Monday, September 6, 2010

Assumption of the Blessed Mother

Today we are celebrating the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. To be more specific, we celebrate the fact that (in the words of Pope Pius XXII) “When the course of her earthly life was finished, Mary the Mother of Jesus, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, to be exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she will be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death”
There are 4 Marian dogmas which the Church has declared Mary the Mother of God, Mary born without sin and sinless life, (What we call the Immaculate Conception), Mary’s perpetual virginity and of course what we are celebrating today, her bodily assumption into heaven to be exalted as queen over all things. These 4 teachings have been declared infallible dogmas which mean that they had been elevated to the same level of fundamental Catholic truths such as the belief that Jesus is God, that he died and rose again and that he is present body, blood soul and divinity in the Eucharist. To put it in simple terms, if we do not profess these beliefs we should not call ourselves Catholic.
Now I know what you might be thinking, nobody likes to be told what they should or should not believe, especially in religious matters. After all we are intelligent beings with freedom and reason, we do not need anyone to tell us what to think right?
Believe or not I honestly think that this it is very healthy attitude. It is very important for our faith to be questioned and even for us to struggle to believe and make sense of these infallible dogmas, because for believers doubt is one of the ways the Holy Spirit uses to prompt us into deepening in the knowledge our faith. The trick is to be humble enough to, at the end of day be able to say “I might not be convinced yet, but I trust in the Church’s divine wisdom more than I trust my own”
So today I will try to give some of the reasons why we should believe these 4 dogmas, but most importantly, what is the meaning of denying their truth.
Why it is so critical for me as catholic to believe that Mary was conceived without sin or that she was assumed body and soul into heaven. To get an answer to this question we must take a look at another infallible dogma of our faith: The incarnation. We believe that Jesus Christ the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity, the Son of God the Father became a human being like you and me.
The Son of God took his human flesh from his mother. Nobody else contributed to this. God took part of Mary’s own flesh and molded a 100% human expression of his son from her flesh, and deposited this expression in her womb, to grow into a cell, zygote, a fetus, a baby, a child and a man. Mary is the true mother of Jesus which is true God and True man; the First Marian dogma. To say that Mary is the mother of God, confirms the dogma of the incarnation because if we say that Mary is not the mother of God or that, somehow she is the mother of Jesus but not the mother of God we say that Jesus us not who he said he is, and that worst, that our understanding of the incarnation is different than what have been revealed to the Church.
The second Marian dogma says that Mary was sinless from the moment of her conception and remained sinless all of her life. Let’s think about this for a moment. The flesh that was touched by the complete divinity of God, which made the incarnation possible, must have been a very special flesh. The book of Genesis tells us that God will make enemies of the serpent and “the woman” that will carry his offspring. The angel Gabriel called Mary 'full of grace'. If mortal sin is the complete absence of God's glory and grace, and the woman of genesis is the enemy of the tempter, it is proper to say that God had planned for Mary to conceive Jesus in a state of complete sinlessness. Which begs the question when did this sinlessness begin? It must have begun when her life began, at the moment of her own conception, since Jesus had not died yet to free creation from the yoke of original sin. Thus we believe that by a special act of grace, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her life. This is what we call the Immaculate Conception. To think that somehow the flesh that God had selected for the incarnation of His son, was somehow defiled by sin is to say that God appropriated for himself something that was less than was worthy of his majesty and dignity. The Immaculate Conception preserves our understanding of Jesus Divinity and Gods eternal majesty.
The Church also teaches that Mary continued in this state of perfection throughout her life, and that part of this perpetual state of purity was manifested by her decision to remain a virgin her whole life; which is the third of the Marian dogmas. To say that after Jesus was born, Mary rejected her special relationship with God, the fullness of grace the angel speaks about, by sinning is to say that somehow on Mary, the one person who was the closest to Jesus, who carried Him for nine months in her womb; her encounter with Jesus had little or no effect in her life. Mary’s long life without sin by the grace of God, and her perpetual virginity reaffirms the effect the incarnation had in her own life. She remained in this state because of the effect of the incarnation in her.
And now, finally, we arrive to the 4th Marian dogma: the assumption, which in my opinion has always been the easiest to explain. My brothers and sisters I want you to think about this for a second, if we say that we believe in the incarnation of Jesus as true god and true man; what we are saying is that our Lord had the same feelings towards His mother that we all have towards our own mothers, but with the added benefit of been God.
My own mother went to the Lord 5 years ago, there are times in which I wish I could talk to her and times in which I wish I could share the important moments of my life with her. To think that after he went to heaven in his glorified, resurrected body, the highest level of perfection a human being can achieve, our Lord will make Mary wait until the last day to give her, her just reward, especially after she lived a faithful life of service to him and his church, is to think that He is beyond the normal feelings of any human being. Our Lord Jesus has the power to do things we can only wish we could do!
To say that Mary died and that she is not participating in the Glory of her son with her own glorified body, is to say that Jesus somehow does not love his own mother as much as we can love our own. Is to believe that Jesus is a lesser man than us! The assumption confirms that in the mystery of the incarnation Jesus is in fact true man.
My brothers and sisters the 4 Marian dogmas have been defined not out of the desire to exalt Mary at the same level of Jesus, but because they flow and confirm what the Holy Spirit has revealed to the Church about the mystery of the incarnation. To deny any of these is to have a different understanding of who Jesus really is and what it means that he became flesh and dwelled among us.
I hope that my words today will inspire you to learn more about these beautiful mysteries of our faith so we can all love Mary as much as Jesus, true God and true man, loves her. Amen.