Gifts are wonderful things! Some of them move us because of the generosity involved, others can touch us deeply because of the unexpected remembrance, and there are those which puzzle...
The question has recently, in a most reputable Journal, been asked whether some Catholics have more religion on them than in them? So, today we celebrate the
ASSUMPTION OF MARY, Patronal Feast of South Africa. Yet, here in some quarters of the Church, the recent decision of our Bishops’ Conference to celebrate the feast on theSunday following the 15th August and not on the customary date has caused outrage.
Bishop bashing is so easy – especially when it is totally irrational
. What really IS the problem? Does anyone actually know the exact date (day, month and year!) of Mary’s death and assumption into heaven? If the Assumption is the patronal feast of our country surely the desire of reasonable, thinking, people is that the national celebration should be on a day when it is possible for the majority of Catholics to actually CELEBRATE TOGETHER? What day would this be – a weekday or a Sunday? What is sacrosanct about the 15th of August itself? Does it make any difference whatsoever when the solemnity is celebrated? Surely the most important and valuable consideration is that it SHOULD BE CELEBRATED? More than half the world’s population does not believe in Jesus Christ but a change in a date threatens Catholic belief? Do some Catholics have more religion ON them than IN them?
(halfway through the month of July) I reflected on some words in the Office of Readings (a Letter from Saint Ignatius of Antioch): “allow nothing whatever to exist among you that could give rise to any divisions; maintain absolute unity with your bishop … as an example to others.” In any case, does anyone seriously believe that Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Mother of the Church is – in any way whatsoever – miffed, disappointed, hurt or outraged that OUR CELEBRATION of HER Assumption occurs on the 15th or the 21st of August? It is, after all, a celebration of her LIFE and not her death; her FAITH, not the exact and particular days and dates, which are completely unknown, of her historical existence.
So, have a look at
TODAY’S GOSPEL READING [1: 39 – 56]. A good portion of these verses include the famous canticle known as The Magnificat. Therein there are a number of powerful expressions of faith which would profitably arrest any reflection of substance.
First of all:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour … he who is mighty has done great things for me.” Here we are presented with a faith foundation for our living as Christian-Catholics: praise and rejoicing in our God who is SAVIOUR; and acknowledgement of the fact that he has done and continues to do great things for us. Is this a pivotal aspect of our prayer and praise?
“he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” Too often we allow our feelings to run away with us in the sense that they easily become imaginations which engender a sense of false pride and righteousness which lead us to really believe that we are ‘orthodox’ and any variation to which we are not partial is a threat to the truth. Do some Catholics have more religion ON them than IN them?
Finally the first section of the Gospel reading challenges us with another two points for reflection. First, Mary’s immediate response to her particular choosing by God is not to selfishly think of her privileged position and to selfishly guard herself against the world. Rather, it is an outreach of service to another living person. How often do I actually visit people – not call on them to show them that I am ‘better’ and cope well with the problems of life and living?
Do some Catholics have more religion ON them than IN them?
Secondly, Elizabeth proclaims
“blessed is she who believed that there would be fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Do I consistently open myself to what the Lord speaks to me and BELIEVE it will, eventually, come to pass – in his time and in his way? It was Mary’s openness to God’s invitation that makes her life more than memorable and worthy of celebration. She made herselfAVAILABLE to the Lord. Her faith was IN, not ON, her!