One of the charges leveled against Christians of all ages is being so heavenly minded we are of no earthly good. Though that may be true of individuals and perhaps each one of us at some point or other, I believe it is not a correct ‘understanding’ of the church’s dogma, nor particularly of this Feast of the Assumption. For what the Assumption of Mary celebrates is that all that we are – this body and soul matrix AND our relationship with THIS world in which we live- will be taken up into the victory of Christ. Mary is always the first fruit of that. And what Mary’s assumption tells us is that this earthly world of ours, in which we live and move and have our being, also somehow needs to get caught up in that same change. Or, as one author put it: God promises us a future beyond time in which all reality is transformed into the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.
I confess, I don’t understand exactly how that is going to all happen. On a personal level – I visit our cemetery enough to know that bodies decay. That indeed, we are dust and into dust we shall return. But in the mean time, my spirit enlivens “THIS DUST” – and melds sinew and bone into a body which expresses who I am. But science tells me that even this “ME” is not as permanent as I might think. Every 9 months (or something like that) each and every cell that composes my body has been ‘exchanged’. All the matter that matters –(my me) –, is replaced by new matter, and yet “I” remain. I persists through those changes. And somehow that “ME” will have to be present to God at the end of all things. Like Mary, this body and soul will be caught up into the mystery of God himself. Transformed, caught up, changed, but still me.
I understand even less about how this Assumption works on a worldly level. I find myself thinking a lot – wouldn’t this be a nice time for Jesus to return and put everything right. Clean up the gulf oil spill with a snap of the finger. Put the economy back on track with a word of command. End wars and violence. Heal the victims of the clergy abuse scandal. Unite the divided parishioners of St. Stanislaus with each other and the Archdiocese. But if I take the Assumption seriously, then I MUST BE INVOLVED in the transformation of this world. I must do MY part to make the necessary changes. That is what it means to cooperate with grace. That is what Mary did with her yes. It is what we are invited to do.
Concretely, may I suggest a few things.
1) Take the words: “It doesn’t matter” out of your vocabulary. Ban it forever from your lips. Never let those words: It doesn’t matter pass your vocal chords again. You see, Every decision DOES matter, on a personal and corporate level, because every decision becomes the “matter” which is going to be transformed. It matters whether you take care of your health. It matters that our planet has enough resources to sustain all life, not just in our life time, but for years to come. It mattes that mom and dad create a safe home environment for their kids. It matters that all life is sacred and that we treat it so. Because we believe that life is precious HERE and in the HEREAFTER, all decisions matter.
2) How do you and I honor this BODY” which will one day be caught up in the mystery of God – the resurrection of the dead? I invite you to inventory for a week what you take into your body. What do you let your eyes see –what movies, tv shows, websites. What conversations do you let your ears hear; what music lyrics impinge on them; what sounds of nature do you nurture yourself with. Look at all the things that you let your body experience. And then, at the end of the week, look at that inventory. Are the things listed there worthy of being assumed and changed into the life of heaven? Are they worthy to be caught up into that transformed, changed life?
Are Christians so heavenly bound that we are no earthly good? Not if we understand what we celebrate this day…