AUGUST 14, 2010: VIGIL OF THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY- 1 COR 15:54-57; LUKE 11:27-28

“BLESSED ARE THEY WHO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND KEEP IT.” Jesus had a special way with words. He knew how to make his speech convey meanings that were often clear and obvious on the surface, and at the same time evoke profound truths by implication. He was quite aware that many who heard him were not sensitive to the deeper significance of his message. On more than one occasion he said as much. “You will listen and listen again and not understand.” (Mt 13:15) He adds the cause of such woeful inability: “For the heart of this nation has grown coarse.” What he implies in citing these lines from the prophet Isaiah is that his meaning can be grasped only by those who have prepared their hearts to recognize that he speaks as God’s emissary. As Saint John reports, he declared that “what I have spoken does not come from myself . . . what I had to speak was commanded by the Father who sent me.” (12:49)

Today’s Gospel is an important witness to the way in which our Lord’s words reveal a truth far from obvious, and having a weighty significance for each of us. Probably a majority of devoted faithful would agree that Mary’s most honorable title is Mother of God. It was only in the year 431 A.D. that the whole Church explicitly and officially affirmed that belief in this truth is an integral doctrine of our faith. The woman who pronounced Jesus’ mother specially blessed to have given him birth to such a man as she recognized him to be reacted with a very human enthusiasm that does her credit. Yet, Jesus does not accept her complimentary exclamation on her terms. Rather he raises the perspective to another level. His mother is indeed blessed, but more for her faith than for having given him birth and care as an infant. Her conceiving him and carrying him first in her womb and then in her arms in his infant years was and remains a unique privilege that no one else can ever share. However, her faith in God’s word, and the commitment she made in trusting belief was the condition for the motherhood that followed from it. Her divine motherhood is a singular grace confined to her alone, but all who put their faith in his words, the Lord here affirms, receive an even greater blessing, one which we share with his mother, however less perfectly than she possessed it. Those who believe in Jesus as the Savior, sent by the Father, he declares are blessed for through faith in him we receive the gift of his Spirit and so become children of the kingdom of God.

The faith of his mother that Jesus praises is not only an assent to the truths that God reveals; this faith is a firm commitment to the Divine persons. Such faith as our Lord teaches is a giving over of the whole self with childlike trust to the Father and to the one he has sent to save us. In the second reading Saint Paul tells us that through such a self-giving to the Lord, death loses its sting; it holds no power over us. Faith in our risen Lord assures us, as Paul states it, of victory even over death, through our Lord Jesus Christ. In this Feast of our Blessed Mother’s Assumption we commemorate not only her victory over death through her son’s Resurrection, but also our own. That is the meaning of our Lord’s words in this Gospel: “BLESSED ARE THEY WHO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD AND KEEP IT.” For us too, by the gift of faith in our Risen Lord Jesus, death has lost its power, and no longer can harm us with its sting. We thank God for this grace that gives us hope of eternal life today as we offer this Eucharist and honor the faith of Mary, the holy Mother of God and her Assumption into the heaven that is life united with God. &  

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger


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