The Assumption: Unity of the whole person and the community's destiny

On Monday, August 15, the Church marked the Solemnity (the Solemn Celebration) of the Assumption of Mary, her being taken up to heaven, not to the grave, after her death.

Officially proclaimed in 1950, this belief actually goes back to the early Church. It asserts two very fundamental truths: one, respect for the body and for our human existence; and second, our heavenly destiny as a community.

Regarding the first, asserting that Mary’s body was spared from “returning to dust” points to the unity of the natural and the spiritual, a unity that demands respect for the body and the whole human person. It also demands that we respond to the basic “earthly” needs of all – food, health care, clothing, education and a living wage.

As for the second, the importance of community. Mary’s assumption (being taken up to heaven) reflects the Judeo-Christian belief that the community of believers – and hopefully the whole human race – symbolized by Mary will eventually form a “New Jerusalem,” a community renewed by sharing the life of God, worthy of being “lifted up” to God.

This feast focuses on Mary and recalls how Mary was special. She was special because of her “yes” to being the mother of the Word, the mother of Jesus. And she set the example for us as to how to say “yes” to the Divine Life we are offered every day when we respect our true selves and when we respond to the needs of others.

In yesteryear, believers formed very strong emotional attachments to Mary with prayers, images, churches, pilgrimages and miracle stories. Mary seemed to make the Divine Life readily accessible to all, and she was named “Queen of Mercy” and “Mother of Mercy.”

Pope Francis recently reminded us that in everything “Mary was dedicated to the mercy of God which extends ‘from generation to generation’,” a phrase that comes from the Gospel of Luke in a hymn sung by Mary. That hymn praises God for doing “great things” for her – and for us.

Among those great things: making us who we are as whole persons and giving us the power to form a community worthy of a heavenly destiny.