1st Reading: Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6.10; 2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:20-27; Gospel: Luke 1:39-56
THEME: WE SHALL SURELY TRIUMPH BY EMULATING MARY’S VIRTUES.
Our world is a battlefield between good and evil, which seems to be only for the survival of the fittest; with many forces (physical & spiritual) engendered by the evil ones. Contemporarily, this is evident in the lives of many people who are encumbered with many prevalent challenges (socio-political & economic issues, prejudices, injustices, tribalism, betrayals, diseases, etc.), and sometimes they become depressed and hopeless. So how do we navigate or survive these sufferings?
Meanwhile, in the FIRST READING, St. John described the beginning of the messianic era, in which the powers of evil, represented by a dragon, fought vehemently to thwart the victory of the Messiah. It tried to devour the Woman (Blessed Virgin Mary) who was in her pangs of birth to deliver her Child (Jesus Christ), but failed. Thus, fulfilling His mission, the Child triumphantly and gloriously ascended to God’s Heavenly Throne (Acts 1:6-9).
Similarly, the Church celebrates today, the completion of God’s triumph in the Woman (Blessed Virgin Mary), who was intimately connected with her Son (Jesus Christ) in the fulfilment of His salvific mission. Even though Mary was human, with flesh and blood as we are, but she differs from us to a greater extent because of her honored and most special relationship with God. For God chose her ahead of time (Immaculate Conception), the first moment of her existence, and preserved her from the taint of original sin due to the foreseen merits of Christ. She was conceived immaculate, pure and free from any human stain simply for the sublime dignity of motherhood (Theotokos – Mother of God or God’s Carrier) of His incarnate son. For, it would certainly be against right reason to think that the All-Pure God, the Second Person of the Trinity could take flesh in a woman who was tainted by sin. So, God exceptionally prepared Mary in her conception that He might one day be born of her in time.
Therefore, from the very beginning, the Church, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, holds that, having completed the course of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory, sharing in the resurrection of Christ. This was ratified as a dogma of the Church, through the infallible declaration of Pope Pius XII (Munificientissimus Deus, 1950, no. 44). For Christ who never experienced bodily decay could not allow the body of His mother to experience decay like every other human body, since it was a holy dwelling place of God which was specially prepared for the incarnation.
In the GOSPEL, filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit, Mary sang the Magnificat; praising God for His divine favor upon her, the poor and lowly ones, and a revolutionary reversal of socio-political status quo that would take place with the coming of God’s mercy in Christ. Surprisingly, Elizabeth was filled with the Power of Holy Spirit immediately the Virgin Mary greeted her. Consequently, the Holy Spirit inspired her to proclaim to Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” This shows that, to encounter Mary is to experience the Power of the Holy Spirit. Just as Christ told Philip, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father… (Jn. 14:9),” so Mary, in an analogous way, could say, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Holy Spirit.”
Moreover, Mary’s mission is not only to attract us to the Holy Spirit, but in fact to attract Him to us. Hence, St. Louis de Montfort affirmed this and said, “It is Mary who can brings us into that deeper and more personal relationship with the Holy Spirit wherein we feel His effect in our lives.” For she reflects the image of the Holy Spirit, not only by her outer appearance, but also by her inner virtues: Profound Humility, Selfless Love, Lively Faith, Blind Obedience, Continual Mental Prayer, Universal Mortification, Forgiving Heart, Surpassing Purity, Ardent Charity, Heroic Patience, Angelic Sweetness, Divine Wisdom, etc. These virtues were the weapons she used to conquer the dragon (evil), which are worthy of emulation!
Furthermore, as the mother of Christ, Mary is the most perfect image of the liberation of humanity and of the universe. Her exceptional pilgrimage of faith represents a constant point of reference for the Church, and, in a sense, for all humanity. Thus, St. John Paul II averred this in his encyclical, that, “…the Church sees Mary in the saving mystery of Christ and in her own mystery; deeply rooted in humanity’s history and eternal vocation according to the providential plan which God has made for her from eternity. Mary is maternally present and sharing in the many complicated sufferings which today beset the lives of many people; … helping Christians in their constant struggle between good and evil, to ensure that they do not fall, or, if they have fallen, will rise again”(Redemptoris Mater, 1987, no. 52).
Finally, St. Paul assures us in the SECOND READING, that there is life beyond the grave; an eternal life which Christ has won for us by His passion, death and resurrection, and which God had planned for us from all eternity (Col. 1:15-28; 1 Cor. 15:57). He did this so as to free those incarcerated in the grave and make a way for the resurrection of the believers, subsequently at the Parousia. Just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven in a glorified state next to her Son, we too, would be raised from the dead one day to rule with Christ in His Heavenly Kingdom and have dominion over the evil ones; provided we emulate Mary’s virtues.
Therefore, I pray that, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, no matter the kind of sufferings or challenges you are passing through now, with faith and hope in God, and through the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, you shall surely triumph to the glory of God Almighty, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.