The Assumption of Mary: An Encounter with the Poor

Laura Elizabeth Pohl for CRS

The Assumption of Mary can be a tricky Holy Day to get your head around. I’m often tempted to simply consider it a historical event—Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul—and leave it at that. What does her assumption really mean for me, today, in the nitty-grittiness of life?

Pope Pius XII, in the apostolic constitution, Munificentissimus Deus—which defined the dogma of the Assumption—spends a great deal of time reflecting on the centuries-old tradition of the Assumption, how countless Christian thinkers throughout time have meditated on and revered this important event. It’s near the end, though, that he makes an important observation that I think connects directly to this question of what role the Assumption of Mary should play in our everyday lives:

All these proofs and considerations of the holy Fathers and the theologians are based upon the Sacred Writings as their ultimate foundation. These set the loving Mother of God as it were before our very eyes as most intimately joined to her divine Son and as always sharing his lot. Consequently, it seems impossible to think of her…as being apart from him in body, even though not in soul, after this earthly life. (38, emphasis mine)

Mary’s life was intimately joined to that of Jesus. That means his priorities were her priorities. His concerns were her concerns. His hopes and joys, challenges and defeats were hers to share. We have the opportunity to reflect on these things and more during this important feast day.

And of course, when we meditate on the life of Christ, we see that he is concerned with building up the Reign of God, enacting God’s justice and mercy on earth, making right relationships so often twisted by power, wealth and privilege.

And where did he start? With those suffering the worst forms of poverty. “Blessed are you who are poor,” Jesus says, “for the kingdom of God is yours.” He goes on: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Reflecting on the Beatitudes, Pope Francis writes in Gaudete et Exsultate: “The Gospel invites us to peer into the depths of our heart, to see where we find our security in life. …Jesus himself tells us this in the parable of the rich fool: he speaks of a man who was sure of himself, yet foolish, for it did not dawn on him that he might die that very day.” (67)

Mary’s assumption into heaven, then, provides us with an apt reflection: Our lives should be “intimately joined” with the life of Christ, reflections of Jesus’ mission to enact God’s vision of justice for humanity, ever mindful that one day our lives, too, will end.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is privileged to play a role in working towards God’s vision, entrusting our work to the intercession of our Blessed Mother—especially on this Feast of the Assumption. And we invite you to join us.

Today, as we ponder the Assumption of Mary, as we ponder our own roles in reflecting the mission of Christ in our world, we pray that famous prayer of Bishop Kenneth Untener:

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.