August 16, 2016
St. Stephen of Hungary
Dear Family of Mary!
I am lingering over the power of the Feast of the Assumption. I want to share the homily given by Fr. Leon Pereira yesterday in Medjugorje, at English Mass. He covers the Scriptural basis for Our Lady’s Assumption. It gives me such peace to know more and more about Our Lady. Maria Assumpta, ora pro nobis!!
Fr. Leon Pereira – Homily on August 15, 2016 – The Assumption:
How would you like to be remembered after you are gone? It depends, I suppose on who you leave behind, and what they recall about you. And often enough, what people say about us is not the fine-tuned version that we would like to publicize about ourselves. People’s memories are selective.
Now the remembering of our dead is the best that a world that does not know Christ can muster. The pagans set up memorials because the only thing you can leave the world is the memory of you before you departed for the world of wraiths and shadows. And even today people will say things like “Our dead ones will live on in our memories.” Now if that is true, then they are the most pitiable of all. Because they have a half-life that will depend on our vague and befuddled memories.
The dead do not live on in our memories. And Christ is no shadow, no wraith, not ghost. He says to his disciples after His resurrection, “Handle me and see, a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” That is why we do not have relics of Christ as such, but only of the things that came into contact with Him. The relics of His Passion, the burial cloths, the nails, the crown of thorns and the other implements of His Passion and Death. And you see that this is also true of Our Lady.
The early Christians avidly collected the bones and blood of the martyrs the way modern people might collect a piece of the Berlin Wall or a lock of Elvis’ hair. The early Christians never claimed to have a relic of Our Lady. Of the body of Our Lady. Instead they said that Our Lady was no longer on the earth. Certainly not in her spirit, but not in her body either.
Collecting the relics of saints and martyrs makes a lot of sense. Far more sense indeed than collecting pieces of the Berlin Wall, or of Elvis or a photograph of so-called celebrities. Real celebrities, those who ought to be celebrated, are the Saints of Christ.
And when we celebrate Our Lady, we do not celebrate a memory. Mary is not a shadow. She is complete. She is alive, she is not dead. By the power of the Resurrection of her Son, she is risen!
In his Gospel, Luke presents Our Lady as a box, to be precise, as the Ark of the Covenant. I hope you know what the Ark of the Covenant is. Thank about “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, the very first film. The box like things with the two angels over it, with handles on either side, and the Spirit of God rested over it, and anyone who touched it was likely was zapped to death. Do you remember? That is the Ark of the Covenant. Luke portrays Our Lady as the Ark.
The Scriptures tell us that the Ark held three things (Hebrews 9:4). They are all symbols of Jesus. First, the Ten Commandments were kept inside the Ark. The two stone tablets that God gave to Moses, the covenant that God had made with His people. But Jesus, we know, is the mediator of the new and eternal covenant. Jesus is like the new set of stone tablets (Hebrews 9:15). Second, it held Manna, the Bread from Heaven that God fed His people with in the desert. But Jesus is the true and living Bread from Heaven. He, Himself, tells us (John 6:14-15). And third. It contains Aaron’s staff, the one which budded and flowered. This was the sign that God had picked Aaron to be high priest. But Jesus is the High Priest, the shoot sprouting from the stump of Jesse (Isiah 11:1)
The contents of the old Ark prefigure Jesus. So the thing containing these things, the Ark itself, prefigures Mary. It is a symbol of Mary before she, herself, had arrived. The old Ark contained the Old Covenant. Mary, the new Ark, contains the New Covenant.
And just as the old Ark was overshadowed by the Glory of God (Exodus 14: 34), so Mary is overshadowed by the power of the Most High (Luke 1: 35).
King David, we are told, lept and danced before the Ark when it came to Him (2 Samuel 6: 12-16). Likewise, (you just heard it now in the Gospel) John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb when she hears the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:41).
And then the old Ark stayed in the house of Obed-edom for three months, and it caused increased fertility in that family (2 Samuel 6:11) and how long did Mary stay in Elizabeth’s house? “And she stayed with her three months” (Luke 1: 56)
And what happens? The whole reason Elizabeth is pregnant is because of Mary and Jesus. The whole reason Zachariah regains his speech, in fact the whole reason he was struck dumb in the first place, is all because of what is going on with Mary and Jesus.
King David says when the Ark comes to him in Jerusalem, “Who am I that the Ark should come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9). Likewise, again you just heard it, what does Elizabeth say when Mary comes to her? “Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43)
In other words, Luke is telling us clearly that Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant. Mary is the Ark of the New and Eternal Covenant.
Now what happened to the original Ark is a mystery. It is not in someone’s cellar in the United States after Indiana Jones rescued it. The songs in Jeremiah say it was lost. And they prophesied that it would be superseded at the coming of the Messiah (Jeremiah 3: 16). A later legend says that Jeremiah hid the Ark at Mount Nebo (2 Maccabees 4:8).
The loss of the Ark is a great blow to the people of Israel. For the Ark was the guarantee of the special presence of God with His people. Wherever the Ark was, their God was there in a special way. But in Jesus God was present in a special way. Jesus is God made Man. God made flesh. So in Mary, the Ark of the Covenant, God is fully present in space and time. Mary is the guarantee that God has become a human being, that God is present to His people. And this time forever. The old Ark is gone. It’s lost. But this new Ark, it is fitting that the new Ark should never be lost as the old one was.
And so the Book of Revelation tells us that Mary is associated with celestial powers. It says that Mary is clothed with the sun, she is standing on the moon, crowned with twelve stars, and juxtaposes her with the old Ark. Revelations 11 ends by saying, “There was thunder and lightning, a peel of thunder, and the Ark of God was seen in heaven. And a great sign appeared in Heaven: A Woman clothed with the Sun, standing on the Moon, crowned with twelve Stars. And she cried aloud in the travail of birth.” Mary is shown with all these things to show us that she is the new Ark and that she is removed from the changeability of this world. She is in God’s world because she is faithful to His covenant forever and Jesus’ sign that He is faithful forever to us.
Mary, through Christ, is the first fruits that has been glorified and made fully alive through the power of Jesus’ resurrection. And we, according to the Book of Revelation, we are the other children of the Woman clothed with the Sun because we belong to Christ and await His coming in glory. Those who are faithful to the Son she gives birth to. And He has never allowed His mother, this Ark to be destroyed because the covenant He makes with us lasts forever. He has prepared a place of rest for this woman who bore the Son, and more than that, both the Gospel of St. John and the Book of Revelation make clear, we Christians are given a great thing, we are given Our Lady as our Mother. A living, bodily Mother. Not a ghost, not a spirit, not a memory, but a resurrected woman, fully alive.
I asked you at the start how you would like to be remembered when you are dead. I don’t want to be remembered, I want to be resurrected. So that I can put my arms around Our Lady and tell her how beautiful she is, and how much I love her. And I can only do that if I have a body. Mary is not remembered, she is resurrected. And she is alive in Christ, and she is your mother, even more than your own mother can be to you.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Oh Mary, Ark of the New and Eternal Covenant, pray for us!
In Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
(c) Mary TV 2016