Yesterday, as I was leaving Latrobe, Pennsylvania very early in the morning, while it was still dark, I passed a well-lit bulletin board that said in big letters: GOD IS ABLE. And I thought this sign was perfectly suited to celebrate the mystery of the great Solemnity we celebrate today, the ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. God is able. But it also suits well our celebration of the anniversary of profession of religious vows: Fr. Kevin of the Blessed Trinity celebrates 64 years. Fr. Phillip of the Holy Trinity celebrates 49 years. And today we celebrate especially our brother Elijah of the Eucharist who celebrates 25 years of religious profession, his “silver jubilee.” GOD IS ABLE. GOD IS ABLE.
Christ the Son of God and Word Made Flesh, by choosing (in unity with the whole Trinity) to be the seed sown into the earth of fallen humanity, has made salvation spring forth. Each Advent we sing the Rorate Caeli: “Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down the just one: let the earth be opened and bud forth a Savior.” GOD IS ABLE.
What human being is so bold as to make vows to God wherein he solemnly promises to live a life in conformity to Jesus Christ? Vows to live as one who is poor having no treasure but the Father, as one who is chaste attesting before all creation that only God—who is totally sovereign and totally other—suffices, and as one who is obedient with a heart that is utterly attentive to and moves in tandem with the will of the Heavenly Father?
Well, for one thing, we should ask: who has put such an outrageously brazen desire into the heart of man, who is but dust? (Ps 103:14) Everything points magnificently to God and to God alone. He who has looked with favor on his lowly servant; he who has mercy on those who fear him in every generation; he who lifts up the lowly and fills the hungry with good things. And finally, He who keeps His promise of mercy forever.
We poor human beings, so wounded by the effects of sin and so bound by the affliction of rebelliousness when left to ourselves… God, who is rich in mercy, shows Himself as God precisely by putting into our poor hearts the burning desire to make SUCH outrageously brazen promises in the midst of the Church. And God has made our lowliness the perfect vessel and conduit for His power and glory. So that all the world might know that GOD IS ABLE. We thank God today for the gift of our brothers here, Kevin, Phillip, and Elijah on their anniversary, and especially Elijah as he renews his vows before us today because these Carmelites are a sign that God is faithful to His promises.
Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa writes in the preface of his book, Mary, Mirror of the Church, that Mary is “a letter written by the Finger of God.” We can say… if Mary is a living letter written by the Finger of the Living God, then the whole of her life is a living Gospel of hope for all of us here present. And the mystery of the Assumption that we celebrate is NOT only a mystery concerning Mary but a mystery that concerns all of us and our future in God.
What we see in Mary is the fruition of our baptismal grace. What lies within us is God’s loving power leading us and calling us into the fullness of life—our whole personhood. This grace of Assumption was present within Mary as she spoke her “YES” to the angel Gabriel. It was present within her as she lived each day of her life in the quiet and simplicity of Nazareth. This grace of the Assumption was present in her as she held the limp body of her crucified Son at the foot of the Cross. For Mary, her assumption into heaven was the final surrender of her whole person into God—the fulfillment of her desire to be wholly with her Son, body and soul. It has been said that the real miracle of Mary was not her Assumption per se … but that she did not die of LOVE earlier! since she so strongly desired following the Resurrection to be with Jesus her Son. But God had prolonged her earthly existence so that she could be Mother for the early Church so that she could model for the Church this all-consuming desire for Christ.
We see this event of Mary’s Assumption as the culmination of Mary’s transformation in love. And you and I bear within us, by our baptism, this transforming love. We see in Mary what God desires for each one of us! That the whole of our lives be surrendered in union with God—and, mysteriously that means our bodies as well.