My Dear Good People,
Nearly every adult I know has endured the grief of losing a loved one to death. Whether the loss was sudden or expected, we can be ambushed by the emotions that overwhelm us and the realization that our loved one has left an immense void in our heart. Each grief is unique, so the tsunami which I felt at death will be different from the hurricane you have endured. Still, we all suffer loneliness, confusion, and a sense of vertigo because life as we knew it is now out of balance, to say the least.
A few months ago on the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord we reflected on the grief the apostles might have, must have felt at the loss of the physical presence of Jesus in their lives. Today we reflect again on the apostles’ loss as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven.
Of course we rejoice with our Heavenly Mother who was finally physically reunited with her beloved Jesus at the end of her earthly life. But the apostles? What an aching void they must have each experienced as they realized their Holy Mother was now gone.
Do you imagine that Mary had a unique relationship with each of her Son’s special friends? I think so. It was Mary who taught the apostles how to pray as they waited for the Holy Spirit after the Ascension, and who nurtured them in their new life in the Holy Spirit after Pentecost. It would have been Mary who listened to the heartache of James as he suffered ridicule and contempt for his efforts to preach the Good News among the people who would not listen. Mary would have comforted them in their fears as they were sent to different cities and countries, and would have welcomed them home and listened with gentle eagerness as they told her of their successes in baptizing so many people. In your mind’s eye can you see Mary sitting by the well as Thomas shared his secrets with Mary, knowing that they were safe with her? Do you think Peter often spoke with Mary about his denials of Jesus, begging her over and over to help him forgive himself, knowing that Jesus had forgiven him?
And John? Dear John, whom Jesus gave to her as her son on Calvary. We know that Mary lived with John as she grew older. How precious would have been the moments when the young priest John tenderly gave Jesus to Mary in Holy Communion each morning. How he must have treasured her as he gazed on her in intimate, prayerful union with her Son.
Did they call all the apostles back from their missionary endeavors when it became clear that Mary was about to leave them for eternity? Mary must have waited until they were all home to bid them such a tender, motherly farewell. Did they see her assumed into heaven, or was that grace, like so many others Mary received during her lifetime, hidden from the apostles?
How did they continue without the Mother they needed so desperately?
We know the answer. They carried on as we must carry on, unable to hear her voice or see her exquisite face, but confident of her constant protection and cherishing the surety of her loving embrace. They, like us, often prayed to her asking her to tell Jesus of their love for Him, and implored her for blessings on their daily struggles. Can we not bring our heartaches to Mary? Shall we not dare to tell her of our success and our failings, ask her for assistance in our sinfulness, just as the apostles did? Can we not ask Mary to be with us as we receive her Son, Our Lord in Holy Communion? Mary loved the apostles in life and in death, and we are filled with trust that she loves each one of us and hears every prayer that comes from our hearts to hers.
Mary was our Mother before we ever knew her, and she is our Mother now even though we have never seen her. Today, as we recall her assumption into heaven, let us not grieve that we cannot see her, but rather, rest, as her beloved sons the apostles did, in her never-failing maternal embrace.
Sweet Mother Mary, teach me to love Jesus more and more with your own Heart of love. Amen.