15 August 2006

The BVM: Witness, Apostle, Preacher, Queen

The Assumption of Mary: Rev 11.19, 12.1-6, 10; I Cor 15.20-27; Luke 1.39-56
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Mary the Virgin Church,

PODCAST!
The small metal crucifix I wore on the outside of my shirt drew stares. It was something foreign, inexplicable, vaguely pagan to my Baptist classmates. The bent catechism given to me by my grandmother, a life-long Methodist, was ever ready in my back pocket, a easy reach and whip of the wrist to answer the ridicule and the curiosity of my friends. Once, during a debate with my best friend about the necessity of baptism for salvation, the catechism became a weapon. When I tried to show my friend the relevant passages in the catechism about baptism, she grabbed it from me and whacked me upside the head with it!

After some few days of silence on the subject, we resumed our debate. But as a high school convert who knew little to nothing about the faith, my witness was weak, sputtering, mostly protests against anti-Catholic stereotypes and bigoted myths. The experience of being Catholic in community would come some fifteen years later. After a long, difficult stint in the Episcopal Church and after years of studying the various “-ism’s” of postmodernism in an English PhD program, at 35 I answered a call, heard as a teenager, to serve the Body of Christ as a priest. But I still needed to learn how to witness to the faith, how to be an apostle worthy of the message. School is still in session.

The assumption of our Blessed Mother into heaven is a promise kept, a vow made good by our Father. Marking this day not only reminds us of the promise of the resurrection, the promise of eternal life, it also brings us back to our baptisms and gives us a few thumps on the head to remind us that we have vowed to be witnesses to the gospel, apostles of the Word—to be those who go out and give testimony in word and deed to the power, to the mercy, to the love of Christ.

The assumption of Mary into heaven is a consequence of her obedience, her YES, her faithfulness. Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” What is the engine of our witness, what pushes us out there to speak the Truth in Love? We believe what the Lord has spoken to us will be fulfilled. If we don’t believe this, we need to shut up.

If we are not witnessing to the Word, giving testimony to the power of Christ’s love and mercy, then what are we witnessing to? What is it that sits on your heart, dwells at the center of your soul, driving you to your chosen end? There is a supermarket of attractive alternatives out there. Have no fear that you will bored with the options.

On aisle two for Catholics frightened by orthodoxy we have a wide selection of Gnostic heresies, Greek inspired mystery cults updated for the postmodern Catholic soul—cryptic, kabbalahistic devices to plumb the wells of egotistical fantasy and distract the heart with sweet affirmations and pretty lies. On aisle six we have cases and cases of discounted secularism for those Catholics embarrassed by the transcendent—boxes of materialist dogmatism, doctrinaire scientism, and rigid moral relativism. Buy two and get a case of Political Correctness free! Then in the meat section we have for those Catholics tempted by worldly triumphalism fatty slabs of nationalism, militarism, partisanship, shelves loaded with the bloody idols of violence and death and oppression, plenty of raw hatred and scraps of vengeance for sale. Finally, on the candy aisle we have religious syncretism for those Catholics who think they are excluded by Tradition and Scripture—colorful bags of chocolate covered faux Native American rituals, creamy blends of Buddhist-Christian prayer wheels, honey-roasted Jesus avatars and bodhisattvas, and nutty Mother Goddess womanrites with glow in the dark Gaia rosaries! OK, a bit of fun…but these are the eclectic fascisms of hearts that remain unconvinced by God’s truth, unawed by His Beauty, and chilled by His Goodness.

What does your heart desire? What do you want? To what do you witness?

Elizabeth greets Mary, calling her blessed b/c she heard the Word spoken to her, believed that the Lord’s promise would be fulfilled, and in radical trust, gave herself to the keeping and birthing of the Word for the world. She is the Lord’s mother in history and our mother in faith. She is also an apostle of the gospel, a preacher of the Word, and in her maternal care for our Lord, a prophet—one chosen by God to show His people how to live in righteousness with the advent of His Kingdom. She is a sign of the Church and for the Church, a blessed creature given to a life of showing her Son to the world. She is who we should be now and who we will be eventually if we believe on our Father’s Word, witness to His healing mercy, and flourish in His grace to our perfection.

