On this Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM offers a Scriptural Reflection. This content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here: Franciscan Gospel Reflection August 15 2021. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Image: Motherhouse Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity; Guido Reni, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” And Mary said:
“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
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.”
Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home.
The feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary has its own readings for both the vigil Mass (Chronicles 15:3-4, 15-16, 16:1-2, Corinthians 15:54b-57, Luke 11:27-28) and the Mass on the feast itself (Revelation 11:19a, 12:1-6a, 10ab, Corinthians 15:20-27, Luke 1:39-56). When the feast falls on a Sunday, like it does this year, the Ordinary Sunday readings are omitted. The focus here is the gospel text for the Mass during the day.
The gospel text for the feast has two parts, Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, and Mary’s prayer, often called the Magnificat. Luke does not describe Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth, which suggests that it is an ordinary greeting of the day. But the response is very unusual. The yet-unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps with joy. Luke’s community would remember King David who leapt for joy before the Ark of the Covenant. For both, it is being in the presence of God that is the source of their joy. Elizabeth, for her part, recognizes the holiness of Mary and the child in her womb, and she too praises God.
Mary’s Magnificat has parallels in Hymns of Miriam (Exodus 15: 1-18), Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10), and Judith (Judith 16: 1-17). Included here is Hannah’s Hymn.
“My heart exults in the LORD, my horn is exalted in my God. I have swallowed up my enemies; I rejoice in my victory. There is no Holy One like the LORD; there is no Rock like our God. Speak boastfully no longer, nor let arrogance issue from your mouths. For an all-knowing God is the LORD, a God who judges deeds. The bows of the mighty are broken, while the tottering gird on strength. The well-fed hire themselves out for bread, while the hungry no longer have to toil. The barren wife bears seven sons, while the mother of many languishes. The LORD puts to death and gives life; he casts down to the nether world; he raises up again. The LORD makes poor and makes rich, he humbles, he also exalts. He raises the needy from the dust; from the ash heap he lifts up the poor, to seat them with nobles and make a glorious throne their heritage. He gives to the vower his vow, and blesses the sleep of the just. For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he has set the world upon them. He will guard the footsteps of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall perish in the darkness. For not by strength does man prevail; the LORD’S foes shall be shattered. The Most High in heaven thunders; The LORD judges the ends of the earth, Now may he give strength to his king, and exalt the horn of his anointed!” (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
Mary’s hymn acknowledges the wondrous the deeds of God, and that they are clearly acts of a great and powerful God. The fact that God has singled out the lowly makes it even more evident that it is God who is the source from which these things flow. Mary begins by focusing on the things that are being done within her, and then moves on to things God has done in the past. Mary understands God’s actions in her life to be part of a consistent pattern of God reaching out in compassion to Israel.
1. Is your image of Mary more often the young woman in the gospel today, the frantic mother looking for her lost son, the sorrowing mother at the cross, the old woman who is the faithful mother and first disciple of Jesus, or the queen of heaven?
2. Have you prayed with a different image of Mary at different moments in your life?
3. Mary’s greeting to Elizabeth might have been ordinary for the day, but it had wonderful effect for Elizabeth and the child she was carrying. Do you find that ordinary events of the day can also have wonderful effects on you?
4. What in your relationship with God brings you a sense of profound joy? How does that joy find expression?
5. Luke says that Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit when she makes her profession of faith: “”Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Do you sense that you too are filled with the Holy Spirit when you make your profession?
6. Can you take some time to talk to God about this feast of Mary and what it means for you and your personal relationship to God or Mary?