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Fr Lar O'Connor

This weekend we celebrate the Solemn Feast of the Assumption of our Lady into heaven. We do not have direct evidence, but it is a tradition going back to the early days of the church. It was, no doubt, appropriate that Mary should share in the destiny and glory of her Son. St. Paul reminds us, “Christ has been raised from the dead, as the first fruits of all who have fallen asleep.” (I Cor. 15:20). Jesus was the first to rise from the dead and gives the assurance that all who are linked to him in faith and love would share in his resurrection. We can be very confident that Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Son of God, would share in that assurance. Her faith and lifelong relationship with her Son down to his death on Calvary entitled her to share his glory.

The Gospel of today’s mass gives us a good insight into Mary’s character and person. She showed herself to be a woman of compassion and care. The Angel Gabriel reminded her that her elderly cousin had conceived a son and at that time was in her sixth month. Mary immediately set out on a two or three day journey to a little town near Jerusalem to help and support Elizabeth in the latter days of her pregnancy. When she arrived Elizabeth gave her a prophetic welcome. She assured her that she was blessed among women. She praised her for her extraordinary faith. “Yes, blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Elizabeth exclaimed that the child in her womb leapt for joy when Mary arrived. Then she raised a telling question. “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” There is more to this than meets the eye. When the Ark of the Covenant approached Jerusalem the Book of Samuel reports that David and the whole house of Israel danced before God. The Ark of the Covenant was precious because it was there that God dwelt among the people of Israel. David also raised a pertinent question, not unlike that of Elizabeth. “How can the Ark of the Covenant come to be with me?” (2 Sam. 6:9). We are told that before coming into Jerusalem that the Ark of the Covenant remained in the house of Obededom for three months. Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three months. There is no doubting the parallels. The message is that Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant where God dwells. She is the sacred place where God now resides.

The Gospel concludes with Mary’s Magnificat. She praises God for the great dignity he bestowed on her. The burden of her message is that God thinks differently to us. Her thinking resembles that of Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways.” (Is.55:8) God chooses the lowly and insignificant of this world to fulfil his purposes. It is not the proud and the powerful that God chooses, but “he has looked on his lowly handmaid.”

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