We gather today in honour of Our Lady to reflect on the 5 Glorious Mysteries of the Rosary. When I was first asked to do this Novena, I decided that I wanted to speak about the Joyful Mysteries – I love them so much – that great account of the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary that she would carry a child, who would be called The Son of God, the conception of her baby, her visit to her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with her son John, the birth of the baby Jesus, The day they took him to the Temple to consecrate him to God. Simeon was there and he recognised her baby as the son of God, and he said to Mary, that her soul would be pierced with a sword, (what terror those words must have caused) and finally that day which must have also been so frightening for Joseph and Mary when they had taken Jesus to Jerusalem for the Passover, and they lost him – each thinking he was with the other, and when they found him three days later and remonstrated with him, because they had been so afraid, he turned to them and said “Did you not know i must be about may Father’s business.”
But they did not ask me to talk about those mysteries – they asked me to talk about the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the tomb, his Ascension into heaven and the the day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles in the Upper Room, the most mysterious assumption of his blessed Mother Mary into Heaven ,and the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven.
These events truly are mysteries: these days after the crucifixion when the women went to the tomb but they could not find Jesus’ body there, the stone was rolled back and an angel was there who said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.”
And they went back and told the apostles and the other women and they were unsure, and Peter went back to the tomb and came away questioning.
These words of scripture, which we all know, should be written on our souls because in them lies the truth of our redemption, that Jesus did not die and was not just buried in the earth – he did, as he had told them he would, he rose again on the third day.
Each of us must contemplate not just the deaths of those we love but also our own deaths. The one certainty is that we must, each of us, die. It is frightening. In these days of the coronavirus it is especially frightening. We do not know if, or when, this invisible virus may attack us. It may not attack us, or if it does we may survive, because most people do, but ultimately some day, possibly when we least expect it, our days on earth will be done and we will die.
But though we know our bodies will be taken to their final rest, we know also that that is not the end. Rather it is the beginning of eternal life, that life for which we were destined before even we were conceived, and to which we will go, each of us one day in the hope that the lord will look kindly upon us in his mercy and that we too will rise to eternal life.
When Mary saw her son crucified, tortured – when they laid in her arms her grief and pain must have been so overwhelming, because he was her boy and she loved him. But she knew that he was the not just her boy, he was Son of God and she had known because he had said so, that he must die. She had known that, awful though it was, it was not the end but the beginning of new life and she knew, as we too know, that those who have died are not far from us and that we will in some incomprehensible and mysterious way know them again.
I think that was why she was not at the tomb that Easter Day, she knew that he would not be there.
And after the Resurrection, Jesus reappeared to his disciples and to the women, and there came that day when he told them that the Holy Spirit would come upon them, saying “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” And then as they watched, he was lifted up in front of them, and he disappeared into the clouds. And then two angels came and said “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
What does that mean to us – Jesus was telling his disciples that his earthly work was done and his risen body was going into heaven. He will come again but now it was for them, as it is for us ,to to reflect on that final calling of Jesus to be his witnesses throughout the earth, called to holiness, called to love, called to self-sacrifice, called to carry our crosses as he carried his.
What a moment that must have been for his mother – what a moment of joy after all the pain and sorrow. Few of us will ever be called to carry the cross of seeing our beloved child humiliated, tortured and murdered. We hear comparatively little of Mary in those days after the wedding feast at Cana until she walked with her son, the way of the cross, when her heart must have been so terribly pierced by that sword of which Simeon spoke. No, we are called to be his witnesses – witnesses to his death, his resurrection and ascension , remembering always that he told us that we will never be alone – that he is always with us, even though we cannot see – he is with us in those whom we love, those whom we meet and most of all, surely, he is there, this son of Mary, this son of God in the Eucharist. I took it all for granted -that we would always be able to make the choice to go to Mass and to receive the body of my Lord, but that has been take away from us, just as Jesus was taken away from his mother and his apostles that Good Friday. And though this has happened because of the coronavirus I think it gives us a moment to pause and to think about what we have temporarily lost – the ability to receive the Lord into our bodies and into our souls, in the Eucharist. We may weep for that loss, but perhaps we will be moved into much greater love for our risen Lord now, because of what we have lost for now.
And so we move to the day of Pentecost when they were all sitting in the house “and suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting, tongues as of fire resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues. The Spirit filled then so that they were able to go about building the Church, telling people of the teaching of Jesus, living together as he had lived and that is what we too are called to do. For the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of God is with us, watching over us, inspiring us, helping us, consoling us, alerting us to things which we must do, places we must go to, people we must love as we have been loved, so that eventually like St Paul, we too may be able to look back on our lives and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
And so Jesus, his earthly work done, is in Heaven with his Father, God, though he continues to live in each of us, and that can be hard to understand. I ask myself how could the Lord Jesus live in someone like me? Yet he does. He lives in each of us and thus we meet him constantly on the journey.
And so we know that her earthly work being done, that most blessed, most sacred, most wonderful work, Mary was assumed into heaven – she did not die as we must die, even as her son died. As Pope Pius declared in November 1950, the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory by the angels. And this we know, that she is reunited with the son in heaven in the presence of God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
But she was not just reunited with her son, and with our God: she, the woman who brought forth our salvation through Christ our Lord, was crowned and proclaimed Queen of Heaven – She is also our heavenly mother, one who watches over us from heaven, one to whom we can speak, when perhaps we fear, or are uncertain in the presence of her son, one through whom we can find her son. She is the mother we pray to in our joy and in our sorrow. She is the one who can help, she is one through whom the Holy Spirit can reach out to us. To me too she is the perfect role model for any woman – it was never about her – it was always about others – about Elizabeth and Zachariah, and their baby John, about Joseph and then about her boy, the baby Jesus, who grew into the little Jesus, and then who emerged into his public life as the Christ, about the people at the wedding in Cana, and ultimately again about her boy, whom she followed all the way to Calvary, standing at the foot of the Cross, never wavering, there for her boy until it was done, and they laid him, dead, in her arms. She is the perfect mother the model for all mothers. She gave everything for him, and ultimately for us. She is rightly the Queen of Heaven. She is the one through whom each one of us can come to her Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.