Greetings parishioners and friends of St James the Apostle, as we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. Today’s feast is very significant to us Paulist Missionaries as our founder, Joseph De Piro chose Mary of the Assumption as a special protectress to the Missionary Society of St Paul.
Many of the images for the Assumption, I have often found to be too sentimental and over the top. But there is something about this image, that drew me in – maybe the slightly tattered world-weary look of the crown, with a chipped edge, is what did it for me.
It is almost as if Christ is welcoming Mary home, after a hard journey on this earth. The small and gentle ‘crown tip’ to Mary that might say, ‘you are home now. All is well.’
What is that in his hand? – a gift of heavenly iPad maybe (love the jacket cover), just to keep in touch with what is going on down below. Or is it a book of poetry, he wrote just for her …. I hope God writes poetry.
The feast of the Assumption of Mary, honours the joyful departure of God’s mother. We celebrate her going to sleep, recognising her as the mother of Jesus. It is the journey of Mary which began at the Annunciation that encourages us to remember that where Mary has gone, we too are called to follow.
So, what can this feast of Mary’s Assumption say to us today, with our lives and struggles, especially during this time of COVID? Life can be very challenging at times; there are some things that cannot be escaped. As I reflect on my own life journey, I will attempt to offer some answers to this question.
There were moments in my life when feelings of failure clung to me for years, and at times even paralysed me. At the age of fourteen, at a time when I needed my father most, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died a few months later in Germany, where he had to go for special treatment. I felt lost and confused. His death weighed heavily on my heart as I tried to find purpose and meaning in life. All my dreams and hopes seemed to be shattered. As I grew older, I came to realise that life was not what I expected it to be, here and now. I started to focus my attention on being recognised by my peers, my teachers, and my family. I started to dream about future studies, a career, an ideal job, money and success. Soon I realised that I was being chained down by these ambitious dreams.
In time I came to realise that this was not where I could find true joy that would sustain me in life. It is when I felt strong enough to let go of these empty dreams, that I could become free and start living life again.
Reflecting on the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, I discovered a person who grew out of her many losses and failures, who was ready to give up all her dreams and hopes and was not chained by her dreams to the point of death. Mary was able to rise above her disappointments and become fully human and fully alive. Mary of Nazareth is the model of all our losses in life; the mother of hope, in the midst of despair; the woman of courage.
In her assumption, God lifted Mary far above the loves, goals and gains of those who have never really encountered and surrendered to Christ for what he really was, because they were totally absorbed in themselves. Mary of the Assumption teaches us to keep our eyes on the things of heaven, to free ourselves from the chains of anything lesser, to develop a vision, larger than ourselves, and outside of ourselves, and to allow ourselves to be lifted up to reach out to others. Mary is a sign of what we can become if we are willing to let go of what we have planned for ourselves, and lift our hearts to higher things. The prayer at the heart of this great feast is Mary, woman of freedom, be with us as we struggle with whatever it is that is holding us down again.
Fr Jude Pirotta mssp