| By Bishop Steven J. Raica

A ‘Sure Sign of Hope and Comfort’

The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Mother of God

On Aug. 15, Bishop Raica celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul, marking the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, Mother of God. The complete text of his homily follows herein.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today I welcome all who have come here for this celebration of Mass on this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary. Although not a holy day of obligation, we come because of our desire to commemorate this significant event in the life of Mary.  

In addition, we come to this place to recall the various apparitions of our Lady – her love for Christ and her desire to be close to our Lord. We, too, desire the same thing – to find a way to draw close to our Lord, like she did.  

Tonight, I’d like to reflect with you for a moment on a couple thoughts that have struck me as I ponder this momentous event in our Lady’s life – her Assumption into Heaven.  One of the things that touches me so very much whenever I read it is Psalm 42: “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, when shall I come and behold the face of God?” It seems to be a cry, a yearning, a desire, an unquenchable hunger that we have deep in our souls, longing to see the face of God. When shall I come, when? Our Lord reminded us that where our treasure is, there would our hearts be also. One cannot imagine our Lady without this thirst for the face of God, especially as she saw it in the face of her Son. She longed for it, sought it out, wanted to be near it, and treasured it in her heart, as scripture records. Where He was, she wanted so much to be. And our Lord would not deprive her from the realization of this prayer in her heart. There is a cosmic dimension to this desire, too: Our hearts long for that eternal presence, that infinite reality that draws us to something more. As we prayed a few moments ago that we may be “always attentive to the things … above, [so that] we may merit to be sharers of her glory.” Yes, she is the “sure sign of hope and comfort” to all of us. So, we gather to acknowledge that nothing else comes close to satisfying that longing, that deep hunger, except for Christ Himself.

When she was in Ostia, just outside of Rome, St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, had a foretaste or glimpse of something of eternal life. It is reported she went about repeating, “What am I doing here any longer? What am I doing here any longer?” A few days later she died. These words may have been familiar to Mary as well. She knew her Son. She was with Him at the moment of His incarnation, of His birth, His presentation in the temple, His very act of redemption under the cross. She experienced the resurrection in such a profound way. She longed to be with Him at every moment and could ask herself, “What am I doing here any longer?” She wanted to be with Him for eternity. One of the Protestant philosophers named Kierkegaard wrote, “Let the Church experts go on disputing about the assumption of the Madonna into Heaven; it doesn’t seem incomprehensible to me, seeing that she was no longer of this world.”  

Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception and her Assumption are predicated on the fact that she is, as the Angel Gabriel told her, “Full of grace.” She knew what it meant to be in a relationship with her Son and how liberating that relationship would be: She could behold and contemplate His face right before her. She never wanted to leave Him but be with Him for eternity. The desire she had was, in a sense, already fulfilled through her very life. She treasured Him beyond anything else. It would only seem natural that our Lord would extend the grace of salvation to her as a very special vessel and instrument through which the Savior entered our world. In honoring the vessel, we honor Christ. In that way, we could know what we, too, long for: to be free, happy, fulfilled, knowing that our desire is, in itself, something quite extraordinary.

Today, we recall the many people who don’t have this relationship with Christ – who don’t know what they are longing for and can’t put a name on the desires of their hearts.  We recall those who don’t know to whom to turn in the confusion of their lives. We recall those who seek to blaspheme or ridicule our Blessed Lord, His Mother, and the Church. We recall those who seek to denigrate life, especially life that is most vulnerable in the womb through abortion or those with great suffering at the end of life through euthanasia. We recall those who abuse or commit crimes against humanity and all human decency. And we join many throughout the world in offering this Mass, our daily Rosary, and prayers in reparation for them. May their hearts hear and respond to the invitation of our Lord to “follow me …I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  

Thank you again for your presence today, and I pray that through our devotion to our Lady, we may recognize the thirst and longing in our own hearts to be with our Lord and His Mother for all eternity in eternal bliss. Moreover, may our Diocese of Birmingham reflect the praise of our Lord and the honor due our Lady for cooperating in God’s plan as an instrument needed to bring our Lord and Savior into the world so that we may know the path to Heaven. May God bless you all.