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Contents: Volume 2 - Solemnity of the Assumption August 15 2021

Assumption of Mary, Mother of God and Disciple of the Lord

 

The

Assump-

tion

(B)


1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. -- Paul O'Reilly SJ

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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Solemnity of the Assumption 2021

This Sunday is one of those times that the readings speak rather indirectly about the feast. The first reading is the symbolic story from the Book of Revelation of God's intervention when Jesus is born, drawing Jesus to heaven and protecting Mary as she fled to the desert. The Gospel reading is Luke's account of Mary visiting Elizabeth when she learns of her pregnancy.

It is hard to piece just these readings together and have a full picture of Mary's Assumption, isn't it? We must draw on inferences about who Mary is in relation to Jesus and to ourselves. Mary is not adored as is Jesus, but honored and holy and also to be imitated.

Just as Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead connects to Jesus's own Resurrection and points to humanity's victory over death through Jesus, Mary's assumption tells us we, too, will be bodily drawn to heaven at the end of time. The readings remind us of God's plan and protection for humanity and also of Mary's service and care of Elizabeth, even in the times of confusion in her own life. It is not easy to connect the dots, but they are there, telling us that God is faithful and cares for us even when times are frightening or perilous.

We, too, live in uncertain times, individually and collectively. Some people are just worn out, as was Elijah a few readings ago, and want to give up quietly or scream "enough!" Regardless of where we are on the continuum of feeling overwhelmed, it is time to turn to Mary's life for guidance through the words of her Magnificat.

In spite of the hardships we endure as with Mary's seven sorrows, God also looks upon each of us with favor. We are blessed with and by many things, often things that go unnoticed because of pressures in our lives. God's mercy and providence will prevail. Mother Mary, walk with us and guide us on our journey until we meet you and your Son in heaven.

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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Assumption of Mary Mother of God and Disciple of the Lord August 15, 2021

Revelation 11:19 & 12:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 45; 1st Corinthians 15:20-27; Gospel Acclamation "Mary is taken up to heaven; a chorus of angels exults; Luke 1:39-56

As a child and into adolescence, the book of Revelation was always a fearful thing. Perhaps it was being an impressionable child during WW II and its ending with two nuclear devastations in Japan that was the backdrop for my thinking about this apocalypse. In any case, it was often used as a threat of hell made present. The dragon was an imposing figure. That dragon was Rome with its seven hills and ten legions of military might that enforced the Pax Romana. But that wasn’t what I knew then. In seminary my class was fortunate to be taught by a renowned Scripture Scholar. He chose to teach us Greek over two semesters by reading that book in the original Greek language. It made a supreme difference – not only because of the language but because of our professor who had studied that book and shared his learning with us.

The work of John the mystic – not John the evangelist – was a recapitulation of current events. John was a Christian exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith. He begins his work speaking to the seven churches of Asia Minor. The note to the church at Laodicea strikes my fancy. It’s the church that’s neither hot nor cold – just lukewarm. It is said that the city of Laodicea was situated on a bluff and that a wonderful river ran through it. As the river fell down the cliff it went underground in a desert, as though the desert swallowed up the vitality of the river robbing it of life-giving energy. That was how the vision of John pictured the faith in that assembly. I wonder if that’s an image of how many of us are, how we live out the grand gift of Faith that is God’s gift to us. Isn’t that especially true of times when our faith is challenged by those who seek to dominate us, to rob us of our wealth, and to encourage us to worship them? It is so very compelling to listen to liars and charlatans as they seek domination, wealth, and adulation.

The reading from Revelation this Sunday speaks of persecution. Torture, impoverishment, and death itself were a threat to the people of faith in the time of this John. The constant drumbeat of persecution challenged the vitality of faith in those who followed the Way of Jesus. It is not a far stretch to see in our time and place a more subtle persecution that encourages us to accept falsehood as truth, domination as freedom, and faith as silliness.

As our reading spells out, however, God is not absent from his people during this persecution. The woman and the child are taken into the wilderness, away from secular pursuits of the dragon and saved. The mother saved by distance and the child by being taken to the throne of God. That child of course is Jesus who was raised from death at the hands of religious and secular authorities. That child’s adult work establishes the Kingdom of God. That work is for salvation and for power. This is not the power of domination, but the power of freedom granted to those of faith. There is a difference in power that dominates with violent force and the power of freedom that is energized by the Spirit sent from the throne of God where resides the Creator and the Son, the child.

