An Introduction to Mary

(Homily for Assumption of Mary)

On April 14, 2001, Rev. Alex Jones, his wife Donna and 62 members of their Detroit congregation joined the Catholic Church. Subsequently he was interviewed by Marcus Grodi, himself a former minister who became Catholic. After talking about their love for Jesus and how it led them to the Church, Marcus asked Alex about his relationship with Mary. He replied that, as a Pentecostal, he knew about Mary – that she was a Virgin, that she suffered great hardships and that she was a very holy woman – but still he needed a more formal presentation. Marcus agreed that as adult converts, it took time to appreciate the feelings many life-long Catholics have for the Blessed Virgin. However, there is a sense in which all of us, like Alex Jones, must be introduced to her. The Feast of the Assumption provides such an opportunity.

The life of Mary was concealed - a “hidden treasure.” She is something like that volcanic moon circling Jupiter - an unexpected source of energy and power. The moon (called Io) has no great energy of its own, but because it is so close to Jupiter, the massive planet’s gravity causes "tides" on Io’s surface which make its interior heat up. Thus, the otherwise cold moon spews powerful volcanoes, making it one of the hottest spots in the solor system. Io’s incredible energy comes not from itself, but from its proximity to Jupiter. Likewise, Mary’s wellspring of grace come from her closeness to Jesus. Of all creatures, she is nearest - carrying him as a tiny embryo, nursing him with her breasts, contemplating him in his perfect humility - and one day walking with him as he effected the perfect sacrifice.

In today’s first reading (Rev. 11:19-12:10), John sees the heavens open, revealing the ark of the covenant. That sacred vessel is replaced by a “woman clothed with the sun.” She has a collective dimension representing the old and new Israel, but she is also a concrete person who gives birth to the Messiah – “a male child destined to rule all the nations.” (v.5)

John glimpsed something, which required time to fully grasp – that the Mother of Jesus has been bodily taken up into heaven. While this is a very great privilege, it should be noted she was not the only one physically assumed. Two Old Testament figures, Elijah and Enoch, had the honor. (Gn 5:24, 2K 2:11, Hb. 11:5) Also, a limited number received an immediate participation in Jesus’ resurrection. (Mt 27:52) That the Mother of Jesus would also be granted such a privilege seems most fitting. Moreover, although the early Christians identified burial places of other New Testament figures like St. Peter and St. Paul, they never pointed to a tomb of Mary, only the site of her “Dormition,” that is, her falling asleep.

Today’s Preface tells us Mary was taken up into heaven to be the “beginning and pattern of the Church in its perfection,” as well as a “sign of hope and comfort” for us who are still pilgrims. This reminds us of the important role of Mary, not only in the life of Jesus, but of all those baptized into him. Is not today a good moment to be re-introduced to her? If you feel a bit tongue tied, I would like to suggest this ancient prayer:

Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary, that it is a thing unheard of, that anyone ever had recourse to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession, and was left forsaken. Filled therefore with confidence in your goodness I fly to you, O Mother, Virgin of virgins. To you I come, before you I stand, a sorrowful sinner. Despise not my poor words, O Mother of the Word of God, but graciously hear and grant my prayer. (The Memorare)


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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

Have you read The DaVinci Hoax? I just finished it and want to recommend it to readers of these homilies. I know that many say that responding to a work of fiction is a waste of time. However, Dan Brown presents his novel as based on historical fact - and a lot of people read it as a true account of Christian origins. Carl Olsen and Sandra Meisel not only respond to the accusations contained in the novel, but in the process give a concise account of early Christian doctrines, the development of the New Testament Canon and the Church in the era of Constantine. Also they give a brief description of Gothic architecture, Leonardo DaVinci's paintings and the real story behind secret societies such as the Templars and the Priory of Sion.

Technically, Brown is a "Gnostic," that is, someone who claims to have a secret knowledge. He asserts that, after two thousand years, he is finally able to make public who Jesus really was: an ordinary human who tried to teach people about the "sacred feminine" as the solution to all our emotional and social problems! The DaVinci Code is a remarkable phenomenon because so many, inside as well as outside the Church, are ready to take seriously this claim. To expose the Gnostic pretentions of Dan Brown is relatively easy. Olson and Meisel do more than that - they show that there is another way of approaching Jesus which is not only more substantial, but also much more intriguing.

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