The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
August 15, 2021 – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Luke: 1:39-56
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Rarely (except for this Sunday) does a major feast of the Church occur on Sundays, thus out-shining the importance of the ordinary Sunday liturgy. Today we celebrate the important feast of the Assumption, a feast that recalls and honors Mary who was taken by God into heaven. She is now fully present with the loving God and her son, Jesus Christ.
Let’s mindfully read the gospel chosen for today’s feast, which recalls Mary visiting her pregnant cousin, Elizabeth. I was struck by something I had never noticed before, namely, Mary’s reaction to Elizabeth’s attempt to praise Mary because of her role in God’s plan for us.
While Elizabeth wanted to praise Mary, Mary immediately diminished her own importance in pointing out that this was God’s doing. God, she said, should be the focus of attention, not her.
Certainly, she had a major role to play in God becoming one of us, but she was not its cause. To use the language of that time, she was but a handmaid, a helper. Praise and thanksgiving should therefore be focused on God, not her. In the words of today’s gospel, the Almighty has done great things for me.
And when her time on earth came to an end, God took her into everlasting life. Into eternal joy where she is right now as you read this. And, I like to think of her, looking at each of us and loving us, like a mother’s love for her children.
So, does that mean that all attention should be focused on God and none on Mary? No! This life of ours (and hers) is not what we call today a zero-sum matter. We rightfully give God 100% attention, and on this feast of Mary, we also give her 100%. She opened her life completely to what she perceived as God’s intent for her. She did not hold back. She gave her all.
This feast invites us to think about one of life’s great mysteries. What do we properly attribute to God’s effort on our behalf, and what do we claim as our role? Is God everything and we are nothing? Not at all. I am reminded of an approach to this mystery of divine and human cooperation attributed to St. Ignatius Loyola. He said that we should pray as if everything depended on God and act as is everything depended on us. This was how Mary thought of her life with God. So might we.
©David M. Thomas, PhD