August 15, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of the Assumption
Reading I (Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab)
Reading II (1 Corinthians 15:20-27)
Gospel (St. Luke 1:39-56)
Right from the very beginning of humanity there has been a struggle between life and death. From the very first moments of human existence, Satan came down and tempted Adam and Eve, and they fell; they chose death over life. At that moment, death entered into human existence. It was not intended by God that we would die, but God has made our souls immortal. So even though the body will die, the soul will not. But in the Resurrection of Our Lord from the dead, He has destroyed death; and in so doing, He has promised also that there would be life even for the body, that even though the body will die and will be buried, the body will rise also from the dead and the body will be reunited with the soul for all eternity. That is the glory which is ours.
And that is what we celebrate today, that in our own Mother, in one of us, a human person, death has been destroyed. It is destroyed in the Resurrection of Our Lord, and the path to Heaven has been opened in the Ascension of Our Lord, both body and soul into Heaven. But today we celebrate the glorious feast of the one other person - and the one merely human person - who already shares in the fullness of that life. Not only did Our Lady's soul go to Heaven, but her body has gone there as well. She already shares in the fullness of the Resurrection. In the Assumption of Our Lady into Heaven, God has taken her in the fullness of her humanity, body and soul, into the glory of Heaven.
She is the Ark of the Covenant of which we heard in the first reading. Saint John, in the vision he had on the island of Patmos, saw the heavens opened and there the ark of the covenant was seen. And the ark was seen as a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. This is, of course, Our Blessed Lady - the true Ark of the Covenant; the Ark of the New Covenant; the one who carried the covenant, Jesus Christ, within her; the one who was promised from the very first moment after sin, when God promised there would be a woman who would be at enmity with Satan, whose son Satan would nip at his heel, but the woman would crush the head of the devil. That woman is our Mother.
Where our Mother has gone, we hope to follow. She has gone to be with her Son, but she desires for all of her children to be able to be with her, to be able to glorify God. And God desires, not only that we would give Him glory for all eternity, but, as Our Lady prophesied under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that all generations would call her blessed, that we now call her blessed. For all eternity we will be able to glorify God on Our Lady's behalf. The desire of Our Lady for each one of us as her children, and the true intent of Our Lord, is that all of us would be able to share in the glory of Heaven, both body and soul. For all of us, the body will not rise from the dead until the last day of the world, when Our Lord comes in His glory at the Second Coming at the sound of the archangel's trumpet. Then the graves of the dead will be opened and all of the bodies will rise, and they will be reunited with the souls of those individuals, whether in Heaven or in hell, for all eternity.
And so the choice remains with us. Our goal is Heaven. Saint Paul told us in the second reading that Christ has been raised from the dead and we are to set our sights on Heaven. That is exactly what we are called to do, and that is what this feast celebrates. Our Lady, from the first moment of her existence, had her sights set on Heaven. And so singleheartedly was she focused on God that she has been able to enter into the fullness of that life in Heaven now. And now each one of us, though we are not entirely singlehearted in our focus on the Lord because of sin, nonetheless, the challenge of this life is to overcome sin and to be singleheartedly focused on Christ and to have our sights set on Heaven so that at the moment of our death, our souls will be able to enter into Heaven. If perfected, we will be able to bypass Purgatory and enter into the glory of God and await the redemption - not only of our souls, which will have been accomplished - but of our bodies as well, where we too will also experience the Assumption, the assumption of our own bodies and the reunification of our bodies with our souls, where, then, with Our Lady in her glory, both body and soul, we too, in our glory, will behold God face to face and glorify Him for all eternity.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.