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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

HOMILY - FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION 2012


First Reading: The Assumption
Responsorial Psalm: Luke 1:46-55
Second Reading: Acts 1:6-14
Gospel: John 2:1-11

Feminist theologians dispute the view of Our Lady as the docile woman, untouched by the every day life of a woman with a husband and a child or children.  They point out that, when Mary said “Be it done according to Your Word”, she was, in fact saying “Yes” to disobey the religious and social conventions of her day.  Betrothal, in ancient Jewish law, was akin to being married, except the couple did not live together.  Therefore, Mary could have been charged as an adulteress.  As we know, an angel stepped in and told Joseph not to press charges, so to speak.  We also know that she did not abandon her Son; and was at the foot of the cross even though it was probably dangerous to be there. So Mary was no pushover, she was faithful to the call of God in her early life and, later on, even when that meant going against the authorities.

Now, let’s look at today’s readings.  Some of us are familiar with the responsorial psalm, which is an adaptation of the Magnificat found in Luke 1:46-55.  It tells us that Mary was familiar with the scriptures because what she says is very similar to Hannah’s song in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.  But Mary says something quite peculiar, she says, “Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.”  On hearing that, with our understanding of the word “blessed”, it sounds a bit arrogant.  However, the word used in the original Greek is, “makariousin”.  In Greek usage, makarios came to refer to the elite, the upper crust of society, the wealthy people. It referred to people whose riches and power put them above the normal cares and problems and worries of the lesser people, who constantly struggle and worry and labour in life. To be blessed, you had to be very rich and powerful.  The blessed were those people and beings, like the gods, who lived above the normal cares, problems, and worries of normal people1.

Luke has Mary use this word in a totally different way, which is reflected in the remainder of the Magnificat.  It is not the elite who are blessed. It is not the rich and powerful who are blessed. It is not the high and mighty who are blessed. It is not the people living in huge mansions or expensive penthouses who are blessed.  Rather, Mary, like Jesus pronounces God's blessings on the lowly─ that is─ the poor, the powerless and the hungry.  Throughout the history of this word, it had always been the other people who were considered blessed: the rich, the filled up, the powerful.  Mary, like her Son, turns it all upside-down. The elite and the blessed in God's kin-dom, are those who are at the bottom of the heap of humanity2.

Next we look at the second reading; we hear Mary, the mother of Jesus, mentioned only in passing.  However, if we think about it, we know that in addition to “constantly devoting themselves to prayer”, the women were probably looking after the mundane and womanly chores of cooking and cleaning.  But, more importantly, we must also remember, that it was these women who did not run away when Jesus was arrested.   They stood by Him at the foot of the cross, while the other disciples were hiding.  Mary, like women today, stands firmly in opposition to repression and oppression, but doesn’t overlook the everyday needs and worries of her friends and family.  For example, in the Gospel story, Mary notices that their hosts have run out of wine.  She knows that this situation would be a very embarrassing situation and the bridegroom and his family would lose the respect of the community.  So Mary, asks Jesus to do something about it.  He says, “No”, He’s not ready to reveal himself yet.  The scriptures don’t say that she said anything to Him, but I can just imagine her giving him a, “Don’t sass me” look.  I also imagine that she was sure enough of the effect of that look ̶ and Jesus’ response to it ̶ to tell the servants to follow what Jesus told them to do.

We so often forget the humanity of Jesus and Mary.  In so doing, we lose some of the more reassuring examples of their faithfulness to God: the faithfulness and holiness of the every day and mundane things.  We forget that as a man, Jesus might have been unsure of himself and needed the prodding of a loving mother to jump start him on his way.

We also forget that their humanity made them conscious of the human condition.  They taught us that our God is also concerned with the everyday conditions of the poor and the oppressed.  Jesus didn’t just forgive sins, He healed the sick.  Mary didn’t just pray or go around looking up to the sky, she cooked, she cleaned, she was concerned about people running out of wine at a wedding, and, she was astute enough to perceive God’s preferential option for the poor.  In other words, they showed us how to love our neighbour and how to be a neighbour.

In our times, when asked, “who is our neighbour?” We need to include our planet and beyond.  Our earth is now, among the oppressed more than ever before.  For Mary, like her Son, justice was central to the kin-dom of God.  We use the word kin-dom to denote that all of creation is made of the Breath and the Word of God; hence we are kin to the rocks, trees, fish, animal, waters, air and all that is in the Universe.  So, what does all of this mean for us?    I think it means that the Universe is God’s estate, and we should help to keep it safe.  It means, we too can find holiness in the every day. 
All my Relations.

1.       adapted from The History of the Word “Makarios” (“Blessed”) found at: http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/allsaintb.htm
2.       Ibid.






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