The Assumption of Mary: A Bridge Between Earth and Heaven
Today we joyously celebrate the bodily assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven. All of us who have ever turned to Mary as source of hope and solace know we can trust our prayers to her because of her maternal love for us and because of her closeness to Jesus.
When he taught the dogma of the Assumption of Mary, Pope Pius XII noted that from the beginning of the Church, and in every age, a devotion to Mary was part of the life of Catholics. “The holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day,” he said, “did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ’s faithful. They presented it more clearly. They offered more profound explanations of its meaning and nature, bringing out into sharper light the fact that this feast shows, not only that the dead body of the Blessed Virgin Mary remained incorrupt, but that she gained a triumph out of death, her heavenly glorification after the example of her only begotten Son, Jesus Christ” (Munificentissimus Deus, 20).
As Pope Pius explained, because Mary was joined to Jesus in a unique and definitive way in the way she bore him in the womb, it would make sense that like her Son, she would share in his triumph over death by her immediate entry into heaven both spiritually and bodily.
In this way, in her assumption, Mary bridges for us our earthly and heavenly reality. Saint John Paul II affirmed also that “Mary contributes in a special way to the union of the pilgrim Church on earth, with the eschatological and heavenly reality of the Communion of Saints, since she has already been ‘assumed into heaven’” (Redemptoris Mater, 44). Mary, as Mother of the Church, is for us a sign of hope and a source of solace that the promise of eternal life is real, that the journey of this life will end for those who are faithful in the joy of heaven (see Lumen Gentium, 69).
This year’s celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption is a special one here in the Archdiocese of Washington because it also marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Washington D.C. Over the past century, as this part of the world experienced many challenges, the parish has been a sure sign of hope and a source of support for parishioners and all those who live nearby.
Two years ago, I had the pleasure of blessing the newly renovated and expanded Pope Francis Outreach Center at the Church of the Assumption. Growing out of the original Helping Hand Program established there in 1967, the Center provides food, clothing and material support for an area which has high unemployment and a 35 percent poverty rate. In the heart of the Pope Francis Center, visitors can also find spiritual assistance and comfort in the peace and quiet of a small chapel, close to the Lord and under the maternal embrace of our Blessed Mother.
The evangelizing mission of this parish inspired by Mary, assumed body and soul into heaven, is to invite residents of Congress Heights to find hope that the corporal and spiritual struggles of daily life can be transformed. In addition to the ministries at the church, Assumption’s pastor and parishioners engage in “street evangelization,” in which they walk through the neighborhood greeting neighbors and sharing with them the pearl of great value they have found, inviting them also to come and experience the love of Jesus.
Just as Blessed Mother Mary points the way toward Jesus, the parishioners of the Church of the Assumption are pointing the way to the presence of the Risen Christ, following the example of her perfect discipleship. Mary is, in fact, the model for us too. So, like her and in communion with her, let us also help and pray for our sisters and brothers in the world and commend them to her Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.