I had only been a parish priest a couple of years on that memorable Feast of the Assumption, August 15. I celebrated one of the morning Masses with the usual extra joy that accompanies holy days. The Church was full, and the faithful were nourished with the Christian hope expressed in the Preface of the Assumption by the words, "Today the virgin Mother of God was taken up into heaven to be the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection..."(P59).
That particular feastday, one of the parishioners had arranged an "Assumption barbecue." In fact, the dessert was a "Cupcake rosary"...The freshly made cupcakes were arranged on the table in the form of a rosary...The "Our Father" beads had white frosting; the "Hail Mary" beads had chocolate frosting. The children arranged them beautifully.
But walking on my way over to the barbecue, I noticed the traffic was backed up. Someone came up to me and said that a priest was needed, and I found out that a woman had been hit by a car. I ran over to the scene, and her body was right in the middle of the street, motionless and covered with a blanket. I anointed and absolved her. Later she died. Her two young children had no father.
I celebrated the funeral Mass some days later, having informed the parish of what had happened. The Church was filled with parishioners, who had compassion on these children who now felt so alone. The faith and hope in the Church was just like it had been a few days before, on the Feast of the Assumption. The words of the Preface again spoke to us of Mary as "...a sign of hope and comfort for your people on their pilgrim way."
In my homily, I said that when I saw Brenda's body on the road, I did not see only her...I saw Christ. Where is He in our suffering? He is there, right there in the midst of it. He does not merely watch us suffer. He jumps into our suffering...and into our death. We, then, like Mary, can jump into His life, into His glory.
The Assumption is not only about Mary; it's about us. Mary has a unique privilege. Being the Mother of God, she was taken at once into glory upon the completion of her earthly life. Yet the entire Church is the Body of Christ. As we pray on the Ascension, "where He has gone, we hope to follow" (Preface of the Ascension, P26). We, too, are called to share an everlasting life, in body and soul, in the company of Christ and all who are saved. "I will raise him up on the last day" (Jn. 6:54).
The tragedy of that woman on the street finds its answer in the woman in the heavens...The tragedy of the baby discarded by abortion finds its answer in the Mother of Life. How we need the Assumption!