And I ask again: what does your heart desire? What do you want? To what do you witness? In her Magnificat-hymn, her homily of praise and thanksgiving to God, Our Blessed Mother witnesses to the crowding generations who will call her blessed, holding up for us the great things done for her by the Almighty; she witnesses to the mercy that flows from a proper awe of His glory, the strength of his justice; she witnesses to His love of the poor and His contempt of the proud and the mighty; she witnesses to His care of the hungry, His help for His promised people, and His ageless fidelity to Abraham and all his children. Our Blessed Mother’s heart desires the Spirit of the Lord; she finds food for her deepest hunger in His service, and with gratitude pours out a lasting witness, a testimony for the generations: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!”

Perhaps the Assumption is not so much about what we have always known and always believed—that God took Mary body and soul into heaven—perhaps the Assumption is more about what we often need some goading to do: to believe that the Word of the Lord to us will be fulfilled, to believe His promises, and in this belief, this trust, offer our promised witness, honor our baptismal vows to be Christs in the world! If our Blessed Mother is who we should be now and who we will be eventually, then we will be prepared—intellectually, physically, spiritually, sacramentally—well-prepared to stand in the public square facing down the temptations of materialism, Gnosticism, relativism, violent nationalism, all the temptations that Good Catholics wrestle with, and we will proclaim the greatness of the Lord, rejoice in our Savior, bless His Holy Name, and refuse, always refuse, to offer worship to the idols of the culture.

What does your heart desire? What do you want? To what do you witness?

What do you need from the Lord to fulfill your promise to give Him witness? What strength do you need to weaken the temptations of a culture seemingly bent on social suicide? What gift can God give you to move you to offer Him praise and thanksgiving without ceasing? What do you need to bear His Word?

What will get you ready to be Christ for others?

3 comments:

  1. Father Philip,

    What a powerful homily this is! Absolutely wonderful. Thank you.

    I feel so blessed to have found your comment on Jimmy Akin's blog which led me here.

    God Bless you Father,
    Louis

    ReplyDelete
  2. George9:14 AM

    Brilliant homily Fr Philip.

    God Bless

    George

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  3. Anonymous8:39 PM

    Dear Father,
    I caught your link from "The cafeteria is closed" blog.
    People are thirsty for the truth and the truth only comes from God. I would want this type of homily every Sunday! In fact in my parish all 3 of our priests speak the truth in love.

    I have a comment about the following passage:

    "On aisle two for Catholics frightened by orthodoxy we have a wide selection of Gnostic heresies, Greek inspired mystery cults updated for the postmodern Catholic soul—cryptic, kabbalahistic devices to plumb the wells of egotistical fantasy and distract the heart with sweet affirmations and pretty lies. On aisle six we have cases and cases of discounted secularism for those Catholics embarrassed by the transcendent—boxes of materialist dogmatism, doctrinaire scientism, and rigid moral relativism. Buy two and get a case of Political Correctness free! Then in the meat section we have for those Catholics tempted by worldly triumphalism fatty slabs of nationalism, militarism, partisanship, shelves loaded with the bloody idols of violence and death and oppression, plenty of raw hatred and scraps of vengeance for sale. Finally, on the candy aisle we have religious syncretism for those Catholics who think they are excluded by Tradition and Scripture—colorful bags of chocolate covered faux Native American rituals, creamy blends of Buddhist-Christian prayer wheels, honey-roasted Jesus avatars and bodhisattvas, and nutty Mother Goddess womanrites with glow in the dark Gaia rosaries! OK, a bit of fun…but these are the eclectic fascisms of hearts that remain unconvinced by God’s truth, unawed by His Beauty, and chilled by His Goodness."

    Your homily speaks to the individual heart....except for this passage where many parisioners in my church would have difficulty following you...not because of the content but because of your above average vocabulary. Just a thought.

    May God continue to richly bless your calling as His shepard.
    Karen : )

    ReplyDelete