Mary’s Bodily Assumption
Following is the prepared text from Bishop Olmsted’s homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Seton Catholic Preparatory High School:
Our first reading, Revelation 12, tells through symbols of the spiritual battle in which you and I are engaged, especially when we accept Jesus as the Lord of our life. The Church, portrayed as a pregnant woman, is violently pursued by Satan, symbolized by a huge dragon with seven heads. It looks ominous. We read, “The dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child.”
My sons and daughters in Christ, these inspired words reveal a profound truth. If we ignore them, we put ourselves at great risk. If we heed them, we equip ourselves for spiritual warfare. Mary, the Mother of God, shows us what must be done to defeat Satan. It is found in Mary’s courageous consent to God’s plan for her life (Lk 1:38): “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be to me according to your word.” At that moment of Mary’s “Yes,” (Jn 1:14), “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Jesus was conceived; the Commander in Chief entered the battlefield of human history. Thirty three years later, His victory was won on a hill named Calvary.
The Virgin Mary announced this victory over Satan when visiting Elizabeth. She said (Lk 1:46ff), “…the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is His Name… He has shown the strength of His arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.”
As Jesus suffered death on the Cross to defeat Satan and to redeem the world, Mary stood in solidarity with Him and heard His final battle cry: “Consumatum Est! It is finished! The mission is accomplished! The victory is won!” Nonetheless, the Ancient Serpent, in a final effort to make Mary despair, spewed forth lies such as this, “Your miserable son is dead. The so-called Messiah has failed! His foolish dream is over!” But the sinless Virgin Mother looked Satan in the eye, raised her blood-soaked foot, and crushed his head.
Only three days thereafter, Mary’s faith was rewarded. Her Beloved Son rose triumphantly from the grave. He consoled His mother’s heart as He took His throne on High, from whence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
Mary longed to follow Jesus at once into the glories of heaven, but He had given her one final mission just before suffering death on the Cross: to assist her new sons, the Twelve Apostles, and indeed all Jesus’ disciples, to come to new birth by water and the Holy Spirit. Although definitively defeated, Satan is allowed by God to test us until the Risen Lord returns in glory, to test and to tempt us but not to defeat us. Nonetheless, not long after His Ascension, Jesus took not only His mother’s soul but also her body into His Kingdom in heaven. This is what we celebrate today: the Feast of Mary’s wondrous Assumption. We joyously sing God’s praises this morning, but our Blessed Mother urges us to gird ourselves anew for spiritual warfare. In that regard, my sons and daughters in Christ, permit me to recall another historic moment that took place in our country, 40 years ago, when a great summons to spiritual battle was sounded by a man of incredible faith and fortitude.
On October 7, 1979, during the celebration of Mass on the Capitol Mall of Washington, D.C., only six years after the infamous Supreme Court decision Roe vs Wade, Pope John Paul II told America what His Church would do in response to legalized abortion in our country. Listen again to his words:
“…we will stand up every time that human life is threatened. When the sacredness of life before birth is attacked, we will stand up and proclaim that no one ever has the authority to destroy unborn life.
When a child is described as a burden or is looked upon only as a means to satisfy an emotional need, we will stand up and insist that every child is a unique and unrepeatable gift of God, with the right to a loving and united family. When the institution of marriage is abandoned to human selfishness or reduced to a temporary, conditional arrangement that can easily be terminated, we will stand up…”
Since January 22, 1973, we Americans have been walking in the dark shadow cast by the infamous Supreme Court decision, Roe vs Wade. We who have put Jesus at the center of our lives, then, have been summoned by Christ to embrace with confidence the teaching of the Church that calls abortion as an “unspeakable crime” (Gaudium et Spes, 51). It is our duty, it is our honor, especially as students and faculty in Catholic schools like Seton, to bear witness to the Gospel of Life and to work for a restoration of the right to life of the most vulnerable among us.
Let us do so with steadfast faith and hope because Christ has won the definitive victory over Satan in His Triumphant Cross and Resurrection, and His Blessed Mother stands beside us, never ceasing to plead on our behalf. Remember the words of St. Bonaventure, “Men do not fear a powerful, hostile army as much as the powers of hell fear the name and protection of Mary.”
“Fight the good fight of the faith!” St. Paul exhorted a young man named Timothy. And St. John Paul II never tired of repeating the words spoken by the Angel Gabriel to Mary: “Be not afraid!” My sons and daughters, united with Jesus and Mary, you and I can do this! We can stand up for the Gospel of Life! Let us say with St. Faustina, “Jesus, I trust in you.” Jesus and Mary, we trust in You.