Today's Gospel recounts Mary's visit of Elizabeth. Scripture scholars point out that various elements in this text can make us think of Mary Mary as being like the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark was made of acacia wood (see Ex 25:5), which was so strong it was basically indestructible. It wouldn’t decay. That detail can give us an insight into another aspect of Mary: her Assumption. This dogma of the Church, formally declared by Pope Pius XII, means that at the end of her earthly life Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven. Her body didn’t decay in the grave, but Jesus brought Mary into heaven in a fully human way, her soul united to her body.
The Church has always venerated the tombs of its saints, but there is no tomb of Mary. Interestingly, the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from history. It was lost at a certain point in Israel’s history and has never been found. While this is not a proof of the dogma, still it can hint at Mary’s Assumption.
What is the point of the Assumption? It was part of God’s mercy toward Mary, a gift given to her to bring to fulfillment the role God had asked her to play. Having faithfully followed Jesus on earth, she is already united to him in heavenly glory. This anticipates what we too hope to receive at the final time of fulfillment when Christ comes again in glory. We too will rise with him to new life, and experience what we profess in the Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body.”
Death is the great shadow that hangs over us. All of us experience the death of loved ones, and we know that our turn will come in due time. But Jesus has assured us that death is the gateway to new life, and that by his own resurrection he will bring us to eternal life with him. This is the greatest mercy of all, the gift of eternal salvation.
As the Mother of Mercy, Mary is always ready to help us with her loving, tender intercession. She looks at us with love, just as she looked so tenderly at St. Juan Diego and asked him, “Do you need anything else?” Mary’s intercession is honored in the Church’s liturgy by the feast of her queenship celebrated August 22, one week after the Assumption. These two feasts are linked also in the rosary, being the fourth and the fifth glorious mysteries. When Mary was assumed into heaven, she wanted to keep on helping the members of the Church on earth. It’s similar to what St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, that she wanted to spend her heaven doing good on earth.
This intercessory role of Mary and the saints is not separated from Jesus, as if the saints help us apart from him. They pray for us as members of the whole body of Christ, just as we can pray for each other on earth. Once we get to heaven, this continues in an even more intense way. Mary’s intercession for us has a special character, in that it is a maternal mediation. St. John Paul stressed this in his encyclical Mother of the Redeemer. Mary is certainly subordinate to Jesus and everything she does draws its power from him. Still, because she is his mother, she has a unique role given to no one else.
At the wedding in Cana, Jesus worked his first miracle at the request of his mother, Mary. He changed water into wine, and abundantly so. Even though he seemed to rebuff her request, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?” (Jn 2:4), he did it anyway. In some mysterious way, even now Jesus is always ready to grant the requests his mother makes of him. What would I like to ask?
Mary my mother, I come to you with confidence and trust. I know that you are my spiritual mother and that you are very attentive to the needs of all your children. Please help me in my moment of need, (mention request), and ask Jesus to sustain me with his grace. Pray also for all those in the world who are in situations of special need. Cast your eyes of mercy on them as well.