August 13 marked the 33rd anniversary of the birth of our diocesan church. On that significant day, I offered the Holy Mass with great joy and humble gratitude for this gift from God! Anniversaries are always touchstones in our lives that signal the passage of time, and hold in our hearts and memory the happenings of grace that have drawn us more deeply into God's love. Therefore, remembrances of a child being born, the beginning of a marriage, or the final vow of "yes" to consecrated life remind us that God is love (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, "Deus Caritas Est," 2005).
August 15 was likewise a special date in our liturgical calendar of celebrations: it marked the solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. The declaration of this dogma was the most recent ex cathedra statement of a pope; in 1950, an apostolic constitution of Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption, stating that it was by a singular privilege "that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory" ("Munificentissimus Deus," No. 44). What does this feast teach us about Our Mother, her Son and our own path to sanctity?
Mary's whole earthly life was a perfect collaboration with the will of God. How we struggle to make ours the same! Her Assumption was not an isolated event, but one that was formed from the beginning in her Immaculate Conception. Being conceived without sin, Mary uttered her "yes" to God at the Annunciation, making space for the action of God in her very womb. We too are called to makes space for God in our own lives so that He may be made known, loved and further made present in this world. As the shepherd of this diocese, it is my constant prayer that within this diocesan family, our support for and communion with one another on this path of grace will deepen each day. I pray that each of us may experience and receive many personal "annunciations" as we journey together towards that eternal home where Our Blessed Mother awaits us. The Assumption teaches us that our goal is indeed eternal life, body and soul, in the presence of the Triune God. As the preface for the solemnity of the Assumption reminds us: Mary was assumed into heaven "to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection and a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way."
The glory of the Assumption as Mary's eternal union of body and soul — that she is living now — also speaks to us of the sanctity of the body. Within Mary's physical body, God was made flesh to bring us to salvation. Mary lives — in advance — our human destiny, teaching us that our bodies have a place in salvation. Not only our souls, but our bodies were "bought with a price," the price of Our Lord's crucified body on the cross that now strengthens us in the Eucharist so that we, in turn, might "glorify God in our bodies" (cf. 1 Cor 6:19-20).
Although Mary lives now, body and soul, in heaven, this does not mean that she is away from us. On the contrary, it means she is closer! "Heaven is no longer a very remote sphere unknown to us. We have a mother in Heaven. And the Mother of God, the Mother of the Son of God, is our Mother. He Himself has said so. He made her our Mother when He said to the disciple and to all of us: ‘Behold, your Mother!' We have a Mother in Heaven. Heaven is open, Heaven has a heart" (Pope Benedict XVI, Solemnity of the Assumption Homily, 2005).
May our diocesan church always be found in her Most Immaculate Heart, resounding a faithful "yes" to God's call — so that under the protection of Mary, Mother of the Church, we will allow the Holy Spirit to breathe Christ's active presence into our lives. As we ponder in our hearts these past 33 years as the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, we also look forward to the gift of many more moments of grace. As we travel together toward our heavenly home, with Mary may we always say, "The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name!" (Lk 1: 49).