The feast of the Assumption that we celebrate today means very simply that Our Lady is in heaven. The teaching itself says: ‘At the end of her earthly life, the Immaculate Mother of God, ever Virgin, was taken to Heaven body and soul in heavenly glory.’ It doesn’t say how it happened or when it happened, but just that it did happen and that Mary is now in heaven, in body and soul. It is a way of saying that because of the extraordinary position that Mary was given, by being the Mother of Jesus, she shared in his sufferings and she also shared in his resurrection and so was taken up to heaven at the end of her life.
You could be given the impression that it would have been easier for Mary than for other people because she was without sin. However, the fact that she was without sin means that she would have been more sensitive to evil and would have suffered more because of it than anyone else. From what we know in the Scriptures, she suffered from the time that the Angel appeared to her and told her that God was asking her to be the mother of God. She was pregnant before she came to live with Joseph in a way that was impossible to understand from a human point of view. According to Jewish law, to be betrothed to someone meant that you were already married, but weren’t yet living with them. So how would Mary explain this to Joseph? What embarrassment, fear and tension there must have been for her. The birth of Jesus was in a very difficult situation. Later on, Mary and Joseph lost Jesus for three days and finally the arrest, torture and death of Jesus. But Mary never gave up hope. She continued to believe that God would make sense of it. After the resurrection she stayed with and encouraged the Apostles as they waited for the gift of the Spirit before Pentecost.
Over the centuries Mary has appeared in various parts of the world. What is significant in each place she has appeared is that what she asks is nearly always the same. She tells us that we cannot exist without God, that we need to turn away from sin, read Scripture, go to Mass and to pray and fast. She is always pointing us to Jesus. It is never about herself. She tells us that we need to confess our sins often, yet sadly very few people feel the need for this. I wonder who convinced them that it is not necessary? She also tells us that we cannot live without God. Our life makes no sense without God. We will only be on this earth for a short time, so we need to be careful how we use our time. It always makes me sad when I see or hear of people who get obsessed with money and material things, as if that was the answer to everything. It is also sad to see how people can become obsessed with power, which so often leads to the suffering of others.
The life of Mary is a wonderful witness to us for several reasons. One, it is a reminder to us of what God can do through a human being; a 14/15 year old girl. Mary is fully human and we should never worship her as that would be idolatry, but we give her great honor as Jesus did. We ask for her intercession as we continue on our journey to heaven. She has been through dreadful suffering, so we can ask for her help, knowing that she understands our suffering. When we find ourselves losing hope, remember that Mary never lost hope, in spite of that she had to go through. This feast of her being assumed into heaven is our reminder that this is where we are destined to go if we make the right choices.