We all know the story well. Two thousand years ago, Mary encountered God when the angel Gabriel, God’s messenger, asked her to be the mother of the saviour.
Mary said YES.
This is the Angelus prayer: we pray “The Word became flesh, and lives among us.”
Nine months later, in a Bethlehem stable, Jesus was born. All this happened, because Mary said yes.
Mary followed an attraction that did not initially seem reasonable: to say yes, to an angel?
But Mary knew that the deepest longings of her heart could only be satisfied by following her deepest attraction. And so, “the Word became flesh, and dwells among us.”
But today is the feast of something more: the Assumption of Mary to Heaven.
I am sure that most of the thousands of homilies given today for this feast will focus only on Mary’s yes to God, the Annunciation. These homilies may be very good. But they miss the point of this feast of Mary assumed body and soul into heaven.
So, why do we celebrate the Assumption of Mary body and soul into heaven? (these are the Church’s words for this feast: Mary assumed “body and soul into heaven”).
The answer is very important.
Humans too often make the fatal mistake of separating body and soul. There is something very disordered in us that seeks to separate our bodies from our soul (or spirit).
This has disastrous consequences for human life.
Such a separation renders the human person incomplete. In fact when we separate body and soul we are no longer living a human life. Perhaps we are living only in a physical body with no consciousness of the life of our soul, so we live like animals?
Another serious mistake is that we try to live as angels. But we are not angels. God made us with bodies. Yes we are spirit (soul), but we are also embodied. We are physical.
Rather than say we are bodies with souls it is more correct to say that we are souls with bodies.
Can you imagine going on vacation with only the spirits or souls of our friends? It is my human body that incarnates me on earth. It is my body that enables me to speak and laugh, to share, to eat and drink, to embrace, to think, to discuss, to climb in the mountains. Thank God for my body!
Yes it is true that my body gets tired. My body fails me. My hair turns grey, my teeth fall out and my limbs grow weary. My hearing is not good. My body also seems to enjoy sin.
As St. Paul says, ‘I find myself not doing the very things I want to do, and doing the things I have decided not to do!” I seek comfort in all the wrong places. And the evil spirit says to me: John you need to escape from your body. Your body is a problem. The evil spirit even whispers to me: “John, your body is evil, God would prefer you to live like an angel!”
But that is the evil spirit.
Instead the Spirit of God is saying to me, “John, I made your body in my divine image. Your body is the place where I choose to become incarnate today. I want you to use your body to eat and drink with friends, to love and to embrace…. yes your body will fail you, and this will be difficult for you, but this is no problem for me” (says God).
Just think, if Mary did not have a human body, she would not have been able to speak aloud her yes to God. If Mary did not have a human body, she would not be able to conceive, and so to mother the Messiah. Mary knew that her meaning and purpose in life could only be lived if she placed her soul and body at God’s service.
In this way Mary was fully ready, for eternal life.
And so, on this feast of the Mother of God being Assumed body and soul into heaven, let us give God thanks for our bodies, since they enable us to be together in this place and to live today in the physical presence of our friends and families.
Our bodies and our souls belong together, not only here on earth, but for eternity.
In the Creed we remember “the resurrection of the body” on the last day. Mary has led the way for us. We follow the way she has led by also saying yes to the desires that are deepest in our heart, that is our desire for all given by God.
We follow the way Mary has led by not giving in to the superficial attractions that seek to confuse and distract us.
We desire, like Mary, that our bodies be transformed by God, into the harmony, the unity of body and soul (like Mary), in eternal love and service of God.