For today’s Feast of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, we will reflect on what it means to live A BLESSED LIFE.
It is Elizabeth who proclaims the blessedness of Mary in our Gospel today, which begins with the story of the Visitation. Elizabeth says when she welcomes Mary, “How blessed are YOU among women, and blessed is the fruit of YOUR womb.” And then, before Mary recites her Canticle, Elizabeth’s final remark is, “Blessed are YOU who believed that what was spoken to YOU by the Lord would be fulfilled.” She focuses the spotlight on Mary.
But Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s affirmations is the Canticle we now know as the “Magnificat.” While Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Mary, Mary in turn proclaims the greatness of God. It’s her way of saying to her cousin, “No Elizabeth, it’s not about me; it’s about God.” Only to God be the glory!
To live a blessed life is to be aware of God’s wonderful deeds in our lives. You see, not all people are aware of God’s actions in their lives. Remember the story of the ten lepers in Luke’s Gospel, how all ten were cured on the way and only one returned to give thanks? Where were the other nine? Did they not come back because they were ungrateful? No. They were waiting to be told they had been healed already. It is sad when people do not realize their blessings in life, when they need others to tell them about it.
In the Greek language, “to bless” (eulogein) and “to give thanks” (eucharistein) are interchangeable. It is the second in a series of verbs describing the Eucharistic action: he TOOK (the bread), he BLESSED it (eulogesas) or GAVE THANKS (eucharistesas) for it, he BROKE it and GAVE it.
People will not be thankful unless they first become aware of God’s grace at work in their lives. And it is usually the poor and the lowly who are quick at recognizing grace. That is why Jesus addresses the good news to them.
When some virtual nobodies in this world show incredible greatness, the way our local athletes did recently at the Tokyo olympics, people like Hidilyn Diaz and Carlo Paalam, and the others, we rejoice with them. But when these great people point at God as the true source of whatever greatness we recognize in them, they become living proofs or living witnesses to a Blessed Life.
They are also the type who will not feel crushed or devastated when they fail, like the young gymnast Carlos Yulo. It is their honest admission of their shortcomings that makes them even more aware of God’s greatness when they actually surpass their limits.
Remember how St Paul begged God to remove his weakness which he called his “thorn in the flesh?” He says, God told him instead, “My grace is enough for you. For in weakness, power reaches perfection. It is when I am weak that I am strong.”
What he really means is, “It is in our weakness that God’s strength becomes truly manifest.” Perhaps that is why God chooses to manifest his greatness through the “little people” who will not brag about their own greatness. To be blessed is to say when we are glorified, “TO GOD BE THE GLORY!” It is the summary of the Magnificat of Mary. Mary was aware that she was not being favored by God because she was perfect; in fact she says, “for he has looked with favor on his LOWLY SERVANT.”
People who are blessed are those who quickly realize that they are merely instruments of God’s blessing to the world. Remember Abraham? “I will bless you so that through you, all the nations on earth shall be blessed.” God makes it clear to him and later also to Isaac and Jacob that they were being blessed so that they could be a blessing to the rest of humankind.
Even Joseph the poor son of Jacob who became a victim of bullying by his own brothers realized this. He had been sold as slave to Egypt and declared as dead. But later he would see this, not as a crime that his brothers must pay for, but as God’s way of saving the whole world from famine! All his resentments against the crooked behavior of his brothers only made him realize that God could write straight even with crooked lines.
We are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. It is when favored people begin to keep their blessings only to themselves or use it only for their own personal advantage that their greatness soon becomes a curse and a cause of their downfall. Remember the anointed King Saul who became arrogant and conceited, and how he was eventually rejected by God and replaced by the young shepherd boy David?
King Herod too was known in history as a great architect and engineer. He was a very gifted man but the problem was, he would not recognize the source of those gifts. He felt threatened when his authority was challenged. He thought too highly of himself. Unlike the Magi, he could not look up at the stars. He had become so deluded by his star complex; he tended to look down on anyone else. He was gifted; but he could not lay down his gifts before the newborn king. His very giftedness became the cause of his destruction.
To be a blessing is to be an instrument of God’s mercy and justice, of God’s desire to fill the hungry and lift up the lowly by casting down the mighty from their thrones, or teaching a lesson to the greedy. To be a blessing is to be an equalizing agent of God in society; nobody is above or below anybody. It is to say we are all equal in dignity; there are no masters and slaves. We are brothers and sisters. This is the radical message of Mary’s Magnificat. It is the same radical message of the blessed fruit of her womb.
There is a prayer currently circulating among group chats which is falsely attributed to Pope Francis. It is a beautiful prayer but sorry, it was not written by Pope Francis. With apologies to the anonymous author, I retouched it a little bit. He is the prayer:
Eternal Father, You have made the whole world stop for a while.
You have made us bend our knees and ask for miracles.
You have closed Your Churches so that we realize how dark our world is without You in it.
You humiliated the proud and powerful. The economies are collapsing and businesses are closing down.
We have been very proud to think that everything we have, everything we own, has been the result of our hard work.
We have forgotten that it was Your grace, Your mercy, that made us who we are and has given us everything we have.
We are going around in circles looking for some cure for this disease, but we forget to humble ourselves and ask for guidance and wisdom from You.
We have been living our lives as if we are to stay here on Earth forever, as if there is no Heaven, no Purgatory, no Hell.
Perhaps this pandemic is actually Your way of purifying and cleansing our souls, of bringing us back to You.
Father, You have been patiently waiting for us to turn our faces to You, to repent of our sins. Forgive us for ignoring Your voice! Forgive us for forgetting that You are GOD !
You, Lord, only need to say the Word and we will be healed.
We ask You for healing and deliverance in the Name of Jesus Your Beloved Son! By the infinite merits of his Most Sacred Heart and of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary our Blessed Mother. Amen.
Homily of Bishop Pablo Virgilio David for 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Solemnity of Our Lady of the Assumption of Mary, Luke 1:39-56