1 Mary was intimately united with her Son, Jesus. She conceived and gave birth to Him. With Joseph she took Him to safety in Egypt, returning to Nazareth to care for Him as he grew up. She sought him in sorrow when he got lost in the temple. She accompanied him all the way to the foot of the Cross. Here the sword that pierced His heart pierced her soul (cf. Lk 1: 35-36). United so intimately with Jesus, it was only right that at the end of her earthly life she be assumed into heaven to be united with Him forever. Having shared so intimately in His battle against sin and death, it was only right that she share in His glorious victory by being assumed into heaven.
2 True devotion to Mary does not detract from Jesus but draws us closer to Him.
Mary teaches us to be Christocentric, to be totally focused on Christ, advising us to ‘’Do whatever He tells you’ (Jn 2:5). When she appears on earth (at Fatima, Lourdes, Guadalupe etc) she speaks not about herself but about Him and his work of salvation. Yes, we love to praise Mary. But she never seeks this praise and deflects it all to her Son, saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1:46). Mary’s beautiful light is in fact the reflection of her Son’s light, just as the moonlight is the reflection of the sunlight.
3 In the early Church towns would compete with each other for the honour of having the tomb or relics of a martyr or saint. But this was not so in the case of Mary. No earthly tomb containing her body nor any relics of her were ever discovered or claimed. Why? Because she was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory. Could Jesus allow the womb that bore him, the hands that caressed him, the arms that embraced him, the breasts nourished him, the heart that so loved him, to decay and crumble into dust? Never! Could He allow to corrupt in the grave the body of his sinless, pure Mother, whose flesh and blood he was? Never! He had the power to bring her to Himself, and He did so at the end of her earthly life. He honoured his mother.
4 The Assumption of Mary into heaven was proclaimed a dogma in 1950. Does this mean that this belief was invented in 1950? Of course not! Already from the early centuries we find widespread belief in Mary’s Assumption and feasts honouring it. Our Catholic belief is much more than official dogmas which are proclaimed only when necessary. So why did the Pope formally declare the Assumption to be a dogma in 1950?
5 To emphasize the sanctity and dignity of the human body. It was just after two devastating world wars that produced over a hundred million corpses. People had been killed like flies and human life had become cheap. The 1950s was also the dawn of the devastating sexual revolution. Sex was no longer reserved for a man and wife seeking to have children. Instead the body of another was viewed as a toy to be used for one’s self-gratification. This immorality was facilitated by the increasing acceptance of contraceptives, and of abortions, the killing in the womb of ‘unwanted’ babies.
6 Counteracting all this, the dogma of the Assumption proclaimed that Mary “was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” So the body is not a toy for pleasure but is sacred, destined for the glory of heaven! Some decades later Pope St. John-Paul stated, “In the face of the profanation and debasement to which modern society frequently subjects the female body, the mystery of the Assumption proclaims the supernatural destiny and dignity of every human body, called by the Lord to become an instrument of holiness and to share in his glory” (GA, July 9,1997). Most non-Christians think that the afterlife is only for our souls. They are wrong. The human body is not like a prison from which the soul finally escapes at death, not like the skin a snake sheds. No! We are embodied beings. We are our bodies. Jesus and then Mary entered heaven ‘body and soul’ and so will we.
7 The gospel word for “resurrection” is ‘anastasis’ - from ana (again) and stasis (stand). So ‘resurrection’ means to ‘stand again’. Yes, our bodies will decay in the grave. But in the resurrection they will stand again, be restored and reunited again with our spirits. Our bodies are sacred, destined for the glory of heaven.
What does this mean practically? Firstly, we must bury with great respect the bodies of our deceased. In the case of cremation, the cremated remains must not be scattered but should be respectfully buried in the ground, columbarium or in a garden of remembrance. Secondly, we must not harm the human body - through murder, abortion, euthanasia etc. Thirdly, we must not mutilate our bodies by attempting to change our God-given sex. As Genesis says, ‘’male and female He created them’’ (Gen 1:27). And finally, we respect the body by avoiding all over-indulgence - whether in sex, drugs, drink, food or manner of dress. St. Paul says, “Your body is not meant for immorality but for the Lord...your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you...glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 126.96.36.199).
8 The Assumption of Mary fills us earthly pilgrims with great joy and hope. Let us now pray, “All-powerful and ever-living God, You raised the sinless Virgin Mary, mother of your Son, body and soul, to the glory of heaven. May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory."
