The Scriptures are full of hymns, canticles and songs; and we’ve just heard one of the most important of them. This canticle of praise, what we call The Magnificat, was uttered by Mary at her meeting with Elizabeth in response to her cousin’s exclamation: Blessed art thou among women.
Mary’s response to her cousin’s greeting is a wonderful song of praise and glory to God. The first part concerns herself, and Mary shows full appreciation of what God has done in her life. She cries with delight: “all generations will call me blessed”; this is not an expression of pride, but one of deep humility.
The rest of The Magnificat concerns itself with describing the mighty deeds of God, and the promises he made and kept.
And this is what we celebrate today; a promise kept. And it is the most important promise God made to the human race, the promise of salvation.
God sent his only Son into our world to fulfil this promise; to bring us salvation, and to save us from sin and death, and to enable us to enter and live forever in his Kingdom.
This feast of the Assumption, commemorates the fact that Mary, because of her special status and role in God’s plan of salvation, merited the first fruits of that salvation.
Our Lord came into the world through the co-operation of Mary; he preached repentance, proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom, and gave his life for us on the Cross. In this way he overcame sin and brought us salvation.
But there remains a puzzle: if our salvation has been accomplished, and sin has been overthrown; how come there is still evil in the world?
The cleverest theologians will admit that we don’t know all the answers. No human being can know the unfathomable mind of God. And this is part of the great mystery that is salvation. Theology proposes three dimensions to it: salvation was, is and is to come. The salvation of the human race incorporates every dimension past, present and future.
Our Lord achieved our salvation in the historical past, at a particular time in history, and in a specific place. Yet his salvation is present in our world right now. You and I experience the power of his salvation in this Mass, and our experience of the Sacraments, as well as in a host of other ways. And his salvation is to come in all its fullness at the end of time.
As St. John tells us in the Book of Revelation: Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God have come. This ‘now’ is an eternal now. It has past, present and future dimensions. This is not our now, this is God’s now. We need to remember that God doesn’t live within time or space; time and space are his creations, and it’s the only way our human minds can even begin to understand this great mystery.
If we reject sin and take up the choice God offers us, we are all able to be saved. And this will happen to us over the course of time. It’s a process which began at our Baptism and continues throughout our lives, especially as we are nourished by the Sacraments; and it will come to a decisive point at the moment of our death. Following our death and our particular judgement, please God, we will experience the power of the Resurrection in all its fullness.
This is what we celebrate today in this feast of the Assumption. Because Mary was free from sin, and co-operated fully in God’s plan for the salvation of the world, she has experienced the first fruits of the Resurrection.
So Mary is our model, a model in the sense that we should imitate her virtues. But she is also a model in the sense that because she has already experienced the fullness of salvation, we are able to look to her to see the way our own salvation will, in due time, and with God’s grace, and our co-operation, eventually work itself out.
Where Mary has gone we too hope to follow.