Detailed homily for the Feast of Assumption Year B
THEME: MARY’S ASSUMPTION: A REWARD FOR EXCELLENCE
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY: R1 – Rev. 11:19-12:1-6, 10
R2 – 1Cor 15:20-27
GOSPEL – Luke 1:39-56
There is a great structural monument in India with super architectural and artistic decorations called, Taj Mahal, which means, “Crown or pearl of the Palace” in India. Taj Mahal is an ivory-white marble mausoleum edifice completed as far back as 1645. It’s cost estimated at that time to be around 32 million rupees, which in 2021 would be approximately 70 billion rupees (about U.S. $956 million), multiply it by #500 per dollar. The Taj Mahal attracts 7–8 million tourists every year.
It might interest you to know that this magnificent marble mausoleum was built by Shah Jahan, India’s Mogul emperor, in memory of his favourite wife, Mumtaz. Shah Jahan loved her deeply, calling her his Taj Mahal, meaning ‘The Pearl or Crown of the Palace.’ But the princess died giving birth to their fourteenth child and the emperor was inconsolable. So he summoned a great architect from Persia to build the Taj Mahal, telling him that it must be ‘the one perfect thing in the world.’ Seventeen years were needed to build this enchanting edifice of gleaming white marble embroidered with flashing jewels, with over 20000 artisans and craftsmen. It is an endearing monument to love that still inspires tourists, artists and writers from all over the world.
Beloved in Christ, today is Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This beautiful love story gives us some idea of what we are celebrating and how much God must have loved Mary, the mother of Jesus, to the point of crowning her the “Taj Mahal” the Pearl of the Heavenly Palace.” Moreover, God did not have to build a structural Taj Mahal to memorialize Mary. Her own body is itself a magnificent temple of the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that, “Finally the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords and conqueror of sin and death.” (CCC 966).
Furthermore, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection and an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.
This solemnity is feasible today because ours is a God who rewards excellence. God chose to reward the mother of his only begotten son, the queen of all virtues for her excellent role in perfecting the work of our redemption.
*THE TRUTH ABOUT ASSUMPTION AND REASONS WHY WE BELIEVE IN THE DOGMA OF ASSUMPTION*
Ancient tradition holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary died in Jerusalem, and during the last moments of her earthly life all surviving Apostles were present there except St. Thomas, who was then preaching in India. He then was miraculously brought there, and he insisted on seeing the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But to everyone’s surprise, her tomb was found empty, excepting her clothes.
A related event equally took place at the Council of Chalcedon (451 AD), when bishops from Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol.
The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem that, “Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later…. was found empty and so the apostles narrated that the body was taken up into heaven.
However, Pope Pius XII, in the papal document Munificentimus Deus, gives four reasons for our belief in the Dogma of Assumption of Mary.
(i) The uninterrupted tradition about Mary’s death and Assumption starting from the first century.
(ii) The belief expressed in all the ancient liturgies of the Church.
(iii) The negative evidence — the absence and veneration of a tomb of Mary while most of the apostles have their tombs.
(iv) The possibility of bodily assumption warranted in the Old Testament in the cases of Enoch (Gn 5:24), perhaps Moses (Dt 34:5), and especially Elijah (II Kgs 2:1).5)
The theological reasons:
(a) The degeneration of the body after death is the consequence of “original sin,” and Mary, as “Immaculately Conceived,” is exempted from the post-mortem decay of the body.
(b) As receiver of the fullness of grace and holiness because she is mother of Jesus and co-redeemer with Him, Mary’s place is with her son, God’s Son Jesus, the Redeemer, in the abode of holiness, Heaven.
The readings of today’s liturgy, ranging from the first reading to the Gospel reading, exhort us that God rewards excellence. Excellence itself is a product of hardworking and total obedience to the word of God as exemplified in Mary’s journey from sorrows to glory; and there is hope in the resurrection of the dead.