1 Christians are the most persecuted group in the world as witnessed in the Middle East, in western/central Africa and in a host of other countries. Also today in ‘Western’ countries practising Christians [not ‘nominal’ Christians who have sold out] face increasing mockery, victimization and job loss. Catholic schools, hospitals and orphanages have for centuries helped especially the poor. Now they face closure unless they embrace the novel sexual morality (abortion, assisted suicide, ‘same-sex marriage’, gender fluidity etc) which is opposed to twenty centuries of the Judeo-Christian Biblical ethic. Apart from this public turmoil we Christians have our personal turmoil: the temptation to sin, spiritual dryness, illness, family problems, crime, unemployment etc. How are we to respond to all this turmoil? Today’s readings tell us: with courage and hope in God.
2 The first reading describes how Elijah, having fled from the vengeful Queen Jezebel, arrives exhausted at the holy mountain of Horeb (Sinai). God commands him to wait for the passing of his presence. There comes a wind, earthquake and fire - but God is not in these dramatic phenomena. God finally comes in a “a still, small voice”, literally in ‘’the sound of sheer silence’’ (1 Kgs 19:12). In this silence God speaks to Elijah, renewing his faith. A question: in our hearts, in our homes, in Sunday Mass: is there an atmosphere of silence allowing us to hear God speaking? Many of us seek God in spectacular miracles, sensational healings, appearances and visions, as well as in ‘dynamic’, ‘vibrant’ Masses dominated by lights and sounds. Therefore we miss God who normally enters the heart in ordinary quiet, prayerful ways, without fanfare.
3 For the Jews the wild, uncontrollable sea was the domain of the Evil One and his demonic monsters. It was God alone ‘who trampled the waves of the sea’, literally ‘who trampled the back of the sea dragon’ (Job 9:8). By walking over the wild waters and calming the storm Jesus shows he is God. He also shows he is God by applying to himself the name of God as he calls out ‘ego eimi’ (‘it is I’ or ‘I am’). ‘Ego eimi’ is God’s very name as he revealed it to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:14).
4 Walking on the waves of the storm, Jesus calls Peter to Himself. Peter responds courageously, stepping out of the boat and beginning to walk on the water towards Jesus. As Jesus called Peter, He also calls us – whether to the married state; to religious life; to single life; to a career; to certain tasks or projects etc. As Peter stepped out the boat trusting in God, we too must courageously step out and ‘walk on water’, passing victoriously through the inevitable challenges and storms that God’s calling entails.
5 However, Peter began to sink “as soon as [he] took account of the winds’’. Our earthly life is like a journey across the sea to the shores of heaven. Clear, sunny days are interspersed with storms (crises in the world e.g. Covid 19, problems in our country, family and personal lives). Like Peter, we will sink if we take our eyes off Jesus. A young trainee sailor was told to climb the mast. Halfway up he made the mistake of looking down at the big waves. He became dizzy and in danger of falling. An old sailor called out to him: ‘’Look up at the sky, boy! Look up, not down!’’ The boy did this and completed his climb safely. We must remain focused on the Lord to pass safely through the storms of life.
6 God is not only waiting for us on the shore but he is also journeying together with us in Jesus, our Saviour. Beginning to sink, Peter cried out. ‘Immediately’ the Lord saved him. When on our journey we begin to fall, albeit through our own fault, we must cry out to the merciful Lord. Immediately he will stretch out to us his saving hand.
7 As Jesus lifts Peter safely into the boat, the ferocious storm abates. To cross the sea of life, rather than swimming alone, going it alone, we should enter the boat. The boat is the Church founded and led by Christ Himself who said, “the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” [my church] (Mt 16:18). Indeed through the various storms of 2000 years, the Church has never capsized but guided her people safely across the sea.
8 Elijah and Peter emerged from their storms with renewed faith. May the storms of life that inevitably arise serve to strengthen our character and faith until we can say to Jesus, together with those disciples in the boat, ‘’Truly you are the Son of God.’’ Even as we feel the spray in our face, let us keep our eyes fixed on the Master of the wind and waves, who calls out, “Take heart. It is I. Have no fear.’’ The Lord will lead us safely across the choppy sea of life to the shores of heaven, where strife and suffering are no more but only everlasting peace and joy.