We come to the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Davao in celebration of the Fiesta of Our Lady of the Assumption. The Patroness of the Ateneo de Davao University is Our Lady of the Assumption. Our fiesta honors her. The Solemnity of the Assumption is still on Thursday. But already today, especially this Eucharist Celebration honors her!
We honor her by contemplating her in heaven. The image from the Book of Revelation in our first reading can help us with this contemplation: “God’s temple in heaven was opened, and in the temple could be seen the Ark of the Covenant. A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars…” Our responsorial psalm proclaims, “The Queen stands at your right hand, arrayed in gold, Lord!” In contemplating her, we can with Pope Francis consider: “She was the first to believe in the Son of God, and is the first to be assumed into heaven. She was first to gather Jesus in her arms and to be introduced into the eternal Kingdom of the Father.” As with St. Ignatius we also believe she was the first to see the Resurrected Lord after angels lifted away her shroud of sorrow, so do we now gaze on her in the Lord’s eternal embrace bathed in heavenly glory.
It is a contemplation we should be happy to enter into to give us encouragement and hope as we are too often consumed by the worries and concerns of this world. Even in the midst of a fiesta in Our Lady’s honor, we may be so concerned with getting all the preparations right, getting all the contracts signed, getting all the actors in place, getting all the students hyped up enough to participate in all the carefully planned events, that we forget whom it is we actually honor. The urgent concerns of the now consume us, envelop us, imprison us, so that it is impossible to consider anything beyond now.
Beyond this fiesta, that is also true about life, when we are unable to contemplate this simple woman, Mary, who because of her intimate relationship with her Son, is now assumed into heavenly glory. We are caught by an earthly now that consumes us and blinds us to anything beyond now. Like when we are totally consumed by a video game: there is nothing beyond winning, winning now. An intoxicating game in life is money. We can be consumed by money, and be unable to consider anything beyond it; we can be consumed by the pursuit of pleasure or power, and be unable to recognize any value beyond it, not even the dignity of human life nor even the commitments of human love. We can be consumed by the challenges of this world that must consume us, like the need to respond to the poverty in Mindanao that is worst in the Philippines, and in Mindanao, worst in the Bangsamoro homeland or in the ancestral domains of the Lumad. We can be consumed by the struggle to create wealth now and to build the structures that would distribute wealth equitably and create a just and lasting peace. Just as in this unending now we can be devastated by the corruption that our campaign against corruption cannot eliminate, the illegal drugs that our war on drugs cannot conquer, the dengue epidemic our vaunted vaccines cannot stop, the foreign intrusions into our sovereign territory we cannot repel, the despair of people just like us struggling in street demonstration after street demonstration for their right to self determination, or the wailing of migrants cruelly separated from their loved ones because they dare to cross a line into a civilization that deports the migrant workers but not before they exploit them, and in inexplicable madness over and over again guns down their own children in schools, in entertainment centers, or in Walmarts.
You have chosen for the theme of our fiesta, “Mother Mary: Companion of Every Beloved, Gifted and Empowered Atenean in Mission for Mindanao.” It is a wonderful theme as we contemplate our Mama Mary assumed into heaven. We contemplate her as one of us, as one with us, but through Jesus, assumed into our future, not just the future of any achievement on earth, but the future of our human life promised us by Jesus who said, “Let your heart not be troubled; you believe in God, believe in me. In my Father’s house, there are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you .. I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” It was the promise which brought Mary who was the first to believe in her Son to her heavenly mansion; it is the promise which brings us to our heavenly mansion.
And so as we pursue the dreams of our life today and take on their challenges, our Mother Mary Assumed into Heaven is our companion, to remind us that we have a heavenly Future. Life on earth is not defined by its defeats, despair, and death in an unending now, it is defined by a future of heavenly glory. It is this future that conditions our wisdom when we choose what it is on earth we want to do with our life. It is this future which triggers our freedom when we get caught in the maelstrom of money! money! money! or of consume! consume! consume! or even of build! build! build! It is this future that frames our lifework for justice and the common good: not just our life but the life of God in us still working to bring us life, life to the full. It is the future that through the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus lifts us out of the despair of this now into the light of God’s Kingdom which is established even as it is yet God’s work in progress. It is established, we know, as we contemplate Mary in heaven. It is God’s work in progress, as taking on the challenges of God’s Mission in Mindanao, Mary is our companion helping us always to pray, “Let it be done to me according to your will”, no matter the cost.
And if this be our life in mission for Mindanao in companionship with Mary, today as we celebrate her Assumption, we can together with her pray:
“My being proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit finds joy in God my savior,
For he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness;
all ages to come shall call me blessed.
God who is mighty has done great things for me,
holy is his name;
His mercy is from age to age
on those who fear him.
“He has shown might with his arm;
he has confused the proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has deposed the mighty from their thrones
and raised the lowly to high places.
The hungry he has given every good thing,
while the rich he has sent empty away.
He has upheld Israel his servant,
ever mindful of his mercy;
Even as he promised our fathers,
promised Abraham and his descendants forever” (Lk 1:45-55)
Mother Mary in heaven, be our companion in our mission for Mindanao!