Today’s gospel offers us once again the beautiful story of Mary’s visit to her cousin, Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist. This act of thoughtful and loving concern brings great joy to Elizabeth, sensed even by the child in her womb, but the highlight of the story is the hymn of praise and thanksgiving that Mary offers in her “Magnificat.”
This splendid hymn transcends time and space as it sings of God’s love for Mary and for all of us, in every place and at all times. In spite of the real and tragic presence of evil and sorrow in our world, the dark clouds of violence cannot hide the reality of God’s love and concern for all the “lowly” ones. They have not been abandoned and their oppression at the hands of the “mighty and exalted” will not last forever.
The victory that is celebrated in Mary’s “Magnificat” is expressed in today’s feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. Though the Scriptures do not explicitly refer to this event, it is implicit everywhere in the promise that God will “lift up” and give glory to all of us who, like Mary, trust in his goodness and obey his commandments.
The high and mighty ones of this world, who rely on power to serve their purposes, are inclined to ridicule those who accept the wisdom of Jesus and do their best to be a loving, caring presence in a much too violent world. Their way seems foolish and unpromising, but God is on their side and their ultimate victory is assured. Mary’s glorious Assumption into heaven is celebrated, therefore, as the victory of love over hatred, of mercy over cruelty and of gentleness over violence.
Unfortunately, in a society where sheer power is too often assumed to be the only means for getting things done, we are tempted to abandon the wisdom of Jesus. Indeed, we feel helpless in dealing with violence in our homes and in our streets. That is why this feast of the Assumption is so important, since it provides us with an opportunity to reaffirm our faith in God’s promises. God really does remember his promises to Abraham and therefore to all of us believers, who are spiritual children of that great patriarch, whom Paul called “the father of us all” (Romans 4:16). God really does intend to “lift up the lowly” and to “fill the hungry with good things.” And if that is so, we should gladly sing with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.
Image: Tiziano Vecelli or Vecellio, Hochaltar für St. Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venedig.