Mary's Assumption inspires us to follow her example Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

On November 1, 1950, more than 500,000 joyful people packed St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Pius XII proclaim the dogma of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.

In Munificentissimus Deus, Pope Pius XII proclaimed that “the “Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into Heavenly glory.”

In no. 59 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, the Second Vatican Council affirmed this dogma of the Church.

God’s children in need

Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the Assumption to counter the loss of reverence and respect for the God-given identity of every human being.

In the first half of the 20th century, millions of persons who imaged God died in wars. Millions more died from poverty and diseases that could have been prevented by more active Christ-like concern.

War continues today. And according to the United Nations World Food Program, there are more than 925 million undernourished people in today’s world. One in seven people goes to bed hungry every night. Most are children. Hunger and malnutrition are the number one risk to health worldwide — greater than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

Obligation to the poor

In the “Magnificat”, from the Gospel of the Assumption, Mary reminds us of our obligation to the poor, the hungry, and those whom society regards as the least of God’s people.

Early in his pontificate, Pope John Paul II visited Latin America, including all the then military dictatorships. In at least one country, government officials removed the “Magnificat” from his speech because of following words: “God has shown the strength of his arm and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent away empty.”

Mary’s Assumption reminds us that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, destined for resurrection. She teaches us to respect our bodies and life across the board from womb to tomb. Mary, mother of the Prince of Peace, motivates us to work for peace in our families and in the world.

In the “Magnificat,” Mary also says, “From this day all generations will call me blessed. The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

We Catholics have helped to fulfill Mary’s prophecy by calling her the Blessed Mother. In the “Hail Mary,” we pray, “Blessed are you among women. And blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

Faithful discipleship

Mary reminds us of our need to pray. As Mother of the Church, Mary devoted herself to prayer for nine days with the apostles in preparation for Pentecost when the Church was born.

From Mary, we can learn to listen, reflect, and live the Word of God. We can pray for the grace to be faithful to our baptismal promises and join Mary in Heaven.

Mary’s Assumption is God’s response to her committed discipleship. She is Christ’s first and greatest disciple, who followed him to the cross when nearly everyone else abandoned him. Like Mary under the cross, being a faithful disciple can be lonely and difficult.

Paul Claudel, a great French Catholic writer, once wrote that the feast of the Assumption is for days when the rent is due, when the baby keeps crying, and it is raining outside (and inside). In such difficult times, we can seek Mary’s help and intercession and imitate her faithfulness and openness to God’s will.

Imitating Jesus

The Second Vatican Council placed the teaching about Mary within its document on the Church. This showed that Mary was the model for the Church and for every disciple. If we want to follow Mary into Heaven, we must strive to be a saint by imitating Jesus as she did.

On August 22, we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, the fifth glorious mystery of the Rosary. It follows the (glorious) mystery of her Assumption observed on August 15. Mary is queen, not because she wears a crown, but because of her response to grace. Her soul overflowed with the beauty of humility, obedience, and love.

In the “Magnificat” Mary says, “The Almighty has done great things for me.” Mary adds, “God has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.” We hope and pray for God’s merciful judgment.

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin speaks to our deep hope that we will live not just in the memory of others, but forever in glory. By imitating Mary’s life of faithful discipleship through grace, we hope to enjoy God face to face in the Beatific Vision. With Mary, the angels, and saints, we look forward to the joy of heaven forever.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.