It may seem strange to focus on the words of Revelation. Those words, those images are a word to the wise. There will always be persecution. Even though ours is more subtle than under Nero, Marcus Aurelius, Decian, Trebonius Gallus, Valerian, or Diocletian, persecution continues even now. We cannot be surprised when the secular world hates that we follow the Christ in his message and ministry of compassion, mercy, and reconciliation. The world’s way considers such approaches as weakness. We are expected to be conquerors and warlords over our little kingdoms. Truth is a stumbling block for many. Commitment to common good is portrayed as a capitulation by weak wills.

We need this celebration of the Feast of the Assumption desperately in this time and place, during this pandemic that isolates us, during this resurgence of populism and nationalism that teeter us on the brink of totalitarianism. It’s easy to forget that God is God of all and not our personal possession. And this celebration of the assumption of Mary, Jesus’ mother and his pre-eminent disciple, is clear indication of the path to the Kingdom of God among us, NOW.

This festival is more than a celebration of a person. This feast of the Assumption is an indication to us of how we should live and where such living leads. Whenever Mary is portrayed in the gospels, she is always the example of what it means to be a disciple of the Lord. We don’t worship Mary. We don’t put her on a pedestal except to be reminded of what she is. She is the first and pre-eminent disciple of Jesus her son. We pray for her to intercede that we may be a disciple as she is a disciple. And in this celebration this Sunday, this August 15, we see in her a role-model.

In her visitation by Gabriel, the proof of his commission is certified by his announcement that Elizabeth is pregnant. Elizabeth was well beyond child-bearing age. So, this was a surprise for Mary. She went to the hill country and went to Elizabeth to assist her in her pregnancy. The first reaction of Mary is service. The meeting of the two is filled with women’s intuition. What an exchange between Elizabeth and Mary! In her joy at being pregnant she is even more overjoyed at the realization that Mary is pregnant with a child that the child in womb recognizes.

Mary’s response is quite similar to the joyful ranting of Hannah (1st Samuel 2:1-10) when she realizes she is pregnant with Samuel. Mary claims to be blessed, set aside by God for service based only on God’s choice. She claims no merit for being blessed. It is for God’s purpose. God works within us because we have a fear of God.

That brings a question. How is it that a merciful, compassionate God who claims to treat his people with "loving kindness" insists that only those who fear him are touched by God’s magnanimity? We badly translated that troubling word by calling it fear. Yet it is not being frightened of God. It means that we find God present to us and are overwhelmed by admiration, by awe. When we encounter God present to, with, and for us we are overwhelmed. That is "fear of the Lord."

Mary’s song of praise of God makes several points. God forever confuses those who are proud in themselves. When a person encounters God, the comparison between oneself and God is crushing. Even though we are created in God’s image and likeness, our pride is insufficient to have us stand beside God as an equal. Only those who understand themselves in their strengths and weaknesses know they are loved by God without any self-merit. Pride melts away when we encounter God. Pride clouds our eyes, loads our ears with wax, and hardens the movements of our hearts. Those who depend on personal power as their god discover they never have power enough to contest with God. They discover their power resides in violence, based on domination, and destructive competition. It is empty and subject to the forces of others more powerful. It is the lowly ones, the ones who are ordinary, who live toward the margins of society who can appreciate God’s presence and search out God. Those who possess and accumulate discover the things they possess are burdens and empty out their hearts and minds by the need to care for all their stuff.

In all this, God continues to help his chosen people. He remembers always his promises to our forefathers and foremothers.

The Magnificat is a declaration of faith in God. This is not simple adoration. It speaks of trust in God’s living presence. And it is that presence that Mary brings into the world in her child. She becomes the disciple of her son. She it is who keeps all those things in her heart, remembering, trusting, supporting her son’s ministry. She is in service to all other disciples. Mary is so bold as to trust in God in the midst of an oppressive occupation by the Romans. She trusts in God and the history of the chosen people despite the hubris and conceit of religious leadership.

It is her discipleship that models for us what it means to be a disciple. In the four gospels there is very little written about her. But she seems always to be there. It is her assumption as a full human being, body and spirit, which is the final stamp of Divine approval of her discipleship. But it is more than that to us. She demonstrates what happens for us. She is the first of those lifted up to a full and complete presence of God.

