With today being the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the prayers, readings, and music that we heard at Mass today are all from the Solemnity. This is because, of course, on the Church’s liturgical calendar, a solemnity holds a higher rank than a Sunday in Ordinary Time. This practice forces us to focus on what a tremendous reality we celebrate on this high feast day. Mary, being taken body and soul into heaven, did not undergo any bodily corruption before entering into heaven. Further, today’s feast day is one that should inspire hope in all of us. Mary, now in heaven, prays for us constantly, lifting our prayers to Jesus and obtaining for us the graces to do what is most pleasing to him.
However, all of this means that today’s Gospel reading was not the last section of chapter six of John’s Gospel, which we would have heard today if the Solemnity of the Assumption did not occur today. For the last three weekends, we have been listening to chapter six of John’s Gospel, in which Jesus very clearly reveals his plan to give his flesh and blood as food and drink in the Eucharist.
Although we did not hear Jesus finish his bread of life discourse in John’s Gospel this weekend, there is still a powerful theological connection between the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist. To this end, Pope Benedict XVI wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity):
Although we are all still journeying towards the complete fulfilment of our hope, this does not mean that we cannot already gratefully acknowledge that God’s gifts to us have found their perfect fulfilment in the Virgin Mary, Mother of God and our Mother. Mary’s Assumption body and soul into heaven is for us a sign of sure hope, for it shows us, on our pilgrimage through time, the eschatological goal of which the sacrament of the Eucharist enables us even now to have a foretaste.
[…] Consequently, every time we approach the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharistic liturgy, we also turn to her who, by her complete fidelity, received Christ’s sacrifice for the whole Church. The Synod Fathers rightly declared that “Mary inaugurates the Church’s participation in the sacrifice of the Redeemer.” She is the Immaculata, who receives God’s gift unconditionally and is thus associated with his work of salvation. Mary of Nazareth, icon of the nascent Church, is the model for each of us, called to receive the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the Eucharist.
The “eschatological goal” mentioned above is a theological term which simply means Heaven (eschatology pertains to the four “last things:” death, judgement, Heaven, and Hell). Mary was always docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and was faithful and obedient to Christ in all things. Mary showed us by the example of her own earthly life how to love Jesus perfectly, and she continues to teach us these practices today by the graces she obtains for each of us so that we might more perfectly know, love, and serve Jesus as we make our way through the difficult pilgrimage of this life. Jesus gives us the Eucharist for this very same purpose- that we might continually draw close to him and keep our focus on him throughout this life, so that we might be with him forever in Heaven. The Eucharist, being Jesus himself, is both the prize we seek to attain in Heaven, and the means by which we get there.
Blessings to you all,