There was no one on this earth closer to Jesus than Mary. She bore him, nursed him, raised him, initiated his public ministry, held him in her arms as he was taken down from the cross, and she was with the Apostles in the upper room when the Holy Spirit descended upon them. Mary, like Jesus, also experiencied an Immaculate Conception. When her time came to leave this life, who better than Mary to have experienced the “singular participation in her Son’s resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1997, 966)?
Today we celebrate the official dogmatic constitution issued by Pope Pius XII in 1950, the Assumption of Mary, acknowledging what the Church has recognized from the beginning, the special grace she received from her Son. Jesus is the promise and Mary is the hope that we will live eternally with our heavenly Father, for Mary is now where we will one day be, body and soul.
Jesus and Mary have undone the sin of Adam and Eve. They, in their continual faithful life of saying yes to the will of God, opened up heaven for us. In our darkest trials, when the storm clouds of pandemic, injustice, racism, violence, division and polarization gather, when a situation or conflict does not appear to be getting any better, when death may be imminent, and/or when a loved one has died, even then, death does not have the last word becasue we are not alone.
As St. Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth, Jesus “has been raised from the dead”. He is the first born of the new creation. We are invited to join Jesus in participating in his new Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, preparing ourselves in this life for eternity in the next. How? By doing what Jesus and Mary did. We are to open our heart and mind to God, hear and observe his word, and put into practice what we receive.
Mary was not blessed so much because she gave birth to the Son of God but because she heard the Word of God, pondered it in her heart, acted upon, and put it into practice. This is why the Church calls Mary the model of discipleship. Just as the moon does not radiate because of its own light but reflects the light from the Sun, so Mary reflects the light of her Son.
Mary encourages us, as she did the servants at the wedding feast of Cana, to do what he tells us to do. She radiates the light of Jesus in her thoughts, words, and actions and we are to do the same such that when people look at us they no longer see us but the love of Jesus radiating from us. How do we radiate Christ to others? We become deified, meaning becoming like God through our participation in the life of Jesus. This happens when we make a daily commitment to praying and meditating so as to allow the Holy Spirit to transform us by the holy fire of his love.
A simple way to accomplish this is to commit to a time and place every day to meditate and pray and then show up. When we arrive, we begin by taking some deep, slow breaths, and open our minds and hearts to God who is already present and waiting for us. As we continue to be mindful of our breath, we read from the Bible or a spiritual writing. We can also focus upon a sacramental object like a crucifix, statue, picture, or a setting in God’s creation. We then choose a word, phrase, or account to meditate upon. Allow God to lead and speak to us. As our time comes to an end we then commit to putting into action what we have received.
This practice will take some time to develop. We need to be patient with God and ourselves. God begins small and slowly with us. If you have never spent any time sitting still or quiet, your first few times, even for five or ten minutes might feel like agony. Continue to show up each day and spend some time with God and you will, like Mary, come to know him more deeply and intimately and experience the joy of encountering Jesus in deeper and more profound ways. Meditation and prayer may begin with conversation but it is ordered to our transformation.
Stain glass of the Assumption of Mary at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA