Luke 1:39-56, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Our Gospel today has two distinct parts. Look how interesting it is. The first part, Elizabeth’s, is filled with second-person pronouns. “Blessed are you among women…and the fruit of your womb. How wonderful that (you,) the mother of my Lord should come to me! When I heard you greet me, my baby leaped in me. Blessed are you who believed what the Lord told you!” Elizabeth showers Mary with praise. She magnifies her by telling her how wonderful she is to God, chosen as she is to be mother to the Savior of the world.
Then comes Mary’s part. But instead of assuming all the honor in first-person pronouns, she defers to a third person. “He has favored his lowly servant…(he) has done great things for me, holy is his name. He has mercy…he is strong…he scattered the proud…he unseated the mighty and lifted the humble. He fed the hungry and sent the rich away empty. He comes to save Israel because he remembers his promise of mercy.” While Elizabeth goes, “You, you, you,” Mary answers, “God, God, God.”
Our Lady assumed quite a lot in obedience to God. First of all, God made her assume motherhood of his Son; bringing him up, teaching him the ropes, forming his conscience. Secondly, God made her assume the suffering and pain of a mother seeing her son tortured and killed without putting up a fight. Finally, after doing her mission well, God made her assume her place inheaven.
In all of this, Mary never presumed it was all about her. She never presumed she was blessed among women because she was good, but rather because God was so good. She never presumed privilege in being mother to the Christ, but rather, that God privileged her amongst women. Mary never presumed she was holy and powerful in her own right, but rather, that God filled her with grace as his handmaid. God gifted Mary with the Assumption, because she was empty of presumptuousness. Body and soul, she emptied herself to magnify God.
Sometimes, sisters and brothers, I think it is us who make Our Lady assume too much. We honor her as Queen of Heaven and Earth, for example, as we should. But many Catholics make her assume the trappings of earthly queens, complete with diamond rings with matching earrings. We honor her as model of faith, model of simplicity, model of virginity, as we should. But many of us parade her statues like candidates in a beauty pageant, every image of her, gowned, tiara-ed, “maquillaged.”Rightly so, we honor Mary with the title, Theotokos, Mother of God, full of grace. But we make her assume so much power that many believe that any and all grace from Jesus must first be “mediated” by her, like she were gatekeeper and custodian of all grace. Finally, we honor Mary as our intercessor, as we should. But we often make her assume power over God, like she can make God change his mind, from a no to a yes, even when all her life, she constantly lived out her fiat: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done unto me according to his word.”
I love that the Magnificat is our Gospel reading every Feast of the Assumption. Our Lady was assumed into heaven precisely because of her lowliness, her littleness, her simplicity and poverty—yes, in spite of the honor, the glory, the privilege of being chosen as Mother of the Savior. So, I don’t think Our Lady will take it against us if we venerate her in her lowliness, if we honor her for her littleness, and if we emulate her simplicity and poverty. After all, that was how she was all her life. That was how we all knew her. And was how we all fell in love with her. She was all about God, never all about herself.
Our Lady of the Assumption, pray for us.