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From Eden to Eternity: A Homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin
Mary | Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers | August 15th
Today's magnificent solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into
heaven began back in the Garden of Eden. In God's mind from all eternity, when
He decided to create beings made in His image and likeness, and fill them with
the gift of His life-giving love, it is within a woman's being--within her
heart and soul--where His love first established a foundation and home. The
spirituality of a woman is rooted in the fact that she is the heart of love and
through her special and unique relationship with the Holy Spirit (as one who
gives life), a woman is truly the example of what it means to be fully human.
Satan knew this. He realized that if the heart of love were
destroyed, that if a wedge were driven between the intimate communion of love
and life, everything else in creation would fall. So Satan approached the
woman first, intent on destroying her heart and introducing sin and death into
The method of demise Satan employed in the Garden of Eden is
the same method he has used successfully century after century, and that he
still uses to this day to perpetuate a culture of death: subjective truth. God
bestowed free will upon the man and woman mindful of the fact that, in covenant
relationship, life-giving communion that is freely given must also be freely
accepted and reciprocated. Covenant relationship hinges upon our response to
God's invitation to love: a response of complete trust in and obedience to the
absolute truth of God's will. Satan lies to the woman convincing her that she
need only trust in herself, that truth is whatever she decides it to be
("the tree [not God's truth!] was to be desired to make one wise")
and, in deciding truth for herself, she "will be like God, knowing good
and evil." Hence, the woman, in rejecting absolute truth, says
"no" to God's invitation to covenant intimacy and the heart of love
is shattered ("she took of its fruit and ate") while her husband
stood by and did nothing.
Yet the God of Love, in His infinite mercy, does not leave
us without hope. He intervenes in human history, setting into motion a plan
for man's redemption: since it was through the heart of love that sin entered
into the world, it will be through the heart of love that God effects salvation
for the world. The covenant of love and life lost through the "No"
of Eve, the "mother of all the living," will be restored in Christ
through the "Yes" of Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. The
Old Eve offered us fruit born from the tree that lead to death; the New Eve
brings forth the fruit of her womb who gives us everlasting life. Today we
celebrate the fact that, because of the dignity of her motherhood and her own
personal submission to God's will at every stage of her life, the Blessed
Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, which is the destiny of all
of us who die united with Christ her Son.
In the Gospel, we see Mary setting out with haste from
Nazareth to a small town in the hills of Judea, not far from Jerusalem to visit
her older cousin, Elizabeth. It is highly significant that it is Mary and Jesus
who go to visit Elizabeth and John. Already in the womb, Jesus is showing that
urge to serve rather than be served. And, at the presence of Jesus and his
mother, the child in Elizabeth's womb leaps for joy. Elizabeth is deeply moved
that it is Jesus and his Mother that come to her and John: "And why has
this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?" And yet that
is what is happening to each of us all the time, especially in every
celebration of the Holy Mass when the Lord comes to us and fills our hearts
with joy through his Word and in the Eucharist.
"Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to
you by the Lord would be fulfilled." Mary's faith and total trust in God
was expressed in her fiat ('Let it be done unto me…'), when, even though not
fully understanding what was being asked of her, she unconditionally accepted
to submit to God's plan.
Mary's greatness was not only in being chosen to be the
mother of Jesus but also in her total acceptance of that responsibility in
faith and trust, accepting all that it might entail. She had no idea the price
she would have to pay to be the mother of Jesus. But like her Son she had
emptied herself in total service to Him and today we celebrate her reward: her
being raised to the highest place among the human race.
"From this day forward all generations will call me
blessed." This is not a statement made in arrogance but in humble
thanksgiving to God. She rejoices and is deeply grateful for being chosen for
this privilege. Her being chosen is simply another sign of God's desire that
the poor, the weak, and the exploited of this world are to be the special
recipients of God's love and care. Mary expresses this in the last part of her
Magnificat: "He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the
proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has
lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things; the rich He
has sent away empty."
In this beautiful prayer, Mary foreshadows the mission of
her Son who says those who hunger and thirst for holiness will be satisfied and
those who are rich in arrogance have already received their reward.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus, the Son of God who
died on the Cross is the very first among the risen, seated at the right hand
of His Father. He is, in Paul's words, "the first fruits of those who
have died . . . for as all die in Adam, so all shall be brought to life in
Christ, but each one in proper order". Jesus is first of all but next in
order surely comes his Mother. All of us, as followers of Christ with His
Blessed Mother, look forward to the day when we too can share the glory of
heaven with her. But for now, we ask her to remember us as we continue our
journey on earth and to intercede for us with her Son that, like her, we may
remain true to our call to holiness as faithful disciples of Christ.
May we know God's will for us at all times and, like Mary,
give our unconditional "Yes" and allow God to work powerfully in our lives so
that we may be with Him forever in heaven.
(This homily was originally posted Ignatius Insight on August 15, 2009.)
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Articles and Excerpts:
Fairest Daughter of the Father: On the Solemnity of the
Assumption | Rev. Charles M. Mangan
The Blessed Virgin in the History of
Christianity | John A. Hardon, S.J.
"Hail, Full of Grace": Mary, the Mother of Believers |
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Mary in Feminist Theology: Mother of God or Domesticated Goddess? |
Fr. Manfred Hauke
Excerpts from The Rosary: Chain of Hope | Fr.
Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R.
The Past Her Prelude: Marian Imagery in the Old
Testament | Sandra Miesel
Mary, Matchless in Grace | John Saward
Mary | The Introduction to Mary in the Middle Ages | by Luigi Gambero
Mary | Dr. James Hitchcock
Born of the Virgin Mary | Paul Claudel
Assumed Into Mother's
Arms | Carl E. Olson
Contemplates the Mother | Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis
Harold Burke-Sivers, MTS is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, and
the founder of Aurem
Cordis, an apostolate dedicated "to promote the truth and beauty
of the gospel by encouraging others to submit themselves freely to the
life-giving love of the Trinity and to become living witnesses to that
love in the world." Deacon Burke-Sivers gives talks around the country
on spirituality, family life, lay vocations, and other topics, and has
appeared on "Catholic Answers Live", EWTN, and many local television and
radio programs. He has a BA in economics from Notre Dame and an MTS from
the University of Dallas. He, his wife Colleen, and their four children
live in Portland, Oregon.
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