Friday August 15, 2003 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Assumption
Reading I (Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab)
Reading II (1 Corinthians 15:20-27) Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-56)
As we celebrate today the glorious solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we have to recognize the importance of this feast and why we hold it in such honor. We hear in the second reading about Jesus being raised from the dead, and that following from Him will be each person in their proper order. When we think about Our Lord, Saint Paul makes very clear that He is the new Adam, and that just as death came through man so the resurrection of the dead will come through man also. Jesus is the first to rise from the dead, just as the sin that our first parents committed was ultimately the sin of Adam. While both had a part, it was Adam who had the greater sin. So too, because Our Lord is the Redeemer of the world, He is the first to rise from the dead. But because Our Lady had such an intimate part in Our Lord’s life, not only in bearing Him, giving Him birth, and nourishing Him, but in giving her entire life to the service of the redemption, to the service of our Redeemer, she therefore is the firstfruits after Christ.
And so as we celebrate the Resurrection, we must understand that today we celebrate the resurrection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is the day that she was taken both body and soul into Heaven. Her body already shares in the resurrection from the dead. She has a glorified body, just as ours one day will be, provided that we die in the state of grace and our souls go to Heaven. Our bodies one day will be reunited with our souls, and our bodies along with our souls will live forever. So Our Lady already shares in the resurrection from the dead. This is important to us because as Elizabeth spoke to Mary in the Gospel reading regarding the Incarnation and said, “Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s words to you would be fulfilled,” so too those words can be spoken of Our Lady today: Blessed is she because she believed that Our Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled, that Our Lord’s words to all of us would be fulfilled, that we would be raised to new life, that we would share in the resurrection from the dead, that we would be glorified forever in Heaven.
We must learn from Our Lady, then, how to do this. She put her entire life at the service of Christ, and that is what we are to do as well. That is going to be our ultimate glory. For too many of us, our entire life is at the service of ourselves. Even when we place our lives at the service of others – for instance, those who are parents and place their lives at the service of their families and of one another as spouses – we must be very careful to make sure that even that is done for the Lord. Our Lady put her life at the service of Saint Joseph and of Jesus, but that is because she recognized it was the Will of God. Everything she did was done out of love for God, and flowing from that, out of love for neighbor. That is precisely what we must do.
Like Our Lady, we too, each one of us, must be an ark of the covenant to bring Jesus Christ into the world. We can do that only if we are united with Christ. Our Lady was so perfectly united with Christ that there was this beautiful exchange that we celebrate today. In the Incarnation, God came down from Heaven to take on our humanity in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that she shared as the ark of the covenant both body and soul. It as not merely her soul which glorified God, as we heard in the Gospel reading, but her body as well. Her body itself is the ark of the covenant, which is why for Mary it is not just her soul that has been taken up to Heaven but her body also because it was in her body that she bore the Lord. But now we see that beautiful exchange that as God came down from Heaven to take on our humanity, our humility, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, now He has taken Mary into Heaven to share in His glory, to share in the glory of the divinity. Not that she becomes God, but that she has now been absorbed into the Godhead where she will glorify God forever. That is what the Lord wants to do for each one of us. If we are willing in our hearts to allow Him in and to bring Him into the world as Our Lady did, to become an ark of the covenant, then He will come to each one of us as He does in Holy Communion, as He does in the Indwelling of the Trinity. And if we are willing to allow Him to shine through us, and if we are willing to allow His glory to be seen in us and through us in this world, then He will bring us both body and soul to share in His glory in Heaven, to share in His divinity, and to glorify God forever.
It is this which we celebrate today: that in one who is our own, the Blessed Virgin Mary (who is not a goddess, but who is a human woman just like any other human woman; who is one of us, a human person), the promises of God that we would share in the resurrection have been fulfilled in her, which gives to us not only the confidence but the guarantee that the Lord’s words spoken to us will be fulfilled in each one of us as well: that as the firstfruits we too will rise from the dead. Body and soul will be united once again, and, provided that we die in the state of grace having lived in this world as arks of the covenant of Christ, we will then be able to live forever – body and soul – in the glory of the resurrection.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.