Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Year B 2021
Readings: Rev 11:19, 12:1-6; 1Cor 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
15 August 2021
In the footsteps of Mary’s active discipleship
Dear brothers and sisters,
This Sunday, we have entered the ninth week of lockdown in Sydney due to the outbreak of the Delta variant way back in June. Yet there does not seem to be any sign of a light at the end of the dark tunnel. We are all fatigued and stressed, some more so than others. Our thoughts go to the most vulnerable members of our community as well as those who work at the frontline. The pandemic has made us realise that we are all one human family and only by caring for the welfare of all can we emerge out of this crisis.
The celebration of the Assumption today reminds us of the future glory that we are called to share. At the heart of this celebration is the summons to build lives and relationships that reflect and anticipate the future glory. Just as Mary’s discipleship embodied the God of closeness to the poor and the suffering, we are also called to find our own salvation in imitating her. In other words, today’s celebration does not merely focus on the afterlife bliss. It commits us to follow the path of Mary, which models on the downward journey of Jesus.
Mary is glorified because she has followed the footsteps of her Son in giving her life in service of others. She certainly did not hold back in fear; she did not stay in her comfortable environment. Rather, it was a constant journey into the unknown, a courageous confrontation with life’s many uncertainties. The flight into Egypt, the years of living in exile, the constant uprooting and replanting, the journey to Jerusalem, the agony at the foot of the cross…. Mary knew the rough and tumble of motherhood and more.
The Magnificat is Mary’s song of praise to God. It is also a window into her life of faithful and courageous discipleship. Mary was anything but a fearful, withdrawn, uncommitted, indifferent person. The God she served was one who filled the poor with good things and sent the rich empty away. In other words, Mary was committed to justice, compassion, to raising up the fallen, loving the unloved and advocating for the defenseless. Just as in the life of her son, we too witness the passion for the Kingdom in hers.
Today’s celebration opens us to an incarnational faith. It is a faith that recognises and celebrates the presence of the living God in everyone and everything around us. It is a faith that allows us to appreciate the sacramentality of ordinariness and everydayness. The God that Mary served favoured the lowly, the poor and the hungry over against the rich, the powerful and the privileged. We cannot live this faith fully without going out and embracing those at the periphery.
Accordingly, we must not be an inward-looking and maintenance-focused people. Rather, we must be willing to be mission-oriented serving people where they are, in our parishes through liturgy and sacraments but also through solidarity with those wandering and searching for God in the new Babylon, that is the “strange land” beyond the pews.
Brothers and sisters,
Today’s celebration fills us with hope because it anticipates the final victory of God over evil, violence and death. In the power of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we partake of God’s love, which is stronger than death.
This victory is symbolically described in the first reading through the birth of a child by a woman adorned with the twelve-starred crown. She is identified as the chosen people of the covenant with 12 tribes. However, in the Johannine tradition, she is also Mary at the foot of the cross, who was acclaimed by Jesus as the new woman or the new Eve. There, she became the mother of those who were adopted into the family of God through faith in Jesus. She is the Church, the new Israel.
Mary is the sign of hope for humanity. Her incarnational faith and active discipleship enabled the victory of God to manifest itself in the world. She followed the downward journey of Christ in serving others in every kind of need. May we who honour Mary today be inspired by her to live out our discipleship of commitment and service. May Mary help us to show the mercy and compassion of God to the poor and lowly in these times of adversity. Then we too may be counted among her sons and daughters in the glory of God’s Kingdom at the end of time.