When we speak with Mary, when we discuss our situation with Mary, when we seek her counsel for the difficult patches of our living – when we think of her as mother and model, we are encouraged to know the Woman who bore the Son of God/Man cares about us and continues to work on our behalf. Hail Mary!

The point of all this is that persecution of the followers of Jesus will be with us until the end of time. Mary is often the person we go to for intercession, for insight into how we can deal with adversity, and for understanding of how suffering and loss can be part of spiritual growth and fill up the sufferings and work of the Christ. May it be so.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Children, don’t try this at home! A boy named Daniel went to his mother demanding a new bicycle for Christmas. ‘Danny, we can’t afford it,’ she said, ‘so write a letter to Jesus and pray for one instead.’ ‘Dear Jesus,’ he wrote, ‘I’ve been a good boy this year and would appreciate a new bicycle. Your friend, Danny.’ Now Danny guessed that Jesus knew for sure that he was a brat. So, he gave the letter another try: ‘Dear Jesus, I’ve been an OK boy this year and I want a new bicycle. Yours truly, Daniel.’ Danny knew that this wasn’t true either. So, he tore it up and tried again: ‘Dear Jesus, I’ve thought about being a good boy. So, may I have a new bicycle? Daniel.’ Finally, Danny thought better of making these false claims and so ran to the church nearby. He went inside and stole a small statue of Mary and ran out the door. He went home, hid it under his bed and wrote this letter: ‘Jesus, let’s face it! I’ve broken most of the Commandments; I tore up my sister’s doll and lots more. I’m desperate. I’ve got your mother, Mary. If you ever want to see her again, give me a bike for Christmas. You know who.’

That funny story has a serious side to it for our feast of the Assumption of Our Lady today. Over time many people have twisted her memory to fit in with how they think women should behave. So, they have presented her as meek and mild, weak, passive, and submissive. The problem with that is this. It contradicts every one of the ten stories we have of the Mother of Jesus in the New Testament.

We are in debt to St Luke for his gospel portrait today of the visit of Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth. The portrait is unfinished, but it is so straightforward, true, and beautiful that in our ‘Hail Mary’ prayer we echo Elizabeth’s blessing: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.’ We honour Mary as the young woman, probably no more than fourteen years old at the time, who put her whole life and self at the service of God’s plan, and who let the Holy Spirit empower her to become the Mother of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Luke presents her as both surprised and afraid of what God is asking of her. But she does not let her surprise and fear stop her from saying ‘yes’ to God’s proposal. In picturing her saying ‘yes’ to God, Luke is saying that she is living up to the standard which her adult Son will teach, that to be a follower of Jesus we must hear the word of God and live it in our lifestyles!

The belief in her Assumption has its origin in the shared faith of the Christian people going back many, many centuries. Christians simply could not believe that after her exceptionally good and holy life, that Mary’s body fell into decay when she died. She was too close to her Son Jesus for that to happen. So, they became convinced that just as God had raised Jesus from the dead, so God raised his Mother too. They saw her also as present with God, present as a complete person, present with body and soul intact, and enjoying the fullness of everlasting life.

That shared belief of the whole ancient Church was proclaimed by Pope Pius XII in 1950 as a truth revealed by God. But in both the East and the West it had been strongly believed for many centuries before. The belief points ahead to what God will do for us. We believe and we trust that our whole person - body, mind, heart, and spirit - will be raised to a new existence in the presence, peace, and happiness of God.

But Mary gives us hope not just for the afterlife, but for the challenges and struggles of this life too - the challenges and struggles of every day. Luke pictures her as the one who praised God because ‘the Almighty has done great things for me’. She goes on to express the hopes and aspirations of needy human beings like us when she sings: ‘He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away.’

For many people in need, the song of Mary expresses their hopes too in the power and love of God, to set them free from all that is bad, evil, and ugly, and give them a new life. Mary for them is not alive in statues and pictures but in the changes that take place when the liberating and transforming love of God triumphs over every kind of evil. She is the mother of all oppressed, overlooked, scorned, abused, or neglected persons. She expresses God’s opposition to tyranny and God’s determination to put down the powerful and ruthless who ignore, despise, or brutalize God’s people.

