This is my homily for Sunday 15 August 2010, Feast of the Assumption. On-campus Mass at Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Teaneck, NJ resumes 7:30 p.m. Sunday August 29 for the 2010-2011 school year. I am the Catholic campus minister for this campus and for the FDU Newman Catholic Association.
[__01] This Sunday, we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And, we hear this Gospel of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.
On this feast of the Assumption, we recall a final gift, one last gift.
Sometimes, after we stay somewhere, we feel obligated – or we feel moved – to leave some gift with the person or family with whom we stayed.
We offer this in exchange for the value of their time and hospitality in the house. And, also, in the hope that we will be invited back someday.
We might offer a gift, then, not only when we arrive but also when we leave.
[__02] Perhaps, at the end of her three-month stay with Elizabeth, Mary offered some gift to Elizabeth, something material.
We are not sure based on the Gospel.
However, we do know that by the end of Mary’s stay – the end of Mary’s stay on earth – Mary leaves behind something and someone behind.
Elizabeth also leaves someone behind.
Mary is mother of Jesus; Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist.
On this feast, we recall the legacy of Mary and Elizabeth, the legacy of Mary through Christ.
Today is the feast of her Assumption, marking the end of her earthly life.
The Blessed Virgin Mary falls asleep in death and is taken up to heaven. Her life is her final gift to us; however, we also believe that her life – her intercession for us – continues in heaven.
[__03] Thomas Merton observes – making the quite obvious statement in one of his essays – that death is the end of life.
However, Thomas Merton cautions us not to fear death or to become obsessed with death.
It is true that all life – all of our lives – are limited, just as our stay in any place is limited.
Merton suggests that we look beyond these superficial fact that that death is the end of life. His point is that if we treat death superficially – or without some appreciation of its seriousness – we will also treat life – our lives with superficiality.
And, if death becomes trivial … well, life can become trivial too.
[__04] Elizabeth and Mary – in the Visitation – are treating their lives and the lives they are nurturing with gratitude and some seriousness.
They recognize that the lives of their children are gifts. They are gifts to be treasured. However, they are also gifts that cannot fully possess or contain. Sometimes, these gifts contain surprises.
Ultimately, they are also gifts to be surrendered and shared.
This is the call to all of us – to remember that our true home is in heaven and the gift we will leave behind is also our lives.
[__05] At this Mass, M. and D. bring their child .... recognizing her life is also a gift, a gift they are now sharing their baby with all of us, with this Christian community.
And, it is also our responsibility to help them with our prayers, and with the example of our own honesty, integrity, and sacrifice.
We help this .... family also to bring their gift – their child – to the altar today and each day that they pray for her and for themselves and for their family. [__end]