We Christians honor Mary, the Mother of Jesus, with many feasts and many personal devotions. We celebrate her as Queen of Heaven and have doctrines – like the one we proclaim today: the Assumption of Mary into heaven – which declares that unlike all other humans, she was taken bodily to heaven at the time of her death. This feast has been a tradition in the Church since the sixth century but only became doctrinal (believed as true by the institutional Church) in 1950, proclaimed by Pope Pius XII.
I often think of Mary and wonder how she would have handled all the titles we give her and all the homage that is paid to her. A humble maiden, I believe she would only have endured all the fanfare if certain that people understood it was/is prompted by the gift of her motherhood of Jesus. I wish there was more evidence from the Scriptures of the relationship between Jesus and Mary, as well as words from her about her role in salvation history. The gospels give us only 13 texts directly involving her (if I’m recalling correctly the information in Sister Elizabeth Johnson’s Book, Truly Our Sister).
Today’s gospel is – for me – the most perfect choice for this feast because it paints a picture of Mary as a conflicted teenager seeking the support of an older kinswoman during her early months of pregnancy, a normal thing to do, especially because she was as yet unmarried. At the same time, when she is with Elizabeth sharing the news of her impending motherhood, we have what has come to be known as “The Magnificat,” the declaration of how God has favored her as “most favored” among all women. (LK 1: 39-56)
Mary is quick to praise God when Elizabeth recognizes Mary’s situation (“Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”) and sees herself as God’s “lowly servant” while recognizing that she will “from this day” be called blessed by all generations. “the Almighty has done great things for me,” she says to Elizabeth, “and holy is his Name.” I can just see her bowing as she speaks those lines, taking no credit for worthiness but accepting that she has been chosen for this role, not knowing the future and what it holds…
The lesson for us is, I think, the same – perhaps not in scope but in willingness. No matter our age or situation in life, if we have yet to say “yes” to God’s choice of us, today may be the day to do so. If we have accepted our role in God’s plan, may we be reinvigorated in the living out of our call to carry Jesus in all we do, just as we are able each day.