Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 2015

August 21, 2015 Father De Celles Homily

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2015

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA


From  everything scholars  can  gather, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary

has been celebrated since the very  earliest days of the Church.

The  early  prominence  of  this feast should be  of  no surprise  to us,

since the  Church  has always  considered the Mother of Jesus

                   also to be the first disciple of Jesus,

a truth we find hidden in today’s  Gospel,

as  Mary’s  cousin  Elizabeth  says:

“Blessed are you who believed

that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”


Before we go any further, let’s  recall specifically  what  we’re   celebrating today.

In the words of the Second Vatican Council:

“the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free  from all  stain of original sin,

when…her earthly life was finished,

was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory,

so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son,

the Lord  of  lords and  conqueror of sin and death.”

This is  a very rich teaching, and we  could spend  hours discussing it.

But  today we’ll  concentrate on two aspects:

the first is that Mary was assumed body and soul  into  heaven.

The second  is  the reason for this

–that she might be more fully conformed to her Son, Jesus.


It’s  interesting that those  who  would question  the Church’s teaching

on  the Assumption of Mary into heaven

often do so on the grounds that it has no source in  Scripture.

While  it’s  true   that there’s  no  explicit  description   in Scripture,

most of the support for  the dogma comes directly from Scripture.

In fact,  there are actually two  sets  of Scripture readings for this  feast

–one for the Vigil Mass, last night, and one for today–eight readings in all–

and each one is supportive of the dogma.


The 2 Gospels for  this  feast  are critical

for a proper understanding  of the  Assumption

The  Gospel  for  the vigil  Mass  is  very  brief.

It’s  the recounting of the woman who calls  from the crowd to Jesus:

“Blest is the  womb that  bore  you  and  the  breast  that nursed   you!”

And   Jesus responds:

“Rather,  blest are they who  hear  the word of God and keep it.”

Now some  see this as Christ placing His mother below His  disciples,

and they use  this  to argue  that Mary’s Motherhood of  Jesus

is no reason to give her special honor.

But  let’s look at the Gospel from today’s Mass.

Here, St. Elizabeth calls  out to  Mary

in much the same way  as  the woman  in  the crowd  calls  to  Jesus:

“Blessed   are  you  among  women

and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

The two  women are making the  same  claim:

Mary is blessed because she is Jesus’ Mother.


But  Elizabeth also has a second  claim to  make:

“Blessed are you who believed

that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Elizabeth  is  making  the same  claim that Jesus makes:

the  one who  hears and keeps the word of God  is  blessed!

The parallel between these texts is all the more apparent

in that they’re  both from  the Gospel of Luke.

It’s right  to say that the blessedness of the believer, or the “disciple”,

of Jesus Christ

is more  important  than  any  mere  human relationship to Him,

even a mother’s love.

That’s why we here today can say we are truly brothers and sisters  of  Christ,

because ours  is  a greater relationship than

what any mere family of Christ can claim.


But the thing we must remember is  that

Mary was also a believer and disciple.

In fact she was the first believer!

Who was the first to know of the coming  of Jesus?

This same Gospel of Luke  tells us it was Mary,

when the angel Gabriel appeared to  her at the  Annunciation.

Remember what  happened:  Gabriel called  her “full of grace”

and told her that God had chosen  her  to be the  Mother  of  the Messiah.

As strange as this news  was,

Mary  heard  the word of the  Lord  and believed  in it:

it is her  fiat  which precedes the conception of Jesus,

“fiat voluntas tua”

let it be done to me  according  to your word“!

So we see, the meaning of both

Elizabeth’s  greeting  to  Mary  and Jesus response to the woman:

Mary is  blessed because she heard the word of the  Lord and believed!


But  let’s go a little deeper.

Mary  is blessed  in her belief, her faith,

but it is  this faith that makes possible the  fulfillment of the word

because of her belief she says “yes” and

becomes the  Mother of the  Lord.

Her blessedness  in  her belief precedes, makes possible

          and therefore  is intrinsically part of her being blessed

as the  Mother  of God.

Now we  see  that Mary’s Motherhood is not separated from her  discipleship.

No,  the  two are intimately connected,

giving  an  even greater meaning to both.

So we see that both   Jesus  and   Elizabeth are   saying:

Blessed  are  you, Mary,  for  in  your discipleship you are God’s mother,

and in  your motherhood you are His  disciple.


Who  else has this unique  relation  to Our  Lord?

Who else can say  that  her discipleship made possible the Birth of Jesus?

Who else can say that her belief caused  her to be so intimately  united to Christ

that she carried Him in   her womb  for 9 months,

nursed Him  at  her breast,

dried  His  childhood   tears,

received  His filial obedience,

called forth  His  first miracle at  Cana,

or stood at the foot of the Cross

sharing most profoundly in  His  sufferings?

Finally,  as   He hanged dying on the Cross,

who else did Christ  command that His  Church  claim and  honor

as its own Mother.

Scripture tells us:

“Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”

And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.”

A  mother in belief, the mother of the Body of Christ! Our mother!

So while we are all brothers and sisters in Christ,

Mary is uniquely not brother or sister but our Mother in Christ.


Now, all this lays the foundation to what we celebrate today:

because her  belief preceded   all other  disciples and  allowed  her

to share Christ’s earthly life before all other disciples

–is it not fitting that her Son should allow her to fully share

in His eternal life before all others?

Because of her belief, she did not hesitate to give Him His mortal life

–would  He  hesitate  to  give  her  the fullness  of His eternal life?

Just  as Mary took care of His mortal body  with motherly  love

–from  the womb  to  the Cross—

would  Jesus not also take  care of her mortal body with filial love?

And  so,  just  as  Mary promptly and completely believed and trusted

that  the   Lord’s word to her would be fulfilled,

the Lord also promptly and completely fulfilled his word to her

–specifically His promise  of bodily resurrection,

taking her body and soul in to heaven,

so that she may always be to us,

as today’s first reading from the book of Revelation told us:

“A great sign …in the sky,

a woman clothed with the sun,

with the moon under her feet,

and on her head a crown of twelve stars.”


Mary is the first disciple,

and as such she  is  the  first to  be  united to Christ in the  resurrection,

as her body and soul are  united and  assumed into heaven.


Be we also call ourselves disciples.

Do we imitate Mary and “hear the word of God and keep  it?”

Do we believe that the Lord will keep His word?

Do we, as disciples,  do as the Lord instructed, no, commanded,

from the cross:

“behold your mother

imitating the beloved disciple, and  taking her into our homes,

and allowing her to be our true mother in faith,

teaching us, everyday, how to love and believe in her son.

Asking her to teach us to sing with her in our hearts every day

with the profound depth of love that only the Mother of Jesus could know:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!”

Do we obey the word of God proclaimed so humbly

from the lips of the Most Blessed of all creatures:

“He has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:”


Today, let us give praise and glory to God–the Father, Son and Holy Spirit–

by honoring the Blessed Mother as His most perfect and sublime creation.

Through her intercession and example, may He give us the grace

to persevere  in  our belief,  as true disciples of  Our Lord Jesus Christ.

For  God   will surely fulfill His promise of resurrection  to all His disciples,

just as  He has already fulfilled  His  promise

to  His first and most blessed disciple.


Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at that hour of our death. Amen.