Friday, August 15, 2014

The Feast of Mary’s Assumption: A Time To REFOCUS

(Assumption 2014: This homily was given on August 15, 2014 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 2014]


That’s not a word that we normally associate with Mary’s Assumption into heaven.

But I think we should!

We celebrate this feast on the 15th of August—which means that summer, sad to say, is now more than half over.

For most people summer is an enjoyable time, given the fact that the weather is usually a lot more pleasant than it is in January and February.  For many people it’s also a restful time, a time for them to get their physical and emotional “batteries recharged,” so to speak; although for some others it can be a season of great stress—especially on those days when they have more than one social event scheduled!

That’s happened to me more than a few times this summer.

But for almost everybody living in our fast-paced society right now the summer can also be a very DISTRACTING TIME!

All those enjoyable, restful—and stressful—things can, unfortunately, get in the way of our relationship with the Lord.

And so the Church gives us this feast in the middle of August: a feast that can help us to REFOCUS our attention on God and on those things that are most important in life.

Let me give you a few examples.

The feast of the Assumption, first of all, reminds us of our mortality.  It reminds us that we’re not here forever; that, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, we do not have on this earth “a lasting city.”
We can sometimes forget that—even in the winter.

The Assumption marked the terminal point of our Blessed Mother’s earthly life; although the Church leaves open the question of whether Mary physically died or simply “fell asleep” before she was taken, body and soul, into heaven.  In the official teaching of the Church, given to us by Pope Pius XII in 1950, it says, “when the course of her earthly life was finished [notice there’s no specific mention of death there], [Mary] was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory.”

So the Assumption focuses us on the fact that our lives on this planet will have a terminal point and that we should live them accordingly.

It reminds me of a saying I once heard: Live every day as if it were your last—and one day you’ll be right.

This brings us to the second truth that the Feast of the Assumption focuses us on (or rather refocuses us on), namely, that the goal of this life is heaven!

Mary has already reached the goal.  We celebrate that fact at this Mass.  As she now is, so all those men and women who die in the state of grace will someday be.  For us, however, the sequence of events will be a little different.

That’s important to mention.  Our Blessed Mother already has her glorified body in the kingdom of her divine Son.  Those of us who die in the state of grace and whose souls go to heaven (either immediately after death or after being purified in purgatory) will have to wait until the end of time to receive our risen bodies.

That’s one big difference between Mary and us.

But the goal for everybody—Mary and us—is (or at least is supposed to be) the same.
Another truth this feast refocuses us on is that our physical bodies are holy.  They’re holy because they’ve been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and are made to live forever in heaven in their glorified state.

This, incidentally, is why sins of impurity and violence are so wrong: we’re using something which was made for heaven (our body) to put us on the road to hell!

Thankfully the sacrament of Confession is always available to put us back on the right road.

Finally, this feast refocuses us on the fact that we need Jesus Christ in our lives, and that we need to make every effort to stay connected to him (regardless of what season of the year it is!).

Mary did not save herself; she was saved by her divine Son.  (Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters don’t think we believe that, but we do!)

In her Magnificat (which we heard in our gospel reading a few moments ago) Mary says, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my Spirit rejoices in God, MY SAVIOR.”  The Lord saved our Blessed Mother by preserving her from original sin in that event we call “the Immaculate Conception”.  

He saves us in a different way: by delivering us from original sin, as well as from our personal sins.

But then Mary went on to nurture her relationship with the Lord by living a sinless life of perfect love and perfect virtue: a life which was rooted in prayer.  In other words, she always maintained a close and intimate connection with her God.

This means our Blessed Mother never, ever got “distracted” spiritually in the summer—or winter—or spring—or fall for that matter!

What about us?

How has your prayer life been lately?  How has your Mass attendance been this summer?  Have you taken a “vacation from God” (even a little one)?  Have you been to Confession if you’ve needed to go?  Have you been to Eucharistic Adoration recently?  Has the Bible been on your summer reading list?  Have you maintained your connection with Jesus since the warm weather set in?

Today is a day for all of us to make the personal commitment to “refocus” to the extent that we need to: the commitment to refocus our attention on the things that really matter in this life.

Mary, of course, had no need to refocus, simply because she was always focused—PERFECTLY focused!

May her prayers from heaven help us all to be more like her, not only during the summer months but throughout the entire year.