Mary Model of Discipleship

(August 15, 1999, Deacon Derek Lappe)

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the assumption, a dogma declared by Pius XII November 1st 1950 when he wrote "Munificentissimus Deus". In that apostolic constitution the pope taught, as a dogma revealed by God, that "Mary, the immaculate perpetually Virgin Mother of God, after the completion of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into the glory of heaven."

One of the difficulties that many people have with this dogma is the fact that nowhere in Sacred Scripture does it explicitly say anything about Mary being assumed into heaven. So what is the source of the Church's understanding of Mary's glorification in heaven? We can see images and prophecies of this event in, for example, the first reading, the woman clothed with the sun, with a crown of stars and the moon at her feet. This vision by St. John points to Mary glorified in heaven.

Another place that is very important is the story of the fall in Genesis. After the sin of Adam, and because of this sin God says to Adam, "You shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken. For you are dust and to dust you shall return." It was because of the sin of Adam and Eve that sin and death were able to enter the world, however with Mary, we know that God prepared her beforehand to bear the Son of God so that she was immaculately conceived, conceived without sin. The Church than simply says that Mary, not sharing in the sin of Adam, could not be subjected to the curse of death, which came with that sin. As we read in the second reading today from Paul's letter to the Corinthians, "For just as in Adam all die", clearly it is through his fault that all are subjected to death. But because of the great role that Mary was to play in the history of salvation God prepared her, with unmerited grace to make her worthy of bearing the Son of God into the world, of giving Jesus Christ his human nature.

It is an "unmerited grace" as Mary herself tells us in the Gospel today. When she says, "from this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me." So Mary humbly gives all the credit to God, for the wonderful work he has done in her. Mary is also blessed because she has believed what was spoken to her by the Lord. And as Jesus tells us in the Gospel of St. Luke, Mary is blessed because she has, "heard the Word of God and kept it." And we also hear in St. Luke's Gospel how Mary "pondered these things in her heart."

So in Mary we see a loving attentiveness to hearing the Word of God, of pondering the word of God, and of living, following the Word of God. Her following the Word is most clearly exemplified standing at the foot of the Cross when nearly everyone else had abandoned Our Lord. Mary is the model of believers and disciples. We look to her for an example of how it is that one lives the Christian life. Following that example of Our Mother then, we hear the Word, we ponder it, and we follow the Word. Hearing the Word at Mass and in our daily reading of Scripture we then need to deeply ponder and meditate on that Word, which then moves us to live the Gospels in our own lives. Sometimes also like Mary at the foot of the Cross, being a faithful disciple can be a lonely and difficult task. But Mary, having clung so closely to Christ in life now has nothing perishable to leave behind on earth, and this is our own goal also.

The Assumption in some ways is like a deposit on the promise of resurrection that Jesus makes to all of us. Mary is assumed into heaven as the forerunner of our own destiny as those who believe in and follow Jesus.

At Calvary the faithful mother followed her Son to the foot of the Cross and there she saw the Son of God in the figure of the suffering Jesus redeeming the world. In the sacrifice of the Mass it as if we are transported back to that very scene when we discern, when we see in the figure of the bread and the wine the real flesh and blood of the Son of God, who comes to save his people.

(Given at Holy Family Seattle)


Picture of Deacon Derek

From Archives (Homily for Assumption):

2010: I Am In Love
2004: An Introduction to Mary
1999: Patroness of the Unborn
Homily by Deacon Derek Lappe: Mary Model of Discipleship

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C


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