This weekend we keep the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. This ancient tradition of the Church provides us with a deep insight about our own hopes that God calls us into his own divine life in the fulness of time, when we pass into the mystery of death.
Last week we laid to rest Frank Harrison a member of our parish community. He lived a long life of 92 years. As we gathered at the crematorium, we reflected on the mystery of death and its purpose and meaning. Was it something to be feared or welcomed, and in the space between those two emotions we reflected on how all the events and happenings which make up a person’s life could be understood as stepping stones or sign posts on the pathway to the moment when death comes. This is true for each one of us just as it was true for Our Lady as her life came to its terminus. Her pathway though to this moment was unique, as she was the one who bore the word of life, the one who gave him his flesh and blood. Her death though was as real as will be ours, and as was her son’s. Similarly so must have been either her fear or her joy in the welcoming of it. So if we think about it, it is her faith and our faith in the resurrection, that we are celebrating today, which is precisely what we were celebrating for Frank last Monday at the crematorium.
For every Christian, faith in the resurrection is the single most important belief we can hold as it overcome all the obstacles and hurdles of our lives. If we truly believe that by his resurrection Jesus has overcome death then all that assails us in life should be placed in that context. Which means precisely what?
Well if we turn to the gospel story of today’s feast what do we discover? Where and how in this encounter between two expectant women do we experience the context of the resurrection? Two things stand out which provide a marker for us to direct our thoughts towards. Firstly the resurrection is the Good News, the defining moment in our history, the fulfilment of the promises of God to send his Messiah to free us from our slavery to sin. Here in this moment of encounter this realisation is having its effect. Elizabeth and Mary greet each other with joy and gladness because of the Good News.
Secondly the resurrection is life changing both in its physical and in its spiritual dimension. Mary sees the meaning of this both for herself and for all generations as she proclaims her magnificat. She now understands that her life will not be as it was as – from this day forward – all things will be different as the context of the resurrection colours everything that is to come.
And so for us too. As we live out our own lives in the context of the Good News of the resurrection, our lives will be different and changed. Each of us will experience this change in a way that is unique to us. For Mary, our Catholic tradition informs us that its fulfilment for her was in her assumption into heaven as the prototype of redeemed humanity. Our prayer is that it will be thus so for us all.