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Thursday, 13 August 2020

Assumption of Our Lady 2020

 Assumption of Our Lady                
    (Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; 1st. Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56)

The Assumption of Our Lady -- celebrated in the Eastern Liturgy since the 6th. Century, and in that of Rome since the 7th. -- was defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950 as a dogma of our faith.  It states that, at the end of her life on earth, Mary did not know corruption, but was taken up to heaven -- assumed body and soul - into heavenly glory.

That is the first point I want to stress today: Mary was taken up to heaven as a human being, in her human flesh; the whole person of Mary, the body and soul of a woman, is supremely happy in heavenly glory, showing us that the joys of heaven are for our human fulfilment and glorification.  In heaven we will see and experience unimaginable heights of divine beauty and truth, goodness, faithfulness and mercy: they may, at the most, be but fleetingly envisaged even in the course of a whole lifetime of commitment and devotion to God here on earth; but, the delight that mere glimpse bestows is enough for overflowing gratitude and profound humility to reign in the human mind and heart.

However, it may help us ‘earthlings’ to try to appreciate certain positive aspects of that life. 

Imagine, for example, a farming couple who started out with a small holding, who had to struggle through years of natural adversity, drought, floods, blights of various kinds, and through periods when capital was short and anxiety was oppressive.  Imagine such a couple, years later, when their farm has grown beyond anything they might have anticipated; when the can look out upon acres upon acres of fine crops growing and feel secure in the knowledge that they have built up something which will last because it is established on firm foundations of hard work and sound finance.  Their joy on looking out over their smiling fields will be all the greater because they are now seeing the fruitful outcome of all the efforts they had made over the years before.

Our experience of heaven will be similar to that in that its joys will not be something entirely new and unconnected with our earthly experiences. We will recognise the great mystery and goodness of the divine love which originally called and steadfastly guided us throughout our lives, which endowed us with personal God-given abilities and the gifts of human friendship and love we have experienced in our dearest relationships.  We will rejoice to understand why/how a concatenation of seemingly ‘chance’ happenings gradually shaped our lives, and how certain truths of our faith -- such as the fear of God -- guided and protected us in ways we had not known or appreciated before.  In other words, heavenly joy will be the full flowering and glorious fulfilment of all that has been truly beautiful and worth-while in our lives as disciples of Jesus on pilgrimage through this world.  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (8:29-30) writes:

Whom (the Father) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined these He also called; whom He called these He also justified; and whom He justified these He also glorified.

Mary is indeed the only one who has shared in the glory of Jesus so far, it is His supreme gift to His most faithful and loving mother; but since she is -- by His gift -- also our mother, all His true disciples can receive and one day will receive, with her, their share in His glory when He comes in the fullness of time to judge the world.  Mary has already been glorified in her humanity: she is the pledge that what Jesus won in His triumph over sin and death, has been won for all His true disciples. 

Now let us turn our minds back to the first reading where we heard:

            A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun.

Pope Paul VI strongly suggested that Our Lady of Fatima’s appearance was the fulfilment of that prophecy, and Pope St. John Paul II not only suggested but even affirmed that this “great sign in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun” has been fulfilled, after 1900 years, in the events that took place at Fatima on the 15th. October 1917 when 70,000 people saw the “sun dance”.

Let me read the account in the masonic and anti-clerical newspaper “O Seculo” reporting those events:

We saw the huge crowd turn toward the sun which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds.  It resembled a flat plate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn the eyes.  It did not blind.  Before the dazed eyes of the people the sun trembled, it made strange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws, the “sun danced” according to the expression of the people.

According to other eyewitnesses “it seemed the sun was being detached from the sky and was falling on us.  It was a terrible moment.”  The miracle lasted about 8 minutes, after which the sun returned to its place in the sky, while the ground, which before the miracle had been saturated due to an all-night driving rain, was seen to be dry.  Likewise, the clothes of those who had been standing all day in the rain before the miracle were completely dry.

Saint John Paul II said:  According to divine plan, “A Woman clothed with the sun” came down from heaven to this earth to visit the privileged children of the Father.  She speaks to them with a mother’s voice and heart: she asks them to offer themselves as victims of reparation, saying that she was ready to lead them safely to God. The message of Fatima is a call to conversion, alerting humanity to have nothing to do with the “dragon” whose “tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth.

