The readings for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are available HERE.
Our Blessed Mother Mary is in heaven. That is what we celebrate today. But, for centuries, the Church has believed that today’s feast is also about us. That may sound strange, but if it seems hard to believe, the best thing to do is to listen to the words of the preface for the Mass of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The preface is the opening of the Eucharistic Prayer, which is the central part of the Mass.
Today, in churches everywhere throughout the world, Catholics will hear their priests praying these words:
Today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people.
“She is the beginning of the Church’s coming to perfection”. In other words, we believe that, where she has gone, we can follow, by the grace of God.
Saint Paul said something very similar to the Christian community in Corinth:
Just as all men die in Adam, so all men will be brought to life in Christ; but all of them in their proper order: Christ as the first-fruits and then… those who belong to him.
The problem is that we poor human beings don’t want to think about dying, but the Catholic tradition encourages us to be prepared for death. In the missal, the mass-book which the priest uses, there is even a “Mass for a happy death”; I discovered that the priests and brothers and sisters of the Salesian Order offer that Mass once a month in their communities.
When someone you know becomes seriously sick, it is a good Catholic practice to ask the priest to give her or him the sacrament of the sick, or the anointing of the sick. The priest puts holy oil on a person’s forehead and hands, and the prayers he says are all about healing, and very often people do recover. The last sacrament a Catholic should receive is Holy Communion, but it has a special name: Viaticum, a Latin word which means “food for the journey”. When we are baptised, we start a long journey to God, and towards the end of the journey the Church offers us food, spiritual nourishment.
Sadly, most families leave these things to the last possible moment, but that really deprives a sick or dying Catholic of the sacraments we all need if we are going to be ready to meet God. When Jesus rose from the dead, the phrase He said to His disciples more often than anything else was “do not be afraid”; today’s feast says the same thing to all of us: “don’t be afraid of dying”. If our faith is strong, we should not be afraid, but many of us are afraid of dying. Usually, we are afraid when we realise that someone we love is going to die and leave us. I have been a priest for forty-six years now, and one thing which has become clearer to me is that the Sacrament of the Sick really does help people. It forgives their sins, it heals them spiritually, and sometimes it even helps them recover from sickness. Think about what I have said this morning. It comes from my heart, and I think it is the most important thing I have said to you while I have been here with you in Mariukirkjan. Don’t be afraid! Look at Our Blessed Mother Mary in heaven. Don’t be afraid!