15 August 2006: The Assumption of Mary
Luke 1, 39-56: The Care of both Body and Soul, and the recognition of the Role of Women in the Church
On November 1, 1950, Pius XII defined the Assumption of Mary to be a dogma of faith: “We pronounce, declare and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma that the immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul to heavenly glory.” So, no human has ever been exalted than Mary: she was born without sin, miraculously conceived a child who is God, cared and shared His life while He was on earth, and assumed into heaven body and soul.
What makes her deserving of such exaltation and recognition? I believe it is because she had dedicated her life following God’s will. Mary's obedience to the will of the Father is lovely. Mary forgets the most common prayer--- "Let your will be changed" or "Let my will be done" ---- and prays the greatest prayer "Let Your will be done." Her Son, Jesus will pray the same thing at the Agony in the Garden: "Not my will, but Your will be done." Maybe, He learned the prayer from His mom. And it stuck that he taught it to his friends. And his friends in turn taught it to us: the "Our Father."
First, the Assumption teaches us to care for our souls by praying. Mary’s prayer teaches us that the greatest prayer is simple and unadorned. Even if it is a cry of the heart in the midst of a scandal. You see, just as the family tree of Jesus contains saints and sinners, Jesus' birth is also surrounded by scandal. Mary is found to be pregnant before she has lived with Joseph. Joseph, who is a just man, decides to divorce her quietly. In other words, he will put her out of his life. Joseph is not open to scandal. The angel who appears to him entreats him not to fear scandal. Joseph should take Mary into his home. And thus, this story drives home the proper attitude toward the strange and scandalous: do not be afraid to take it into your home.
A disciple came to his Master at midnight. He was distraught.
"Master, I need to talk to you immediately. I am filled with anxiety and fear."
"Right this way," said the Master. The master opened a door that led down a long corridor. It was unlit, but the master had a candle in his hand.
"You go first," said the master.
As the disciple moved down the corridor, the master blew out the light.
Mary's prayer was simple. She said yes, though she was anxious of the scandal that that consent might bring her. Her attitude towards scandal was to bring it home. Her attitude towards fear is to enter into the darkness. They say "There is no other way to face fear, than to face it."
This is simple prayer. Most of us yearn for prayer and hide from prayer. We are afraid to pray because we want to have everything "just right" in order to pray. We used to think that we need to get all our motives straightened out before we could pray. We want to have our motives purified. We want to pray pure, without the scandals that mess our souls, without the fear that cripples our hearts.
But the truth of the matter is, we all come to prayer with a tangled mass of motives: other-centered and selfish, merciful and hateful, loving and bitter. We come with some parts clean and some parts messy. We come to pray, trusting God, like Mary, that He would work His way even in the midst of all this mixture. That the heart of God is big enough to receive us. To accept the scandals in our lives. In our families.
Second, the Assumption teaches us to care for our bodies because our bodies are equally sacred as our souls.
Joke 1: Bakit nakayuko ang biik? Sagot: Kasi nahihiya dahil ang nanay niya ay baboy.
Joke 2: Bakit nakayuko ang kambing? Sagot: Kasi nahihiya dahil ang nanay niya ay may bigote.
The point is this: many of us do not like our bodies dahil para tayong baboy, o kung babae, may bigote. We think we are ugly if we are kayumanggi or dark-skinned. We apply all sorts of creams and soaps with skin whiteners.
Or, we do not care for our health. You see our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Ang iba lang diyan, ginagawang cathedral ang katawan!
The Assumption of Mary teaches us the importance of women in our lives. No human being has ever been exalted as Mary, a woman. The Church now duly recognizes the dignity of women, and the fact that women have exercised positions of leadership and influence in the history of the Church. This positive change was reflected in Pope John XXIII’s encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963) and was reinforced by Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes. In 1971, Pope Paul VI issued a “Call to Action (Octagesima Adveniens) in which he referred to the struggle to end discrimination against women in many countries, and in that same year, the 1971 Synod of Bishops, urged that “women should have their own share of responsibility and participation in the community life of society and likewise of the Church.”
Today, then, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Feast of the Assumption we remember to care for our bodies and souls, and to respect the dignity of women and the role of women in the Church.