Monday, August 14, 2006

Mary: She Did It Once, And She Can Do It Again!

(Assumption 2006: This homily was given on August 15, 2006 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Luke 1: 39-46.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Assumption 2006]

My message today can be outlined with 3 words: who, what and why.

First, “who”: Who is the woman we honor today?

Well very simply, she’s the one who is where we someday hope to beand who is there body and soul!

If our deceased relatives are with the Lord right now in his kingdom, they are there in soul only! (Hopefully we’re all clear about that.) According to Catholic teaching, physical death separates our bodies and our souls until the end of time. Immediately after physical death we are judged, and our souls go either to heaven or hell or purgatory. (They go to purgatory if they need final purification before entering God’s eternal presence). Only at the end of the world will our bodies rise again and be reunited with our souls. Then we will go—body and soul—to one of two places: heaven or hell. Purgatory will cease to exist.

The dogma of the Assumption says that for Mary this has already taken place. At the end of her earthly life, she was assumed into heaven soul and body. That’s why in the preface of this Mass it says, “Today the Virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection.”

In other words, she is where every member of the Church hopes someday to be—and she is there as a complete person, soul and body.

That’s the “who” of the Assumption.

Now for the “what”. The “what” I want to focus on today is our personal devotion to the Blessed Mother. As Catholics we do not worship Mary—she was a human person like we are; but we do honor her, and as such we seek her prayers for all of our needs. The Bible tells us in James 5 that the prayers of a holy person are powerful; they can obtain for us many favors from the Lord. Well, our Blessed Mother was the holiest human person who ever lived (Jesus, remember, was a divine person, so he’s in a different category). And because she was the holiest human person who ever lived, her prayers are most important and most powerful.

Which brings us, finally, to the “why”: Why should we pray to this woman every single day of our lives?

Well I just gave you one very good reason: because of Mary’s holiness. But there’s another reason that needs to be mentioned today, in light of what’s going on in the world right now: in Israel, and Lebanon, and Iraq, and the Sudan —and in light of what happened here in the United States on September 11, 2001.

We need to seek Mary’s prayers, because I think that she, by the grace of God, can help to end this so-called “clash of civilizations” that we’re now experiencing. We need to seek her prayers, because she—and perhaps only she—can help to bring God’s peace into this situation of conflict and hatred.

And she’s done it before—with respect to the Cold War. I believe that very strongly, and so do many others.

Thirty years ago how many people believed that the Cold War would end—that the Berlin Wall would be torn down and the Soviet Union would cease to exist—without a major military conflict?

Very few believed that.

But that’s exactly how it happened!

And even secular historians admit that one of the major players—if not THE major player—in this peaceful collapse of the Soviet bloc was Pope John Paul II. And many of them maintain that the collapse began in June of 1979, when the pope went to his native country of Poland for the very first time. Do you remember the news footage of the Polish Communist leader, General Jaruzelski, visibly trembling in the presence of the Holy Father? Historians tell us that that papal visit sent shock waves throughout the Communist world, and ignited a “revolution of conscience” among the people, because for the very first time someone had publicly confronted a Communist leader on his own turf and had lived to talk about it!

Not coincidentally, of course, John Paul II was intensely devoted to Mary—so much so that he took as his papal motto “Totus Tuus”, meaning “Totally yours.” Some people think that the pope’s motto was a direct reference to Jesus, but it wasn’t. It was a reference to Mary. His motto meant, “I’m totally yours, Mary. I’m totally committed to Jesus Christ through you.”

At Fatima in 1917 the Blessed Mother had told the world to pray the Rosary for the conversion of Russia. I believe that God combined the grace from all those rosaries that were said for more than 70 years (and the grace of all the Masses that were said during that time) with the actions of a pope intensely dedicated to the Blessed Mother, to put an end to an oppressive, godless form of government in eastern Europe that had been responsible for the murder of millions of people in the 20th century.

So it’s happened before, with respect to radical communism.

And, by the grace of God and by Mary’s powerful intercession, it can happen again with respect to radical Islam. I’m convinced of that—especially because Muslims traditionally have had a reverence for the Blessed Mother (a reverence the Communists never had!).

By the way, did you know that? Did you know that Muslims have a high regard for Mary? Many Christians don’t. She’s mentioned over 30 times in the Koran. No other woman is mentioned even once! There she’s described as “Virgin, ever Virgin.” Imagine, the very doctrine some liberal Christians reject—the perpetual virginity of Mary—is accepted by Muslims!

Concerning his daughter, Fatima, Mohammad—the founder of Islam—once said: “She has the highest place in heaven after the Virgin Mary.”

Mary’s prayers affected atheistic communists who repudiated her, so why shouldn’t Mary’s prayers affect believing Muslims who already respect her deeply?

And here’s an interesting fact: In 1917, Mary chose to appear to 3 children in a place that was named after a Muslim convert to the Catholic faith: a woman who at birth had been named after Mohammad’s daughter. Because of this many Muslims today make personal pilgrimages to the Catholic shrine of Mary in Fatima, Portugal.

This means that, as we speak, Mary is already bringing Christians and Muslims together in peace.

She can do it. Mary can do it. But we need to pray to her in order for it to happen. God can bring peace through the Mother of his Son (and I believe he wants to); but he will only do it if we turn to him in faith through Mary—and if we do it perseveringly.

So here’s the bottom line: If you want to contribute in a concrete way to world peace, resolve to say the Rosary every day for that intention (as well as for all your personal ones). Or at least, resolve to say one decade in the morning when you get up, and one decade at night before you go to bed.

And get serious about it. Don’t just say you’ll do it: DO IT!

And don’t ever stop.