Hi everyone, here’s my homily for the SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY - August 15, 2017. The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/081517-mass-during-day.cfm Thanks as always for reading; sharing on facebook, twitter and reddit; and for your feedback and comments. God Bless! Fr Jim
– If you’d like some more info on this feast day, check out Mark Hart’s column on Lifeteen: http://lifeteen.com/blog/missing-jesus-mom-the-assumption-explained/
A former High School teacher shared a somewhat surprising, as well as sad occurrence, that seems to get repeated each and every start of the school year. He would ask his students to take a sheet of paper and divide it in half. On the left side he said "I want you to write down all your gifts, all the talents you have... things that you’re really good at." After a few moments he said, "on the right side write down all the things you want to change about yourself, things that you’re not good at, things your embarrassed about."
The sad reality was that he would often have to stop the students writing the second list. 9 times out of 10, the things they want to change list far exceeded the things they were grateful for list - sometimes even continued on the back of the paper. Truth be told, I’d probably fall into that majority group myself and I suspect a lot of you would as well. For a variety of reasons, we seem quite able to see the negatives of ourselves, the failures, the sins so much easier than the unique, special tremendous gifts that God blesses each of us with.
There’s probably a lot of different reasons for that: some have a poor self image of themselves. Some get caught up in sins of jealous or envy where they constantly make unhealthy comparisons of themselves to others. And for some, this mistaken understanding of being humble where they put themselves down to the point of being dishonest takes hold to the point that they are really embracing a "false humility."
I was thinking about that in reading this Gospel today. Mary and Elizabeth have both had miraculous things occurring, participated in divine conversations. Elizabeth pregnant with John the Baptist who will become the prophet heralding Jesus coming. And Mary, bearing Jesus Christ in her womb.
Imagine Elizabeth writing her own list on why she shouldn’t have a child? The Gospel tells us that Elizabeth was older when she had conceived John the Baptist. She was called "barren". Her list of negatives probably would have said "I’m too old to have a child now." "My husband, he’s a good man, but he’s not going to believe this [he didn’t in fact, which is why he is silenced by the angel until the birth of John]." "I’ve been infertile, barren, for so long... surely there could be someone better."
Mary could write her own list too. Quite the opposite of Elizabeth she could argue "I’m too young!" "People are never going to believe what is happening" "Surely there’s someone else who is better suited or prepared to be a Mother for this special son."
It’s not unreasonable for us to imagine that some of these thoughts had to have crossed the minds of these important women. Which is what makes the wisdom that comes from age spoken by Elizabeth to Mary that much more dramatic and important. We almost miss these - because there’s so much packed into this Gospel passage. Listen again:
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.
Those words of insight gives way to Mary singing a beautiful hymn, that the Church prays daily called the "Magnificat"- a song that very simply contains the hopes and prayers of the Old Testament grounded in the reality of Mary’s vision: where God is ruling all things with perfect power and wisdom. She can rejoice in God because she has rejoiced in all that God has done and will do in her own life.
Mary and Elizabeth give witness to us of two women
-who don’t believe the lies the world would put on them about their situations;
-who don’t allow truths or facts about themselves get manipulated that they become filled with fear and doubt that they stop believing all that God had told them.
Instead they are grounded in the reality of seeing themselves as God sees them.
Elizabeth and Mary’s example should give us some things to reflect on ourselves.
What is God speaking to each one of us right now?
How is He trying to do something new in our lives or in the lives of those around us through our ‘yes’ to Him?
How is He asking us to trust Him that He has equipped us with the gifts, the talents the abilities to accomplish whatever it is that is going to give birth to Jesus Christ in this day and age?
How is He asking us to believe in Him, have faith in Him and not be deterred by the lies of the world or the lies we tell ourselves that we’re not worthy, we’re not able, we’re not good enough.
May we too be called "blessed" to see ourselves as the beloved sons and daughters that God created us to be, and follow Mary’s example, believing in all that the Lord is speaking to us will be fulfilled.