In those appearances, Mary affirmed clearly the existence of heaven and the reality of hell where, as she said to the children: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go”.  She likewise affirmed the reality of Purgatory: when Lucia, one of the three children to whom Our Lady appeared, asked about a friend of hers who had died at about the age of 18 or 20, Our Lady answered, “she will be in Purgatory until the end of the world”.  Another friend of Lucia’s, however, who had died at the age of 16, was in heaven Our Lady said.

The important thing for me to do today, People of God, is to remind you of the great joy and confidence that should be ours because of Mary’s commitment to us as our God-given, cross-given, Mother, and also of our ‘duty’ of trust and confidence in such a mother.  Her prayers are totally dedicated to ‘making-up’, so to speak, for all the many failings in our response to God’s grace; grace which has been so abundantly won for us by her Son, and is so freely offered to us by His Spirit.  She is totally committed to us her children, and what she asks of us in return is prayer.

However, the final point I wish to highlight is concerning those words from the book of Revelation which state, as you heard:

Another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.

Dear People of God, those were and are prophetic words being verified today.

What are the stars?  Catholic commentators have commonly said that the stars of Heaven represent the Catholic clergy.  Sister Lucy says the most effective way the devil can do harm to souls is by taking away their leaders, the priests.  Fr. Nicholas Gruener, perhaps the priest most closely associated with efforts to spread abroad the message of Fatima said:

If one third of the stars of Heaven are dragged down, then people will find it harder to save their souls.  The faithful must be careful to follow those Catholic clergy who preserve the faith.  It is important for people to pray for priests, for bishops, for the Cardinals, for the Pope. 

People of God, Our Lady’s Assumption is the pledge of our future blessedness and fulfilment in God; and just as sinful Eve, talking to Satan and leading Adam, closed the gates of Paradise to her children, so Mary Immaculate, listening to the Spirit and following her Son, the second Adam, opened those blessed gates once more for her children.  And now in modern times, Our Lady of Fatima -- the Woman clothed with the Sun -- has come to warn us of the dangers which threaten us her children in a world where the dogma of human self-sufficiency, and a plethora of human self-donated ‘rights’, seek to make everything available for mankind’s grasp and pleasure.

Let us therefore look once again at Our Blessed Lady on this celebration of her Assumption into heaven to learn more of the supreme glory of the divine inheritance that can, and should, be ours if we will but heed Our Lady’s warning and follow Our Lord’s way.

Mary received the Gift of God, that is, the Most Holy Spirit, when, St. Luke tells us:

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” (1: 35ss.)

The Spirit was given her then to enable her to be the worthy Mother of God.    It was like that with Jesus Himself when the Spirit came upon Him at His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist: for then the Spirit came upon Jesus for a particular purpose, namely, to prepare Him, in His humanity, to undertake and carry through to its fulfilment His public ministry to the People of Israel; and again, when Jesus rose from the dead He did so in the power of the Spirit Who glorified His human nature for His ascension to heavenly and eternal life.  Mary did indeed meet her Son in His Risen glory, but such earthly joy was short-lived, for He was to ascend into heaven, necessarily leaving her behind gazing after Him, because her human relationship with Him, even that of immaculate motherhood, could not sustain the intimacy, depth, and intensity of a heavenly and eternal relationship.

Mary, however, received the Holy Spirit once again, this time at Pentecost, for her role as Mother of the Church; she welcomed Him in our midst on our behalf, before He fulfilled His most immediate and primal task of glorifying her in her Assumption so that she might be and might reign with her Son for all eternity.  The Holy Spirit alone … the Spirit Who bonds Father and Son in the Most Holy Trinity ... could suffice to lift Mary up to enter upon her heavenly relationship with Jesus her Son, and in Him, with the heavenly Father.

Today therefore, let us both rejoice wholeheartedly with our Mother and -- being deeply and tenderly grateful for her solicitude manifested so publicly at Fatima -- let us carefully heed her warnings.

And if, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you have not thus far recognized the present peril of coronavirus in our midst as Catholics and Christians, learn from Our Lady.  Secular governments -- blatant disbelievers as a whole -- are not the only ones who can speak on this world-wide event; Mother Church herself is supremely gifted, by the Spirit, to recognize the signs of the times, and Our Lady’s Fatima warning is of supreme importance today for our Catholic, Christian, and religious AWARENESS OF AND RESPONSE TO the coronavirus: sin is real and hostile to humanity, it inevitably has consequences, and we can see them being manifested in our world today.