The Almighty Has Done Great Things For Me
On today’s solemnity of the Assumption we honour Mary, not merely for a great privilege. We celebrate God’s victory in her faith, her poverty and her unassuming service. As she was sure of God’s love, her faith prompted her to accept the unexpected. Humbly and without reservation she served God’s plans. She followed her Son in his life and to his passion and death. This is why she is the first of all believers and the model of what the Church is called to be and what is in store for us. This is why she was the first to share in the total victory of her Son over pains, betrayals, sorrows, losses, sin, evil and, ultimately, over death. Today, she is with him in heaven, body and soul. Her assumption is our assurance of this victory and eternal bliss. Let us thank God today for Mary.
First Reading: Mary Sums Up the Church
Christ is victorious over evil and is taken up into heaven. The woman of our text is the Church, but as Mary was eminently all that the Church is called to be, the liturgy applies the text to her. She is victorious with her Son.
1 Reading: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10
God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she laboured to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems. Its tail swept away a third of the stars in the sky and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod. Her child was caught up to God and his throne. The woman herself fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed One.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 45:10, 11, 12, 16
R. (10bc) The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
The queen takes her place at your right hand in gold of Ophir.
The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
Hear, O daughter, and see; turn your ear,
forget your people and your father’s house. R.
So shall the king desire your beauty;
for he is your lord.
The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
They are borne in with gladness and joy;
they enter the palace of the king. R.
Second Reading: Christ, Cause and Firstfruits of the Resurrection
Christ overcame death by his resurrection. He was the first to rise from the dead, but we shall follow him and rise because of him. This is why Mary, who shared in his life, his mission and suffering, could follow him in heaven, even bodily.
2 Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:20-27
Brothers and sisters: Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through man, the resurrection of the dead came also through man. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the firstfruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ; then comes the end, when he hands over the Kingdom to his God and Father, when he has destroyed every sovereignty and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death, for “he subjected everything under his feet.”
Gospel Introduction: God Exalts the Humble
Mary fully responds in humility and service to the plans of God. She recognizes that her greatness comes from God. It is God who exalts her and who will lift her up into heaven at her assumption. She sums up a humble and serving Church.
Gospel Reading: Luke 1:39-56
Mary then set out for a town in the Hills of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!” And Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my saviour! He has looked upon his servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is his Name! From age to age his mercy extends to those who live in his presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He held out his hand to Israel, his servant, for he remembered his mercy, even as he promised our fathers, Abraham and his descendants forever.” Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned home.
When we want to understand something, we can look for its “story”, its past; in that way we see how it arose. This is usually very useful, and yet there is something unsatisfying about it. We have presumed that the meaning of the present lies in the past. This makes the present (and the future) old before they are born. If someone tried to “explain” you away by mentioning only where you came from and what happened in your past, you would feel rather left out of it, wouldn’t you? You would want to make a strong statement of what you are now, and what you intend and hope for the future.
Scholars are able to see the antecedents of the ‘Magnificat’ in the Old Testament: precisely in Isaiah 29:14, etc., and in the Canticle of Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1S 2:1-10, “My heart exults in Yahweh, I feel strong in my God…. The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labor for bread, but the hungry need work no more….” etc.). Mary is repeating, you might say, what others had said long before she was born.
But when Mary (or indeed anyone) says “My soul glorifies the Lord,” it’s a leap of joy and praise in the present moment; it may have been said many times before, but it’s new now. Quotations are from memory, but joy and praise are in the present moment. Catholics used to be reluctant to pray spontaneously in groups, preferring to say, “What page is that on?” For many people that has changed. But it is good to remember that we don’t have to be saying surprising new things all the time. A prayer could be as old as the hills, but it is perfectly new if it comes from the heart.
What Mary was on earth,
we the Church are called to be:
believing in God’s ways and guidance
even without knowing what the future will bring,
open to one another’s needs,
serving with all that is in us.
May God give you this strength and bless you:
the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. R/ Amen.
Let us go in peace
to love and serve God in our communities. R/ Thanks be to God.