AM – 15 Aug 2021
Assumption of Mary as the first-fruits of new creation
Message by: Fr Richard M Healey
At first glance, this feast day appears to be all about the dignity of Mary. When Pope Pius XII solemnly declared the doctrine of Mary’s bodily assumption into heaven as a dogma of the faith on 1 Nov 1950 in the document Munificentissimus Deus, at paragraph 44 he stated: “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” The holy father clearly links Mary as the new Eve to the resurrection of Jesus as the new Adam.
Like all feast days that we celebrate around Mary, they are not primarily about her, but about her son Jesus, or about God as Father, or indeed about us and our destiny. The Assumption is no different.
Our second reading provides the necessary context for us to properly understand what this feast day is all about. The Assumption of Mary matters for us, because the resurrection of Jesus matters. The resurrection of Jesus is not about his soul being raised to new life – but his whole being, body and soul, being raised to new life.
In the Assumption, we do not celebrate the resurrection of Mary or the ascension of Mary but her transition into the life of the new heavens and the new earth.
“The resurrection of Jesus was the moment when the one true God appointed the man through whom the whole cosmos would be brought back into its proper order. A human being had got it into this mess; a human being would get it out again. The story of Genesis 1–3—the strange, haunting tale of a wonderful world spoiled by the rebellion of God’s image-bearing creatures—is in Paul’s mind throughout this long chapter. But his more pressing concern is with the job that the Messiah has been given to do. This passage is near the heart of Paul’s understanding of Jesus, God, history and the world. It’s near the heart of what Jesus himself spent his short public career talking about, too. It’s about the coming of God’s kingdom.
God’s kingdom was what many Jews of Paul’s day longed for, and we are right to assume that he grew up longing for it too. They imagined that God would become king over the whole world, restoring Israel to glory, defeating the nations that had oppressed God’s people for so long, and raising all the righteous dead to share in the new world. Quite how this would all happen was seldom clear; that it would have to happen, if God really was God, there could be no doubt. And the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth had revealed to Paul that it had happened at last, though not at all in the way he had imagined.
Instead of all God’s people being raised at the end of history, one person had been raised in the middle of history. That was the shocking, totally unexpected thing. But this meant that the coming of God’s kingdom was happening in two phases. When Paul talks about things happening ‘in their proper order’ in verse 23, he has two things in mind: the ‘order’ of events, and the eventual ‘order’, the putting-into-shape, that God intends to bring to the world.” (Tom Wright, Paul for Everyone: 1 Corinthians)
- First Reading ‡ Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6.10
I saw a woman clothed with the sun and with the moon beneath her feet.
- Responsorial ‡ Psalm 44:10-12.16
The queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold.
- Second Reading ‡ 1 Corinthians 15:20-26
As members of Christ all people will be raised, Christ first, and after him all who belong to him.
- Gospel ‡ Luke 1:39-56
The Almighty has done great things for me; he has lifted up the lowly.
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