Mary, then, is no weak, silent, passive woman. It comes as no surprise therefore that poor, suffering people keep looking to her for inspiration and help. We see them on our television screens carrying her statue with dignity and pride, as arm in arm they walk around army headquarters, palaces, parliaments, and prisons.

Encouraged and supported by Mary, they keep speaking the truth to power. They keep believing in a higher power, a power outside themselves and greater than themselves, a power that we may be inclined to forget. They keep believing that the woman we celebrate today, Mary, is a strong but gentle mother, who makes their hopes for the world her own, and their prayers for the world her prayers too.

So together, with immense trust in her goodness and in her power to change situations and change people, let us pray to her on her Feast, for both ourselves and others in need: - ‘Hail Mary ... Amen.’

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Feast of The Assumption 15th August

"Blessed is she who believed that the promises made to her would be fulfilled."

It doesn’t very often happen that I have a total pastoral success. So when it does happen I want the whole world to know about it.

A few years ago, I was in bed asleep when the telephone rang at about 2am. I was annoyed because I had to get up early next morning to travel to the wedding of an old friend of mine called Christine. But I answered the phone – and the person calling was Christine.

"Paul I need to talk to you…. It’s about getting married…. What if I’m wrong?"

My heart sank for two reasons:

  • -first, because I knew I had to get this right. A lot of people’s happiness was riding on this.
  • -second, because I was also pretty sure I wasn’t going to get any more sleep that night.

I smiled sweetly, like you’re supposed to into the phone.

"Christine", I said, through gritted teeth, "how nice of you to call. OK, tell me all about it."

And so she told me about her fears for the future and what her marriage might turn out to be like – he might become an alcoholic; he might stop loving her; he might turn to other – younger – women; he might not look after her; he might not want to have children. It might all turn out to be a horrible mistake.

… and much, much more in the same vein……

  • Then I made two mistakes. In my defense, it was two in the morning.
  • First I interrupted her, usually a mistake.
  • Then I tried to argue with her – always a mistake.

So I tried to point out to her that she had known this man for four years. In that time he had not drunk any alcohol at all; he had been entirely constant to her – in fact a little more constant than she had been to him (but – hey - let’s just not go there!) He had not looked at another woman and he was looking forward to having a family just as much as she was.

And – predictably - I got absolutely nowhere.

"But Paul!" she said, "that’s what he’s like now – but he might change in the future. People do change. So what if it’s all a mistake?"

And I was forced to admit that, yes, people do change – there’s no denying it. Past record is not necessarily a guide to future performance.

I realized that I wasn’t helping her. So I went another road. I asked her: "Is this really an important question to you?"

"Yes."

"Is it the most important question in your life?"

"Yes."

"Is it a question you simply must answer?"

"Yes."

"Then I think you have to marry the man, because there is no other way you are going to get the answer."

"Oh", she said – and then there was a long silence.

I crossed my fingers.

And finally she said: "Yes… OK… , good night."

And then we both went back to bed.

And next day, for better or for worse; for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health; till death did them part, Walter & Christine both left their nets to follow Jesus together

Sometimes in life, we meet questions that are so important that we have to answer them.

"Is this the right way for me to go?

Is this the right person for me to marry?

Is this what God really wants of my life?

Is this what God created me to be and is calling me to do?"

And sometimes those questions are so important that we cannot let them go by. And, even when we have thought about them, reflected about them, prayed about them – even for years – we don’t really know the answer. Is this my vocation? Or is a mistake – a dead end?

And sometimes the only way to know is to try it and find out. Often these are the key decision points in our life. And what makes them hard is that they may be decisions – like the decision to get married – that, once taken, cannot be taken back. And all we can do is to embark upon them with courage, knowing that we considered all, brought all to mind and made the best decision we could at the time. Whether in years to come we will look back on that decision with pride or with sorrow, we took the best decision we could at the time and we put our trust in the Lord.

I mention Christine today because I heard from her at Christmas (her wedding anniversary was last week). She is happily married with a son called Joshua and a very loving husband. She now indignantly denies that any such telephone conversation ever took place!

Let us stand and profess our Faith in a God who keeps His promises.

Paul O'Reilly SJ <fatbaldnproud@opalityone.net>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

-- Fr. John Boll, OP
 


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