Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Our Destiny

Today is the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. This can be a difficult teaching of the Catholic Church for some to grasp or even see the relevance of in today's world. Catholics are called to believe that the body and soul of the Mother of Jesus was taken up into heaven sometime in the first century of Christianity. OK, that sounds really beautiful. But what does this have to do with me? What kind of connection do I even have with Mary after all? So her body is "up there"... in heaven. I'm here on earth. I hope I make it to Heaven some day, but that some day can seem pretty distant from my daily life. What difference does it make anyway whether I believe in this or not? Why is the Assumption of Mary a "holy day of obligation" (and that phrase doesn't exactly warm me up inside either). The various denominations of Christianity apart from the Catholic Church often see all this talk of Mary, feast days and prayers, rosaries and medals, as distractions from our relationship with Jesus. And to add to the enigma, there is no mention of Mary being taken body and soul into Heaven in the Bible! But then, there is no mention of the death of St. Joseph, or what happened to several of the Apostles, or the whereabouts of the Cross or the cup Christ used at the last supper. St. John said in his gospel that if he were to write down everything Jesus said and did, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written... OK, so let's just imagine with Shakespeare that there really are more mysteries in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophies. What could this Assumption of Mary mean for me, right here and right now? For us, men and women, young and old, sweating it out here below, paying bills, stressing over work to do and work to be done, aching and longing for time just to be, to love and to be loved, to feel a sense of worth or accomplishment or peace or security, this Assumption of Mary means... that the best is yet to come. It means that all of the baggage we carry along with us through life, the failures and the weaknesses, the crosses and the confusion, the sadness and above all the sin, cannot ultimately destroy us. This burden can be transformed, transfigured, and the dross left behind. If we open up our hearts to grace, the way Mary did throughout her whole life, then sin will not win. If we allow the grace of Christ's death and resurrection into our very bodies through the Eucharist, then, like Mary allowing Him into her womb, our very bodies will explode with Eternal Life! And we can say with St. Paul "O death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?" Mary went before us, running the race and winning the prize. Her life in Heaven, the union of her body with her soul, is an ecstatic trumpet blast that tells us that all shall be well! So we look around and see that the division and the divorce, the heartache and the rupture that exists between our hearts, ever young and longing for LIFE, and our bodies, fading and falling into DEATH, was NOT God's original plan. God's original plan is union, body and soul. Harmony of heart and mind. Sin creeps in to separate, to pull apart and divide. But the promise of the Resurrection that Mary is living right NOW is our promise too. Death will not win, Heaven will happen, and our bodies too will one Dance in that Divine Whirlwind that is God's very own Life Mary, Star of the Sea and Sign of our Destiny, pray for us! +
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