Solemnity of the Assumption

Di Gregorio, Michael.JPG

Fr. Michael F. Di Gregorio, O.S.A.
Prior Provincial
Province of St. Thomas of Villanova

Rv 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Psalm 45:10, 11, 12, 16
1 Cor 15:20-27
Lk 1:39-56

For the past three weeks we have been listening to Chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel that speaks of Jesus’ feeding of the multitude with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish. This sign which he performs is followed by his lengthy discourse on the Bread of Life. Normally, we would hear all of Chapter 6 on these five consecutive Sundays, but this year the cycle of readings is interrupted by our celebration this weekend of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No need to worry, though! Fortunately, the fourth installment of Jesus’ discourse repeats a good bit of what we heard Jesus say the past two Sundays, so that its omission will not leave us hanging. And next week’s conclusion of Chapter 6 will take us precisely to an important decision which this teaching poses for each one of us. Moreover, while the Feast of the Assumption may seem to have very little to do with the Bread of Life discourse, it offers, in fact, a good practical application of what may seem to be a lengthy theological teaching.

Last Sunday we heard Jesus tell his listeners, I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and in the passage that we are skipping over this weekend he repeats this, saying, He who feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has life eternal, and I will raise him up on the last day.

I will raise him up on the last day! The assumption of Mary into heaven celebrates precisely her being raised up in fulfillment of the promise of eternal life, but in Mary’s case, it is in anticipation of that last day. What is pledged to you and me has already been given to Mary. She lives now, body and soul, in the company of her only begotten Son.

Nowhere is this contained in Scripture, just as nowhere is Mary’s death announced. But it is the ancient tradition of the Christian people, both of the east and of the west, that the body of the venerable mother of him who opened for us the gates of heaven – because she was preserved always from the stain of sin – should not have undergone the bodily decay for which sin was responsible, but that she should be taken up by that Son even as his own body ascended in heaven.

What we celebrate in the life of Mary on this day’s feast, we see as our own future. Where she now is – in the glorious company of her Son – we hope to be one day. Let us journey on buoyed up by Mary’s gain, encouraged by Jesus’ promise, and nourished along the way by him who is the Bread of Life.