(1) *ASSURANCE IN THE LIFE HEREAFTER*
The Solemnity of Assumption reminds and gives us an assurance of hope in the resurrection and a beatified life hereafter. This calls our attention to the four last things taught by the church: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell.
(2) *MARY IS AN ICON OF EXCELLENCE THAT SHOULD BE EMULATED BY EVERY CHRISTIANS*
The Blessed Virgin Mary is an undeniable icon of Favour and blessedness (Lk 1:48); a virtuous woman who strove even in difficult and good moments to please God. Her outstanding virtuous life worthy of emulation are expressed in her actions and only six places she spoke in the bible:
Lk. 1:34- I am a Virgin
(b) Faith in Christ = Lk. 1:38 – Let it be done to me according to your word
(c) Prayer/Thanksgiving = Lk. 1:46-56 – My soul now glorifies the Lord who is my saviour…
(d) Considerate/Unassuming = Lk. 2:48 – Son, why have you done this to us?
(e) Generosity/Goodwill = Jn. 2:3 – They have no wine
(f) Trust in Jesus = Jn. 2:5 – Do whatever he tells you.
(3) *GOD REWARDS EXCELLENCE*
Mary’s Assumption which we joyfully celebrate today is a reward for a holy life. Mary played a vital and perfect role as manifested in the history of our salvation that God showed us that He is not as wicked and ungrateful as humans to regard Mary as an envelope to be discarded after use.
On the contrary, God rewarded her for her excellent role as a vessel of holiness and imbued virtues.
Finally, a common and old fable narrated during our moonlight tales as little children has is that, at a period of a devastating famine and hunger in the animal kingdom, an inhuman and heinous solution was proffered and agreed by all the animals to sacrifice their mothers to be eaten as food so that the young can live. They all surrendered their mothers, but the Squirrel (osa) never complied. He so much loved his mother that he took his mother and hid her in an unknown tall and unclimbable tree. No animal knew except him and no one could climb to the spot without the help of a robe. He had a long robe with which he climbs to see his mother. Once he advances, he sings: “nne tutuo udo, tutuo udo” (mother throw down the robe), as the only key that guarantees access to his mother and only him has this code. After a period of time, the resolve to sacrifice their mothers as food never stopped their predicament and the hunger escalated after they must have eaten their mothers. The whole animals started looking malnourished and ‘kwashiorkoic,’ except the squirrel (osa), whose mother never failed to scout for food and give him. They wondered why the poor squirrel is looking quite nourished and plumpy. No one knew his secrets. One day, the tortoise convinced him to tell him the secret of his wellness and he opened up. The squirrel took the tortoise to his mothers location, there he sang the code, “nne tutuo udo, tutuo udo.” The amazed tortoise enjoyed the dinner and promised not reveal the secret. The tortoise later became jealous, revealed and ganged up with the rest of the animals to go and kill squirrel’s mother. When they got to the unclimbable tree in the absence of the squirrel, the tortoise who already knew the code, feigned the poor squirrel’s voice and sang, “nne tutuo udo, tutuo udo.” The mother squirrel who felt it was the son threw down the rope. Lo and behold, all the animals started climbing. As they climbed to devour squirrel’s mother, the squirrel advanced from a distance and shouted, “nne dobie udo, dobie udo.” The mother looking out, recognizing the real voice of the son and seeing the danger, cut the rope and got all of them decimated.
Beloved in Christ, the above fable has deep lessons for us Catholic Christians, we grow bigger everyday and get more nourished because we have not decimated our own mother like other denominations. The life and role of Mary as Co-redeemer cannot be underestimated. We are like the squirrel who never sacrificed the mother’s love, honour and recognition of our mother Mary or seeing her as an envelope. The Rosary remains (nne tutuo udo) the rope and chain which we climb the unclimbable (In 2:3-5).
MAY GOD OPEN OUR EYES TO RECOGNIZE MARY’S IRREPLACEABLE ROLE IN THE WORK OF OUR REDEMPTION AND WORK HARD TO EMULATE HER OUTSTANDING VIRTUES OF HOLINESS.
*FR GERALD MUOKA!*