The homily of Bishop Joseph Galea-Curmi
A year ago today, Pope Francis made a beautiful statement on the feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven. He said: “When man set foot on the moon, he said a phrase that became famous: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. Humanity had reached a historical goal.” And the Pope continued: “But today, in Mary’s Assumption into heaven, we celebrate an infinitely greater accomplishment. Mary stepped into heaven: and not just in spirit, she entered bodily, in her totality.”
Therefore, today’s feast is a great feast for the universal Church. It reminds us that Mary was the first person to enjoy the full fruits of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. As we heard in St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, when he spoke about the resurrection from the dead: “First Christ, then those who belong to Christ”. Mary was the first to enjoy in its entirety the outcome of Christ’s resurrection, by being taken to heaven body and soul.
We have a beautiful destination
What life-lessons can be drawn from this unique event? First of all, Mary’s Assumption into heaven reminds us of our destination. We are travelling to our heavenly home. She entered before us to remind us that we are journeying towards that destination.
We are not living here just for a few years, some of us more, others less, with everything ending in nothingness. We are moving to a special destination, which is our heavenly home. That is why, every time we contemplate Mary’s Assumption into heaven, we are inspired to call to mind and cherish our own destination.
When we consider our point of arrival, the way we look at life changes. When we reflect on our destination, we are encouraged not to lose heart, but to continue our journey, especially in the difficult moments of life, the moments when we are close to giving up.
We are also reminded that, in life, we have to make a distinction between what lasts and what ends in nothingness. And we must not set our hearts on what only lasts a few moments, but become attached to what endures, and use material goods that are short-lived without losing sight of the treasure that lasts forever.
Pope Francis has a beautiful expression about Mary. He says that Mary is the one who entered heaven before us and is now waiting for us, as a mother.
The road to our destination
Mary not only reminds us of our destination – where we will arrive – but also how we should live in order to get there, the road that takes us to this destination.
We can learn a lot about this from today’s Gospel. First of all, I would like you to note how beautiful is the episode we have just heard in the Gospel, where we have two women, Elizabeth and Mary who meet, and celebrate and praise God together. But the two women themselves emphasise that in this event they are not two but four: there is Elizabeth’s child, John the Baptist, and Mary’s child, Jesus too. We see two people, but there are four.
Let us cherish life
Therefore, in this beautiful event, there is a celebration of life. Elizabeth, in her own words, reminds us that life is precious. And it is precious from the first moment of its conception. Elizabeth does not say: when I heard your greeting, the cells inside me leaped with joy… there is something in me that someday will become someone. Instead, she said: “the child leapt with joy”. Because she realised she was carrying a child, as Mary was.
Therefore, it is a celebration of life, and the first important message this event delivers to us is that we prepare ourselves for our heavenly home by cherishing life, and we cherish the life that God gave us from its conception, when a human being already exists, when there is already a reason to celebrate, just as Mary and Elizabeth celebrated together.
Faith sustains us
This episode also reminds us how important for us is the faith that leads us along this road. Elizabeth tells Mary: “Blessed is she who believed”, and Mary is always a woman of faith. From the first moment we meet her, in the event when the angel Gabriel announced to her that she would become the mother of God and she accepts, she already displays the strength of her faith. And throughout her life right up to the moment when she was standing under the cross, where she faces the greatest trial to her faith, Mary keeps believing. Hence the words of Elizabeth “Blessed is she who believed” portray Mary’s life of faith.
We are also reminded that, as we journey towards the destination of our heavenly home, it is faith that draws us on, faith that fills us with courage, our faith in the knowledge that God is always with us and sustains us throughout our life, even in dark moments, just as Mary went through moments of darkness in her life.
We praise the Lord
And then there is that beautiful hymn. There are many things that Mary says in the hymn of the Magnificat; I will mention some points emphasised by Pope Francis. Mary says: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.” Pope Francis says: Mary praises the greatness of God. Mary speaks about the greatness of God, not the greatness of her problems, the trials she was going through. She faced many difficulties, but she emphasised the greatness of God: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”. She praised God through her words and through her life.
This is an important message for us on our journey to our destination, our heavenly home: that our life, and our words must glorify God and his Mother Mary. How wonderful it is for us to repeat: “God be praised”, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!” We know how shameful it is in our country when, wherever one goes, one always hears God’s name and that of Our Lady being mentioned in vain. I often walk in the streets, and I am shocked when, instead of the words of Mary “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”, I hear words abusing the name of God, even coming from homes.
Maybe the person who is talking is not aware of what is being said. This is true, but this is why it is so important to nurture this habit of praising God, so that this is expressed spontaneously and naturally! Just as it is natural for some to mention the name of God and Mary in vain, in a similar manner, if we are imbued with the spirit of Mary, we will instinctively say: “My soul proclaims the greatness of God.”
And we will show this not only with our words, but also with our actions, so that our whole life becomes a glorification of God. This will lead us towards the destination of our heavenly home. The more our words praise the Lord, the better we are preparing ourselves for the moment when we encounter him face to face. Hence, Mary’s words help us on our journey.
God works through those who are humble
Mary also says: “He has looked with favour on his humble servant.” God does great things in history through humble people, as demonstrated in the case of Mary and Joseph. People who are humble allow space for Him. They are not full of themselves, occupying all the space, but allow room for God to work in them, and do great things through them. This is the message given to us on this journey which takes us to our destination: that we should be humble like Mary, that we should recognise that God works through us, and allow him to work in our life by giving him the space to do so.
Door of heaven
Ultimately, this is the road that will take us to our heavenly home. Pope Francis has a beautiful expression about Mary. He says that Mary is the one who entered heaven before us and is now waiting for us, as a mother. This should fill us with courage. She is our beacon, a sign that sustains us in our life. We know that we are pilgrims on this earth, and she is waiting for us. Therefore, in order to allow her to help us in our life, we should discard what is trivial, what holds us back and fills us with negativity, and choose instead what is good, what really prepares us for this destination where she has arrived before us. At the end of the day, this is the purpose of our life.
On this feast, it is good to remember the beautiful words of Pope Francis, who says that in the end, on the threshold of heaven, we will meet this Mother who is waiting for us.
✠ Joseph Galea-Curmi