..last weekend in homily I referred to papal infallibility, where the Pope, Bishop of Rome, & as shepherd & teacher of all Christians, speaking on matters of doctrine, is preserved by the Holy Spirit from the possibility of error on essential issues. This weekend is a prime example. On 1 Nov 1950, Pope Pius XII spoke of Mary, Mother of God, being taken up to heaven, body & soul, at the end of her earthly life. We call it the doctrine of the Assumption. A fine example of our faith being grounded in Scripture, on the rock of tradition, & yet ever emerging; the mission statement of our Catholicism “semper reformanda” “always reforming”..a different feast of the Assumption this year because of the influence of Covid on the Body of Christ.. ..a deepening incarnational spiritual relationship with each other & with Our Lady..
“why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” ..why should we here & now be honoured with a visit to us now of Our Lady? ; Lord have mercy “yes, from this day forward all generations will call her” & by relationship you & I “blessed” ; Christ have mercy “his mercy reaches from age to age, to those who fear him” to those who love him.. Jesus Son of God & Son of Mary.. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..if you have come here expecting scriptures or the doctrinal archives of Vatican to give forensic details footprints fingerprints & evidence of the Assumption, you will go home disappointed; faith isn’t proof. If we sat here until week next Tuesday, I couldn’t prove to you there is a God nor a miraculous intervention that took Mary body & soul into heaven. “man woman monk of little faith, why did you doubt?” remember last weekend, & Peter having been walking on water towards Jesus, doubted the evidence & thereby began to sink..not “have you?” but “how many times have you walked on water since the Covid lockdown began?”..how many visitations have you made to Elizabeth, an Elizabeth mature in age, who has perhaps through no fault of her own, albeit many lookers-on may have judged her & it to be so, suffered for many years from barrenness..years & years of wanting to bear fruit in family or neighbourhood relationships, to bring a sparkle into eyes & hearts of those she loves, but struggles to show it, for fear of being misjudged or ridiculed or kindly rejected again & again..as she has experienced painfully woundingly for many a year so far..hurt inflicted, by design or default, by those she trusted but no longer..now living behind a mask..a face mask..story of masks “don’t be fooled by me” I use it in retreats; “I wear a thousand masks that I am afraid to take off, & none of them are me. I give the impression that I am secure, that all is sunny & unruffled within me as well as without, that confidence is my name & confidence is my game, that the water is calm & I’m in command & I need no one, but don’t believe me please.” St Elizabeth, you & I, coincidence or the Holy Spirit we are listening to our own story, here wearing a face mask..& angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah a priest, a faith professional, giving great news of a birth to his infertile wife Elizabeth..a walking on water opportunity, & his little faith lost it..however, then & now, the Spirit never gives up on us “the Lord has done this for me” she said “now that it has pleased him to take away the humiliation I suffered among men” bless her, the mask removed. “I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be the creator of the person that is me, if you choose to; please choose to. You alone can break down the walls behind which I tremble. You alone can remove my mask, you alone can release me from my world of panic & uncertainty, from my lonely person. Do not pass me by, please do not pass me by.” Who have you been an angel Gabriel for?..& who has been your angel Gabriel since 20 March 2020, when virus lockdown was imposed?..or maybe your lockdown occurred many months or years ago & you are still waiting for someone to make a visitation to you, like Mary to Elizabeth?.. Where each of them was able to help the other to remove their mask..for so long a life of pretence “a nonchalantly sophisticade façade to help me pretend, & to shield me from the glance that knows”..six months’ self-isolation for Elizabeth living with a wobbly husband struck dumb..she a disciple now “with child” pregnant with new life, with potential for spontaneity “I am told that love is stronger than walls, & in this lies my hope” a wall, a virus, infectious, life threatening, asymptomatic, never realising I have been a carrier; & Mary appears unexpectedly spontaneously, like the child in each womb, surprise moment where lonely person meets lonely person..in their hour of need sadly Zechariah & Joseph conspicuous by their absence, one faithless the other angry/betrayed, each blantantly self-distancing; leaving the two women to do what they are, then still & always, best at; the elderly married barren & the young lonely virgin, now calling each other to be the creator of the person that is “me”..”the child in my womb leapt for joy”..womb to womb, heart to heart, the masks of social/religious distancing so long abusive, inflicting life-threatening injuries, are taken off..”take off the mask” the divine invitation to them both, to Zechariah & to Joseph, each with a façade of assurance without & a trembling child within”..& here & now to us, & more importantly to me..”please try to break down those walls with firm but gentle hands, for a child is very sensitive. Who am I you may wonder? I am someone you know very well”..if you have got this far alongside me & my mask, bless you, & Mary’s great song of thanksgiving, the Magnificat voiced for first time at the first Visitation, full of inspiration promise & gratitude as her mask [ “how can this come about since I am a virgin?” ] fell away as truth met truth [ “let it be done to me according to your word” ].. Elizabeth & Mary; John the Baptist & Jesus of Nazareth; me & you..listen again, or maybe now for the very first time, to the words becoming flesh in you & in me; I ask you now to gently take off your mask, not the one you put on a few minutes ago, a pale reflection of the one perhaps you & certainly me have worn for some years..take that one off, let the gentle breeze of the Holy Spirit from last weekend’s first reading be felt & faced..face the author of truth, no longer in your self-disappointment pretence & disgrace, but now in your real presence, a shared journey of spiritual companionship, mutual acceptance & thereby incarnation.. listen to the words you heard when I read them a few moments ago in the gospel, & now hear sense & feel the difference..your profession of faith in Jesus through words & heart of his Mother, our Mother, Our Lady of the Assumption..
“my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord & my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid. Yes, from this day forward, all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name, & his mercy reaches from age to age for those who fear him. He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones & exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away. He has come to the help of Israel his servant, mindful of his mercy..according to the promise he made to our ancestors..of his mercy to Abraham & to his descendants for ever.”
“Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months & then went back home.” ..her sacred story of being with child shared so far with no one at home, she returns to face the face the anger shame hostility & disownment, with good grace, full of grace..