. She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red. She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom. I said, ‘I choose both.’ She smiled and disappeared.” After that he was not the same.
He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice. Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.
Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day. His mission was to combat it. He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering. He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata,, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations. For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers. He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan. Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.
In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed. Niepokalanow was severely bombed. Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In 1941 he was arrested again. The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders. The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.
A prisoner had escaped. The commandant announced that 10 men would die. He relished walking along the ranks. “This one. That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line. “I would like to take that man’s place. He has a wife and children.” “Who are you?” “A priest.” No name, no mention of fame. Silence. The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine. In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness. But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang. By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive. The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying. He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle. It was filled with carbolic acid. They burned his body with all the others. He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.
Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism. His whole life had been a preparation. His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God. And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.
“Courage, my sons. Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission? They pay our fare in the bargain. What a piece of good luck! The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible. Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes” (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).
He is the Patron Saint of Addicts and Drug addiction.
Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.; revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)
Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) Rule #15 of 26:
Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.