On this Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven, we celebrate the truth that Mary was taken up body and soul into heaven. This Feast is a celebration of great joy because heaven is no longer a very remote sphere that is unknown to us as human beings. We can believe ever more surely that this gift of eternal happiness with God that Jesus promised and won for us through His death and resurrection is real.
“Heaven” may still sound like a great mystery to us because of our limited human minds. So, just for a few seconds, I would like us now to close our eyes; try to recall and get in touch with the happiest moment of our lives . . . imagine the scene, see the persons . . . feel the joy and happiness in your heart. . . [pause]. You may open your eyes now; I encourage you to do this again at home.
We all know that our happiest human moments of our lives are real. Well, heaven is like multiplying, increasing and intensifying our limited human happiness by a million times or more, and also lengthening the time of the experience of the happiness by not just one day, but one year, ten years, hundred years, a thousand and million years! If we put these elements together, we may get a glimpse of what eternal may be like.
Nevertheless, in-so-far as we are still in this earthly existence, we can only understand and absorb what we are humanly capable of understanding and absorbing. To try to absorb the mystery of eternal happiness is like trying to zap a 60 watts light bulb with a 100 mega watts power; the bulb will explode into infinite pieces.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if heaven is so intensely and infinitely happy, I find it very perplexing as to why not everyone is as excited and overwhelmed about its Truth? While God is longing to give us this divine gift, we seem to be so caught up and preoccupied by so many things in this world that many of us do not seem to want this precious gift of eternal happiness that God is dying to give us!
This is as ridiculous and weird as saying that we can be so amused and caught up with the coin that is in our pockets that we do not want the $100 billion dollars that God wants to give us; free of charge! And why does God wants to give us this $100 billion? Very simple; He loves us unconditionally . . . and we are His sons and daughters.
Mary the Mother of Jesus is able to recognise this divine gift of eternal life and happiness is about and who God is to the human race. Thus, she is able to express spontaneously from her heart, “My soul proclaims the greatness of God and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, in his homily on this Feast in 2005 says, “Mary wanted God to be great in the world; Mary also wanted God to be great in her life and present among us all. Unlike, Adam and Eve, Mary was not afraid that God might encroach on our human freedom and vital space. Mary knew that if allow God to be great, then we too will be great, but without God we are nothing; mere dust.
Pope Benedict adds that, “In the great temptation of the modern age, of the past three or four centuries, more and more people have the distorted view that God does not give us the freedom we need. With all His Commandments, our lives will be restricted in freedom and space. So,God has to take the backstage of our lives or for many He has to disappear. We want and love our autonomy too much; we want to be totally free and independent and live our lives in the way we please.
This view of life is like the Prodigal Son, who did not realise that he was "free" precisely and only if he remains in his father's house. Ignoring this truth, he left for distant lands and squandered his money and wealth. In the end, he realised that because he had gone too far from his father’s home, instead of being free he had become a slave to his self-centered and superficial needs. Thus, by returning home he discovered his true identity,true freedom and full beauty of life.
When we try to set God aside we as men and women do not become greater; in fact we loose the sense of meaning and identity in life. In the end, we turn out to be merely products of a blind evolution that can be used and abused.
Pope Pius XII said explicitly that the pronouncement of the dogma of the Assumption is needed in 1950 because the previous fifty years had the slaughter and genocide of the Armenian people, the loss of ten million lives in World War I, the loss of forty million lives in the Russian Revolution, the loss of six million Jewish lives in the Holocaust, the loss of fifty million lives in World War II, and the invention and use of a new weapon of massive destruction called the atomic bomb. Pope Pius XII in referring to this history, deplored the destruction of human life, the desecration of human bodies right and left, and the increasing loss of reverence and respect for the God-given identity of every human being. And he asserted, “I intend that the celebration of the Assumption of Mary might make clear the sacredness and the high destiny of every single human person.”
When Mary proclaimed the “greatness of God,” she understood how important it is to affirm the greatness of God in her life. Only if God is great is humankind also great. With Mary, we must not drift away from God, but recover the mystery and presence of God in our lives; we must ensure that He is great in our lives. We need to bring God back into our public and private life.
There’s a conversation between a young man and his grand father. The grandfather asked, “Jack, what would you do after you graduate from the university?” Jack immediately answered, “Well, I would like to work hard and become a very successful businessman.” And then . . ? the grandfather asked, “I will make a lot of money, become well known, buy a Ferrari and save millions of dollars in my bank.” And then . . .? his grandfather continued to ask, “I will then have enough money to retire in my old age in great comfort.” And then . . .? Jack paused for a few moments and answered . . . “Well, I suppose I will grow old like everyone else.” And then . . .? With this, Jack paused again and finally answered, “I suppose I will die one day.” And then . . .? Jack was silent and had no answer . . .
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the truth is that like Jack, if we are so busy planning our life on earth and if we are not careful, we too would have no clear answer of what is going to happen to us after we die. Jack like millions of people in the world spends all their time and energy on planning and working so hard to live a comfortable life for a short time on earth, but have forgotten to spend enough time to plan for his eternal life after they die.
In this same homily of the Assumption, Pope Benedict contends that only if God is present in our public life do we have an orientation, and a common direction in life; otherwise, disputes will become impossible to settle and our common human dignity will no longer be recognised; that’s why we have so much exploitation, abuse, suffering and killing of all kinds in the world today.
Pope Benedict adds that if we able to make room for God in our private lives every day, starting in the morning with prayers, and then dedicating time to God, giving Sundays to God; and even offering our free time to God by living in His ways.
And if God is integrated more fully into our daily living, like our Mary who is our perfect Model of Christian living, our lives will surely be happier, richer and most fulfilling both now and then infinitely more after we die, as we will gain eternal happiness in heaven, with Mary our Mother and all the saints .
Fr Philip Heng, S.J.
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