This past Wednesday was the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, a Holy Day of Obligation. I’ve been delinquent in following these things in the past — except for the two biggies of Christmas and Easter — but this time I went to Mass. In attendance was the UD community, including students and faculty who were starting to return for the impending Fall semester. One of my old professors — literally and historically — read the first reading, from the Book of Revelation, verse 12, about the woman who gives birth to a male child, swept up to God and His Throne. His deep, sonorous voice always makes me think of the Voice of the Burning Bush. The second reading was from Corinthians, and the Gospel reading was from Luke, where Mary’s cousin Elizabeth greets Mary and feels the leaping joy of her unborn child before Mary’s own pregnancy.
The Marian mysteries — of Mary’s Immaculate Conception and her Assumption — are those things that really hit home for a cradle Brown Catholic like me. More die-hard, conservative Catholics and Protestants would probably call me — and many folks in my family and my family’s home country — Mary worshippers, more so than Christ. But, as Fr. JD spoke of in his homily, what Mary shows us is a human being, through and through, poor and misunderstood by the everyday world — even to the extent of “guilty” of being stoned by her village community — but rich and beloved by those touched by God: her husband Joseph… her cousin Elizabeth.
But, even without Joseph and Elizabeth, without friends and family, she is rich and beloved, by God Himself.
She is miraculous, but only because she has opened herself to God, because God has opened her to Himself. It’s that “chicken-and-egg” thing about grace again: it’s grace that enables us to ask for grace. And Mary… well, the prayer does begin with “Hail Mary, full of grace” after all.
But also in the Mass, for those who do not have the special grace given to Mary, is this reminder: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word, and I shall be healed.” The voice of the Roman centurion in Mt 8:5 and Lk 7:1. That’s the grace given to me, to those kneeling in Mass that hot, sweltering Wednesday, to all of us.
And that’s miraculous. Not only in the grace offered, but also in asking for that grace. For it is hard — in the midst of one’s own hell, one’s own guilt, awareness of one’s own sins — to even believe that that grace even exists, that that grace exists for that person.
Yes, that person.
Even *that* one.
*Especially* that one.
Only in communion can any one of us truly heal — communion with each other, certainly, but more importantly communion with God. In speaking openly to my friends and family. In speaking openly to the priest in the Confessional. In speaking openly in my soul when I pray. To acknowledge the pain, to bear it, to work through it, and to heal, in order to be a better person, in order to help others through their own pain.
I believe this.
It’s a miracle and a grace in itself, just to believe.