|Christian life is a journey of following Jesus
On Saturday, 15 August
, the Solemnity of the Assumption, in keeping with tradition, the
Holy Father celebrated Holy Mass at the Parish Church of San Tommaso da
Villanova in Castel Gandolfo. The following is a translation of the
Pope's Homily, which was given in Italian.
Venerable Brothers in the
Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today's Solemnity crowns
the series of important liturgical celebrations in which we are called
to contemplate the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the history of
salvation. Indeed, the Immaculate Conception, the Annunciation, the
Divine Motherhood and the Assumption are the fundamental, interconnected
milestones with which the Church exalts and praises the glorious destiny
of the Mother of God, but in which we can also read our history.
The mystery of Mary's
conception recalls the first page of the human event, pointing out to us
that in the divine plan of creation man was to have had the purity and
beauty of the Virgin Immaculate.
This plan, jeopardized but
not destroyed by sin, through the Incarnation of the Son of God,
proclaimed and brought into being in Mary, was recomposed and restored
to the free acceptance of the human being in faith.
Lastly, in Mary's
Assumption, we contemplate what we ourselves are called to attain in the
following of Christ the Lord and in obedience to his word, at the end of
our earthly journey.
The last stage of the
Mother of God's earthly pilgrimage invites us to look at the manner in
which she journeyed on toward the goal of glorious eternity.
In the Gospel passage just
proclaimed, St Luke tells that, after the Angel's announcement, Mary
"arose and went with haste into the hill country", to visit Elizabeth (Lk
With these words the
Evangelist wishes to emphasize that for Mary to follow her own vocation
in docility to God's Spirit, who has brought about within her the
Incarnation of the Word, means taking a new road and immediately setting
out from home, allowing herself to be led on a journey by God alone.
St Ambrose, commenting on
Mary's "haste", says: "the grace of the Holy Spirit admits of no delay"
(Expos. Evang. sec. Lucam, 19: PL 15, 1560).
Our Lady's life is guided
by Another: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me
according to your word" (Lk 1:38); it is modelled by the Holy Spirit, it
is marked by events and encounters, such as that with Elizabeth, but
above all by her very special relationship with her Son Jesus.
It is a journey on which
Mary, cherishing and pondering in her heart the events of her own life,
perceives in them ever more profoundly the mysterious design of God the
Father for the salvation of the world.
Then, by following Jesus
from Bethlehem to exile in Egypt, in both his hidden and his public life
and even to the foot of the Cross, Mary lives her constant ascent to God
in the spirit of the Magnificat, fully adhering to God's
plan of love, even in moments of darkness and suffering, and nourishing
in her heart total abandonment in the Lord's hands in order to be a
paradigm for the faithful of the Church (cf. Lumen Gentium, nn.
The whole of life is an
ascent, the whole of life is meditation, obedience, trust and hope, even
in darkness; and the whole of life is marked by this "holy haste" which
knows that God always has priority and nothing else must create haste in
And, lastly, the Assumption
reminds us that Mary's life, like that of every Christian, is a journey
of following, following Jesus, a journey that has a very precise
destination, a future already marked out: the definitive victory over
sin and death and full communion with God, because
as Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians
the Father "raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph 2:6).
This means that with
Baptism we have already fundamentally been raised and are seated in the
heavenly places in Christ Jesus, but we must physically attain what was
previously begun and brought about in Baptism.
In us, union with Christ
is incomplete, but for the Virgin Mary it is complete, despite the
journey that Our Lady also had to make. She has entered into the
fullness of union with God, with her Son, she draws us onwards and
accompanies us on, our journey.
In Mary taken up into
Heaven we therefore contemplate the One who, through a unique privilege,
was granted to share with her soul and her body in Christ's definitive
victory over death. "When her earthly life was over", the Second Vatican
Council says, the Immaculate Virgin "was taken up body and soul into
heavenly glory... and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, that
she might be the more fully conformed to her Son, the Lord of lords (cf.
Rv 19:16) and conqueror of sin and death" (Lumen Gentium, n. 59).
In the Virgin taken up into
Heaven we contemplate the crowning of her faith, of that journey of
faith which she points out to the Church and to each one of us: the One
who, at every moment, welcomed the Word of God, is taken up into Heaven,
in other words she herself is received by the Son in the "dwelling
place" which he prepared for us with his death and Resurrection (cf. Jn
Human life on earth
as the First Reading has reminded us
is a journey that takes place, constantly, in the intense struggle
between the dragon and the woman, between good and evil. This is the
plight of human history: it is like a voyage on a sea, often dark and
stormy. Mary is the Star that guides us towards her Son Jesus, "the sun
that has risen above all the shadows of history" (cf. Spe Salvi,
n. 49) and gives us the hope we need: the hope that we can win, that God
has won and that, with Baptism we entered into this victory. We do not
succumb definitively: God helps us, he guides us.
This is our hope: this
presence of the Lord within us that becomes visible in Mary taken up
into Heaven. "The Virgin"
in a little while we shall read in the Preface for this Solemnity
you made to shine out as 'a sign of hope and comfort for your people on
their pilgrim way'''.
With St Bernard, a mystic
who sang the Blessed Virgin's praises, let us thus invoke her: "We pray
you, O Blessed One, for the grace that you found, for those prerogatives
that you deserved, for the Mercy you bore, obtain that the One who for
your sake deigned to share in our wretchedness and infirmity, through
your prayers may make us share in his graces, in his bliss and in his
eternal glory, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who is above all
things, Blessed God for ever and ever. Amen" (Sermo 2 "de Adventu",
5: PL 183, 43).