Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Fr. Rick Sherman
Rv. 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; Ps 45:10-12, 16; 1 Cor. 15:20-27; Lk 1:39-56
August 15, 2021
I grew up in a family with six children, with the oldest and youngest being 17 years apart. My older sisters flew the coup right after high school to go off to college so we were seldom all together in the same house for most of the years. But I still remember my mother, at her most exasperated points, complaining from time to time, “I get so sick of that word, ‘Mom’!! Mom this and Mom that. She was the ‘go to’ in times of conflict with the other ‘less tempered’ children, for finding lost things, for immediate first aid, for wanting a cherished food item, for needing a ride somewhere. She was usually the ‘quick fixer’ in time of crisis or things much less critical. My mother had very good organizational skills and enormous stamina. AND, for better or for worse, she was home all the time and if she wasn’t, she would likely be back within the hour. As we all eventually got older and somewhat resembled adults we still liked to take turns screaming out, “Mom, Mom”! when we would gather for family events. It was fun making her scream knowing we were all too big for her to spank.
All these family memories were sort of melding with the various news stories I was listening to this past week, which all of a sudden seemed even more drastic and more immediate. We’re all used to hearing the seemingly endless stream of crisis after crisis, violations of human rights from womb to tomb, but somehow this week seemed to jump out with a particular ferocity: The new surge of the Delta version of Covid, the protracted drought out here in the west and related wild fire season, Afghanistan has reached a new pitch of pending catastrophe, and then I heard a particular articulate and compelling description of the water perils here in the southwest aquatic systems with an emphasis on the plight of the Great Salt Lake. Especially this weekend, on a Solemnity of our Blessed Mother, I felt like just crying out, “Mom, Mom!!”
Our Blessed Mother is surely a favorite ‘go to’ for probably MOST of us Catholics. Every crisis of any variety and proportion is likely to compel a stream of Hail Marys. I’m sure I usually say at least 100 Hail Marys every day, if for nothing else to just interrupt the constant stream of human noise we live in. Somehow Mary seems more accessible and just friendlier. Jesus is much more apt to tell us to pick up the cross and follow Him or to at least get out of the boat and walk toward Him. Sometimes, at certain points in our lives, Jesus might seem to just add to the trauma when all we want is a little relief; someone to help us bear the stress and uncertainty. It’s amazing how comforting and calming it can be while praying to look up into the face of one of these porcelain or plaster Marys. We can actually feel a real motherly presence.
Of course, if we are really honest about Mary, we know that she too will eventually call us to conversion and action. Remember her very terse directive to the stewards at the wedding at Cana? “Do whatever He (Jesus) tells you.” Nowhere to hide there. And of course there is her silent presence at the cross, feeling everything that a mother would feel watching her innocent and benevolent son get tortured to death. And then, of course there is her ‘Magnificat’ in today’s gospel:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
Even in all her virginal innocence and simplicity she is proclaiming the coming of one who would turn the world upside down. Who will later command us to follow Him. And even His mother will say, “Do whatever He tells you.”
Christianity requires us to look at our lives with ongoing and relentless honesty and be ready to make, at least eventually, some seemingly impossible changes. We are called to restore the world to the more orderly state which God created in the first place. We are stewards here, not ‘lords of the universe.’
In the news item referred to earlier about the plight of the Great Salt Lake, Biology Professor Bonnie Baxter spoke of the Lake as a neighbor and analogous to a member of the family. In this extended interview on the radio show, Radio West, she enumerated and recounted some of the many changes in the Lake over hundreds of thousands of years. She spoke eloquently about how the Lake affected the human population and how the humans have affected the Lake. She explained just some of the many different ways that the Lake is part of the whole intricate ecosystem from brine shrimp to insects, to migratory bird patterns, to influences on weather patterns, snow pack at the ski resorts and the economy in general, and on and on.
Just as these ecological components are all intricately related, so are all our current crisis, some of which were mentioned above. Most of our problems are human made or human exacerbated or at least could have been mitigated with more wisdom…. The kind that comes from God if we really seek God… and let God be God.
In Mary’s Magnificat we can see clearly that her Son came to turn the world not upside down, but indeed to turn it right side UP. As we see throughout biblical history, God seldom just reaches down through the clouds and fixes things, but rather, He calls us into a full participation. We are called to participate in the restoration of right order. We could say sustainable order.
We will need to look honestly about the human contributions to drought, wild fires, the surges in viral epidemics, income inequity, social unrest, etc., etc. We might even have to look more closely at why the Middle East terrorists hate us so much. It was suggested by the president 20 years ago that it’s because the terrorists ‘hate freedom’. I suspect it’s much more complicated than that.
It’s definitely time to cry out to our Heavenly Mother for help. Time to pray a few more rosaries. She’s listening. And she will definitely direct us to ‘do whatever Jesus tells us to do’.