Assumption inspires us to follow Mary's example Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

A priest asked a class of second graders, "How many of you want to go to Heaven?" Every little hand went up.

The priest responded, "How many of you want to be a saint?"

The children glanced at each other with puzzled looks. Most of them put their hands down.

"Well, boys and girls," the priest said, "Since no one wants to be a saint, we have a problem. To get to Heaven, you must be saintly or Christ-like. So let me ask again, 'How many of you want to be a saint?'"

Every hand quickly went up! The priest's hand joined their hands.

From the faith of the people

Mary is the holiest of the saints. On August 15, the Church celebrates her assumption into heaven. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is stated, "The Most Blessed Virgin Mary, when the course of her earthly life was completed, was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven, where she already shares in the glory of her Son's resurrection, anticipating the resurrection of all members of his body" (no. 974).

The Assumption is the oldest Marian feast of the liturgy. But the Assumption of Mary was not proclaimed as a dogma until November 1, 1950, on All Saints Day. Its proclamation as a dogma rose partially from the sensus fidelium, the faith of the people.

From 1849 to 1950, Rome received petitions to proclaim Mary's Assumption as a dogma from more than 8,000,000 lay persons and 84,000 priests and religious, including cardinals and bishops.

In 1946 Pope Pius XII issued an encyclical Deiparae Virginis asking the bishops to consult with the clergy and laity as to whether the teaching of the Assumption ought to be defined as dogma. When the results were more than 99 per cent in favor, the Holy Father interpreted this agreement of "ordinary teaching authority" as proof that the Assumption of Mary is a truth revealed by God.

Loss of reverence for life

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.

To Jesus, human life is so precious that he would have died for even one of us. Yet according to Fr. Brian Joyce, in the first 50 years of the 20th century, there was the slaughter and genocide of the Armenian people, the loss of 10 million lives in World War I and 50 million in World War II, 40 million in the Russian Revolution, six million Jews in the holocaust, and the invention and use of the atomic bomb. The Korean conflict had also begun.

The pope intended that the celebration of the Assumption of Mary make clear the sacredness and the high heavenly destiny of every human person.

Imitating Mary

William Wordsworth called Mary "our tainted nature's solitary boast." She is who we would be like except for original sin. If we want to follow Mary into heaven, we must strive to be a saint by imitating Jesus as she did.

Like Jesus, Mary can teach us to pray. The Acts of the Apostles tell us that she devoted herself to prayer for nine days with the apostles in preparation for Pentecost.

Mary is full of grace and fully open to God's will. She said "yes" to the unknown demands of mothering the Messiah.

An inmate at the Oregon Correctional Center sketched a picture of Mary holding a broom. Certainly Mary swept the house as she served her family and offered her work to God. Her example inspires us to do the same.

Mary teaches us to bear our suffering patiently and courageously. Her suffering reached a peak under the cross when she joined her suffering with that of Jesus.

United hearts

The Assumption celebrates Mary's eternal companionship with Jesus. The hearts of Jesus and Mary were perfectly united in Heaven as they were on earth. Mary inspires us to seek to unite our heart with Jesus' heart.

Mary is saddened when we, her children, are violent to each other and fail to respect the gift of life. She expressed her concern for the poor in the "Magnificat."

Mary is the mother of Jesus. She is also our spiritual mother who will never forget us, her children. She intercedes for us and helps us to follow Jesus.

If we imitate Mary and Jesus, then we hope and pray that through God's merciful grace we will follow Mary to heaven.

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