Homilies,  Sanctoral

Solemnity of the Assumption 2022

Some weeks ago, if we were sufficiently sensitive, we may have noticed that the character of the light during the day had changed as it does around this time every year. There is a day around the end of July where something changes. This year I noticed it on Tuesday 26 July. Now, a little while later something also begins to shift in the landscape around us. In our gardens and along the sides of the road we will notice the wattles coming into bloom. Ribbons of glorious yellow now thread their way along our highways.

The blooming of the wattles had a special significance for our aboriginal brothers and sisters. It represented something new was stirring into life after the somnolence of the preceding months. It was a special moment of possibility and promise. It was, perhaps, the actual start of a new year in aboriginal experience, the first of January of course without relevance.

It has long struck me that at precisely at the time the landscape of southeast Australia celebrates new beginnings through the wattles blooming, we celebrate the Assumption of Mary into heaven. It is for us a moment of unimaginable possibility. Something has changed. Something new has been introduced into human experience. One of us, Mary, has, in her own body, experienced the power of the Resurrection, not as an idea but as a fact. At the end of his encyclical, The Gospel of Life, St John Paul II wrote,

“Mary is a living word to console the Church in her struggle against death.  By showing us her Son, she assures us that in him the powers of death have already been vanquished: “Death and life were locked in a wondrous combat.  The Lord of life was dead; but now he lives triumphant.”

Mary is a word of new beginnings to us because in her own journey we witness the triumph of the energy of life over the pall of death.  And this victory speaks to us about what we most deeply desire in our life. We want to be fully loved, and by being loved we want to feel whole, to become fully the person I am meant to be, fully alive. We want to enjoy a sense of being fully united with one another beyond feeling alone, or feeling different, or inadequate, or less than we could be. These are our deepest hopes. But infusing these hopes is a certain question: Is it ever possible to be fully loved, to feel whole, to be fully the person I am meant to be, to be fully alive, and to enjoy a sense of being fully united with one another beyond feeling alone? What gives us confidence that we can answer ‘yes’ ‘yes, we can be fully loved, we can become the person we are meant to me, and we can live our life fully?

We can only know that all this is possible for us if have known people who have lived life fully and been fully loved. Mary gives us the confidence that what we hope for most deeply in our life, and about our life, will come about as well.  

The song of Mary’s triumph of life over death is the Magnificat.  In this poem, life and death are imagined in very particular ways.  Life wins over death in the choice for humility over power, for compassion over competition, for relationship over dogmatism, for service over domination.  Mary chooses life; her life is a choice for that which gives and sustains life at its most human.

To honour what God has done in Mary is, then, to galvanise us to move beyond what augurs for death in our life and to celebrate what creates life. It is to live in life-filled wonder at the beauty of human hearts around us and to be full of praise for what God is doing there.  

With, and through, Mary, we know that we are recipients of a gratuitous love, and this is the source of our delight.  To accept the word of life that Mary is to us, is to be constantly on the watch for what is coming to birth, for possibilities, for the life which beats in things.  And, with and in her, we accept that our path is not traced out in advance.  We must search.  We do not pretend to know the answers in our life before the questions are posed.  Above all we must listen.  

Writing in the fourth century, St Gregory of Nyssa observed, “He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.”[1] The Christian life is a beginning, moving through beginnings, to a beginning. In Mary we see that new beginning in her very body.

With Mary’s example, may our journey be not a slow death march but a pilgrimage of life. May we constantly be vigilant for the blooming of the wattle in our own journey through the landscapes of our lives. Let us celebrate new beginnings and always fresh possibility through the Risen Christ.

[1] St. Gregory of Nyssa, Hom. in Cant. 8: PG 44, 941C.

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