Commentary on the Gospel of
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Mass during the Day
Today is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Those who desire deeper insight may wish to consult Munificentissimus Deus (November 1, 1950). Here, Pope Pius XII declared and explained this dogma of the Church, described as a common belief reflected in “[v]arious testimonies, indications, and signs … evident from remote times down through the course of the centuries; and this same belief becomes more clearly manifest from day to day.” We have a rich history of God at work in his creation, revealing his generous love, wisdom, and mercy toward us. That history points us to his only Son Jesus, who became one of us through his incarnation, and prepares the way for our own participation in divine life through his death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. Mary’s key role in this history is evident in today’s scriptures, which call us to renew our faith. God is indeed great and good!
Revelation is full of enigmatic passages, but the first reading points us clearly to the indispensable role of a woman bearing a child in the unfolding story of our salvation. The context is dramatic, violent, and threatening. The woman endures pain and struggle to bring this child into a dangerous world with death at the door. But in the midst of danger, she gives birth to a son who brings “salvation and power” along with him. The dragon and his reign of death are no match for this new king.
St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians explains further that death is an enemy that has been, and will be, defeated. “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order…” He elsewhere teaches that Christ is the head, and we are his body. Our resurrection is tied to Christ’s resurrection; Christ’s ascension to the Father prepares the way for us to follow to participate in the divine life of the Holy Trinity. (And I cannot help but think that this “proper order” would surely give priority to his mother.) But St. Paul also tells us that we live in a world of “not yet” – enemy operatives in this world have not yet been rendered powerless before God as king. We live with hope, and yet also within a tension that has not yet been resolved.
Luke’s gospel gives us further insights into Mary’s role as the bearer of our Lord. Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, testified not only to the truth of the incarnation, but to Mary’s faith: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Mary’s response is filled with gratitude, joy, and understanding. Mary could not know the details that would unfold, but she knew God was great and good. She could say, “From this day all generations will call me blessed” because she understood God would somehow fulfill his promises through the child she would bring into the world.
These texts lead us to pause and wonder. God chose to share his salvation plan with two women. Neither was recognized for her power or influence. An angel delivered the news to Mary, but Elizabeth received a more subtle message. Through faith, both enthusiastically embraced something wonderous. I am sure they had a lot to talk about over the three months they would spend together.
Other stories are unfolding in this world of imperfection and tension, including our own stories. We will struggle in many conflicts that tend to discourage and weaken us. But we have an even greater repository of truth than Mary had – testimony coming from the gospels and from those who would encounter Jesus and witness his resurrection and ascension into heaven – that forms an even stronger foundation for faith. Can we follow these examples of faith, knowing that God is both great and good, that his promises are sure?
On this holy day, let us pause for awe and wonder and remind one another of these truths. And let us ask St. Michael to defend us in battle, so that we do not fear any dragons that may be about. Thanks be to God.