YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF ASSUMPTION OF MARY
HOMILY THEME: THE WOMAN & THE DRAGON (Assumption of Mary into Heaven)
BY: Fr. Gerald Musa
The Catholic World celebrates the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary annually on 15th August. The word assumption comes from the Latin word assumere, which means to take to (one) self, and the Webster Dictionary cites an example of the use of the word in the case of assuming a new position. Therefore the assumption could be interpreted as an action of God changing the position of Mary from the world to heaven, in other words taking Mary home to himself.
The belief that God took Mary to himself after her life here on earth is based on the fact that even though she died like any other creature, there is no historical record or place where she was buried. Although the Bible does not explicitly mention the assumption of Mary, there are scriptural records about God taking up holy people, body and soul to heaven. Among those mysteriously taken to heaven are the Old Testament Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and the prophet Elijah (2 Kings, 2:1, 11). Having been convinced about the truth of Mary’s assumption, Pope Pius XII, moved by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit formally defined the dogma of the assumption in 1950 to make it a statement of faith.
The book of Revelation (11:19a, 12:1-6) provides some insight into the assumption of Mary into heaven. It says "God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple.” As we know, the Ark of the Covenant is the holy box that contains, among other things the sacred book and it symbolized the presence of God among the people of Israel. Likewise, many sacred writers describe Mary as the Ark of the New Covenant because her womb contained the child Jesus – the word made flesh. The book of Revelation went further to speak about the great sign that appeared in the sky, which was a woman, clothed with the sun and with the moon beneath her feet. The sun and moon are symbols of her purity. The crown of twelve stars around her head reminds us of the twelve apostles with whom Mary prayed on the day of Pentecost. “Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and on his heads were seven diadems.” This story gives us a graphic image of the terrific nature of Lucifer, also known as Satan or the Devil. Its tail swept a third of the stars and hurled them down to earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. The devil presented here, as the dragon, was ready to scuttle the plan of God even before Jesus the child of Mary was born. This story of the dragon also expresses the destructive nature of Satan, whose function the scripture says is to steal, kill and destroy.
That dragon that went after this wondrous woman and her glorious child is still alive today as he was in the past. There is more to the world than what we see at first glance. The signs of the time clearly indicate that, the devil, the dragon is at work 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the subtlest ways. He is working against the spiritual, material and physical well being of every individual, against the good of the children of God, against the existence of love in families, against the church, and against peace in the world. The increasing rates of divorce, the scandals that are rocking churches, and the terrible diseases that are destroying members of our families are indicators of the work of this same terrific dragon. Furthermore, the violence, the wars that surround us, the news of terrorists that cripple us with fear and the growing number of occult societies and the break-down of a strong sense of morality are all indicators of the evil one at work. Little wonder, St. Paul says, we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against authorities, against, the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual powers and wickedness.
We need to pray daily against the work of the devil in families, in the church and in the world. Let us revive that prayer against evil composed as far back as 1903 by Pope Leo XIII. The Pope composed the prayer after he had a terrible vision in which he saw a glimpse of what will happen in the future, the advent of misleading powers and raving devils fighting against the church. The Pope then saw the archangel Michael appearing promptly to cast Satan and his legions back into hell. It was after this vision that the Pope composed this prayer that is still relevant to the church today. The prayer is: St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil, may God rebuke him, we humbly pray. And do thou, O prince of heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all other evil spirits that prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
A strong reason why we venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary is because in the first book of the holy scriptures, Genesis, God said to the serpent: “At this moment the wrath of the omnipotent is about to fall on thee; a woman, the descendant of Adam and Eve, shall crush thy head, and the sentence which was pronounced against thee in the heavens, and afterwards in the terrestrial paradise is about to be accomplished.” (Genesis 3:15). In crushing the head of the serpent, the Blessed Virgin Mary helps us in the battle against evil. As the Queen of Heaven, she frantically pleads for us in the same way that Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah. In her various apparitions in Fatima, Guadeloupe, Lourdes and other renowned and remote places around the world she asks us to pray fervently for ourselves and for many souls that are constantly destroyed by this terrific dragon called the devil. She asks us to pray in the same way that her beloved son Jesus Christ enjoin us to pray without ceasing.
In conclusion, the feast of the Assumption is a feast of hope – we are reminded that those who live and die in Christ will be united in heaven with Mary and with all the angels and saints. **************************************** Rev. 11:19a, 12:1-6a