Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In her glory, the promise of our own

Archbishop José H. Gomez
By Archbishop José H. Gomez 

The Feast of the Assumption, which we celebrated this week, is one of my favorites in the church’s liturgical year.

Since the church’s early days, Christians have reflected on this beautiful mystery of how the Blessed Virgin Mary was “assumed” — taken up body and soul into heaven at the end of her earthly life.

And each of us today should remember this glorious mystery with great joy. Because where the Virgin Mary has gone, we can go, too.

In Mary’s Assumption, we celebrate the victory of the cross and resurrection. We celebrate the victory of life over death; of good over evil; of the Father of mercies over the father of lies.

The good news of Jesus Christ is that our God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living! He didn’t create the human family for destruction, but for life. He created us for the abundant life of the children of God. Death only entered his creation as the bitter fruit of the devil’s temptation and our first parents’ original sin.

But Jesus Christ destroyed the power of death once and for all by his resurrection. “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life,” St. Paul wrote (1 Corinthians 15: 22).

Mary’s Assumption is the first “proof” that God’s promises are true.

By her Assumption we see God’s plan for the human family and we see our own personal destinies. We see that we are not born to die, but to live. We are born to be God’s beloved children. We are born to be raised to eternal life. We are born, as we confess in the Creed, for the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.

This is the beautiful hope that we share as Christians.

St. Paul tells us that Jesus came in “flesh and blood” so that by sharing in our natural experience of death “he might ... deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.”

So we don’t ever have to be worried about our death or the deaths of our loved ones. Because we know that God’s love is stronger than death!

This is why we celebrate Mary’s Assumption.

Jesus said there were many rooms in his Father’s house. He went before us, passing through death and over into the new life of the Resurrection. He did this to prepare a place for us in his Father’s house in heaven.

The Bible’s last book, the Book of Revelation, shows us a glorious picture of Mary as a “great sign in heaven.” Mary is clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, and wearing a crown of twelve stars.

In her glory, we see the promise of our own glory.

We know that we can follow her to heaven, if we follow in the footsteps of her Son here on earth. If we believe as Mary did, if we trust in God’s plan for our lives, then we will share in her destiny.

That means we have to really live the Gospel command to love as Jesus loved. We have to love God with all our heart and mind and strength. We have to love the people in our lives with the love of God.

This is how Mary lived.

In the Gospels, Mary is presented to us as a model for how we should follow Jesus as his disciples, making our pilgrim journey to our Father’s house.

We all remember the beautiful story of the Visitation, when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. This story, which we remember when we pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, should be a source of reflection and prayer for us. Because it reveals Mary’s “missionary heart.”

We are called to live with this same heart, with the same desire that Mary had — to share the joy of Jesus Christ with our brothers and sisters.

Mary carried Jesus Christ to Elizabeth. And when she was there, Mary sang her beautiful song of the Magnificat. She “magnified” the Lord. That means she proclaimed the great things God had done for her.

That’s how we want to live.

So let us pray for one another this week. Let’s pray that we will all carry Jesus to others and “magnify” God in our own lives. Like Mary, we want to bear witness to his goodness and love — in our homes, at work, in society.

May Mary teach us to listen to the word of God as she did. And may she teach us to respond with a generous heart. So that we may we share in her destiny of eternal life in heaven.

Archbishop José H. Gomez is archbishop of Los Angeles. His weekly column is provided by and appears in The Tidings, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Reach Archbishop Gomez on Facebook at www.facebook.com/archbishopgomez

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