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Ransoming Mary

Rev. Paul V. Redmond
Professor Emeritus
Mount St. Mary's University

(8-15-10) Todayís Feast, Friends, is the Assumption of Mary. The following story has a serious lesson for you and me.

Daniel went to his mother demanding a new bicycle for Christmas. "Danny, we canít afford it", she said, "so write a letter to Jesus and pray for one instead". "Dear Jesus," Danny wrote, líve been a good boy this year and would appreciate a new bicycle." Signed: "Your Friend, Daniel." Now Danny really guessed that Jesus knew he was a brat. So he gave the letter another try. "Dear Jesus, Iíve been an OK boy this year and I want a new bicycle. Yours Truly, Daniel." Truly? Danny knew that this wasnít true so he tore it up and tried again. "Dear Jesus, Iíve thought about being a good boy so may I have a new bicycle?" Signed: "Daniel." Finally, Daniel thought better of making these false clams and so ran to the church. He went inside and stole a small statue of Mary and ran out the door. He went home, hid the statue under his bed and wrote this letter. "Jesus, letís face it, Iíve broken most of the Commandments, tore up my sisterís doll and a lot more. Iím desperate. Iíve got your mother Mary. If ever you want to see her again, --sheís up for ransom. Give me a bike for Christmas." Signed: "You know who."

On todayís Feast of the Assumption that story of "the challenge to ransom Mary" has a serious lesson for you and me. Throughout history there are those who have held captive the "memory of Mary" to fit in with how they understand women should behave in society. They have reduced Mary to what they consider women should be. As a result Mary has been frequently and unfortunately pictured, presented, and "preached about" as someone who is meek and mild, passive, and subservient. In no way do the stirring faith episodes in the gospels square with such a paltry description of Mary. The gospel presentations of Mary rescue her and ransom her from being a passive, submissive woman, pious to the extent of being out of touch with reality.

The ten stories of Mary in the New Testament give us a strong, valiant woman who was familiar with poverty, suffering, flight, and exile. They describe the premier disciple of Jesus who lived out in faith Godís love for her, a woman who remained completely faithful to God in her life---and he remained utterly faithful to her in death.

Focus now on Maryís joyful, radiant hymn, her "song of praise," the "Magnificat" from todayís Gospel. This hymn "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord" stands out in the daily evening prayer of the Church. As we prayerfully hear these words from Lukeís Gospel, we become aware that Mary is our model both in promoting justice to free the oppressed and protecting human life and dignity whenever life and dignity are threatened.

In our old and recent church history sisters, priests, and lay people have risked their freedom and their lives in reaching out to the oppressed of the earthóthe "poor", the "losers", the "lowly", the "marginalized" and those who have fallen beneath the cracks. To challenge and assist us Mary is the major model of being a disciple of Jesus.

She grew by what she suffered. In her own village. Mary as a teenage "unwed mother" before her marriage to Joseph and pregnant with Godís only Son. would have been in danger of being stoned to death in accord with Jewish law. Later, Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to escape a mad rulerís persecution, run for their lives, and live as immigrants in a foreign land. Still later, she and Joseph had to live with agony until they found Jesus, the "runaway" in the Temple. On that occasion Mary, as a good Jewish mother, spoke up and told the growing-Jesus to grow up.

She had to pray to the Lord Adonai when neighbors who had spoken so well about her son (Luke 4:29) suddenly turned on him and tired to "hurl him off a cliff." As the "mother of a political prisoner" she had to wait patiently while soldiers stripped and pinned him to a crossówhile people whom he loved jeered at him. As the "mother of a condemned criminal" (whom she knew to be innocent) she had to cradle her lifeless Son in her arms. No angel ever told her that her Son was equal in every way to the Lord Adonai, the Father Ėthe Abba of us all. No angel told her to wipe her tears---because a Friday would slowly, grindingly change into a Sunday. As a strong woman of faithó"Let it be to me as you say (Lk 1:38) she lived an adventure whose outcome was unknown.

Mary was the first and perfect disciple of Jesusóas she struggled to live completely the message of her Son: "whoever hears the word of God and does it.. . . . whoever does the will of my Father is brother and sister and mother to me." That is why she is our model in the Faith.

Todayís stirring Feast of the Assumption, which teaches that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, reminds you and me that we are our bodies as well as our souls. In our spiritual growth we need to integrate our bodies more deeply into who we are. Then we to become more sensitive, responsive, open, available, feeling, inclusive and caring people. . . .as we grow with Maryís aid more deeply as faith-filled and faithful disciples of her Son.

The following data is for an explanation of the two initial sacred scripture readings for toe Mass.

Johnís descriptions in The Book of Revelation excite and stagger our imagination---more so than the delightful Harry Potter series. He describes two signs: the first sign is that of a pregnant woman about to give birth. The second sign is that of a mythical monster who tries to destroy the child. From our Christian viewpoint the child is the Jesus the Messiah born from Mary. Brought up to God he escapes the power of the evil one. Then thereís a switch. The woman is then identified as the church on earth. As the People of God we find temporary protection as we continue to await the fullness of Godís kingdom.

A Reading from the Book of Revelation

In 1950 the Church in the teaching of Pope Pius XII gave official approval at what the faithful had believed for centuries Ėthat "Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed, body and soul, into heavenly glory." Our second reading today treats of Mary not directly, but only indirectly as the new Eve. In her, Jesus, the New Adam was conceived, his redemptive mission was begun and the resultant salvation of us sinners was carried out.

A Reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthian

Read other homilies by Father Paul