The Assumption About Mary
Today the Church since the 5th century has celebrated the death of Mary, the Mother of our Lord.A The Catholic church celebrates today as The Assumption of Mary, which is the taking of the body of Mary into heaven in order to preserve it from corruption after her death.A Why does the Catholic church have so many unique doctrines about Mary: being conceived without sin, praying for sinners, interceding for them at the hour of their death, and being bodily assumed into heaven?A Their view of Mary comes from their assumption about Mary.
Their assumption about Mary is illustrated by a vision St. Bernard is said to have had in the 12th century.A He saw 2 ladders from earth to heaven.A At the top of one ladder stood Jesus.A At the top of the other stood Mary.A Those trying to enter heaven by Christ's ladder were falling down never reaching the top.A Those trying to enter heaven on Mary's ladder always made it because she put forth her hand to help them.A The grand assumption of Catholicism is that Mary is more willing to help sinners then Jesus is.
And can you find fault with that assumption?A Jesus is the all powerful God.A He controls all things, can do all things, but what has He done for you lately?A Have any of you been miraculously healed from a disease?A Have any of your family troubles completely disappeared?A Isn't it true that even as 1 gets better 2 get sick, and where one family is free of trouble, 10 more are plagued?A Jesus can do something about all of the plagues, sicknesses, deaths, and disasters we face.A But doesn't He seem cold, hard, and unanswering when we're in the depths of them?
Not Mary.A Have you ever seen a harsh, stern picture of Mary? She's always inviting, accepting just like your mom.A Doesn't she behave like a mom when her friends run out of wine at their wedding?A She reacts to this problem even though it really isn't that big of one.A She wants Jesus to jump right into action.A Can you really blame Catholics for assuming Mary is more approachable than Jesus, that Jesus' Mother would have more influence with Him than you?A Even adults have a hard time refusing their mother, don't they?
There's a problem with the Catholic assumption about Mary even if it were true.A Let me picture it.A A woman has a very powerful son.A People come with petitions, with pleas, for her to take to her son for them.A The problem is the woman is deaf.A She hears nothing.A All their pleading, all their appealing to her is useless.A She can't hear them.A And so it is, for the millions of people world-wide who beg, pray, or plead to Mary.A She can't hear them.A She doesn't know what they are saying.A But don't get me wrong.A Mary does pray for sinners as all the saints in heaven do.A The Book of Revelation definitely tells us that.A But the saints don't hear our prayers.A .
So even if the Catholic assumption is right and Mary is more approachable than Jesus, they are still wrong for acting on that assumption.A Mary can't hear their prayers, and so can't help them by interceding with Jesus.A But the real point to be clear on is that the Catholic assumption itself is wrong.A Yet we labor under the same assumption in our time of need.A While we don't pray to Mary for help, we are led to all sorts of fears, doubts, and worries by assuming God is not very approachable.
The celebration of Mary, Mother of our Lord can help us deal with the wrong assumption that our God, Jesus, is not very approachable or inclined to help us.A For a starting point, let's use the Greek Orthodox icon of Mary which is said to have been painted by St. Luke..A It shows Mary holding a cross with her right hand.A Her left arm is slightly extended and her palm is raised in a stop motion.A She is protesting honor to herself. The idea is, "Stop, I'm not the point; Jesus is." A That icon is right.A Mary is not the point, is not the emphasis, is not our hope, joy, comfort, or salvation; Jesus is:A His innocent suffering and death in place of sinners;A His sacrificial death to pay for sins.A But Jesus and Mary do belong together.A And the fact that they are together helps deal with our faulty assumption about Jesus.
There are not 2 ladders to heaven one with Mary at the top and one with Jesus.A There's only 1.A Jesus makes it very clear that He is that ladder.A He is the ladder upon which the angels of God ascend and descend to minister to sinners.A Jesus is the only Door, the only Gate, the only Path to get to heaven.A But a ladder is only useful if it reaches both the ground and the object you're trying to climb up to.A A ladder that falls under the gutter to the wall is useless for getting on your roof, isn't it? To be our Ladder to heaven Jesus had to reach all the way to heaven and all the way to earth.A By virtue of being True God, Jesus reaches all the way to heaven.
But that's only one end of the ladder.A God's thoughts are not our thoughts.A God's ways are not our ways.A As high as the heavens are above the earth, that's how high above our thoughts and waysGod is.A If Jesus were only true God, the Ladder would be like a rope ladder dropped out of heaven dangling above the earth.A We would be left, jumping or stacking things trying to reach the Ladder of our salvation.A We would be left looking to Mary who could surely understand us better than a far away God.
We should look toward Mary, but not that way.A Through her, Jesus, ourLadder of Salvation is anchored firmly on earth. Jesus is not just true God begotten from the Father from eternity, but He is also true Man born of theVirgin Mary. We want to remember Mary, we want to celebrate her death day because she shows Jesus took on real flesh and blood from a human mother just like all of us did from ours.A Jesus is that fully human.
But there's more.A It is not just that Jesus took on human nature, He could have done that with a wave of His hand.A It is the way He did so, through the womb of a virgin, a complete nobody, a real sinner chased by death hounded by fears just like we all are.A The fact thatJesus chose Mary to be His mother puts to death that grand assumption that haunts us all that God really isn't on our side totally.A That God holdsHimself an arms length away from us sinners.A That only with a plugged nose does God come to our aid, forgive our sins, and hear our prayers.
"No, no, no," Mary sings to us in her song we call the Magnificat.A She sings, she rejoices; she literally "leaps for joy," because God is her Savior.A The God who spins out galaxies, the God who cracks continents with earthquakes and recharts rivers with hurricanes, willingly stoops so low as to save a poor woman in Nazareth.A A Dear friend, God doesn't have to be convinced to be yourSavior.A He doesn't have to have His arm twisted to help you.A No, He wants to save you, to help you, more than you want to be saved or helped.
You assume that you have got to do something to get God to look your way.A You have to serve real hard, pray real loud, or get Jesus' Mother to get His attention.A You think like those news reporters do.A You have to wear a red tie, a striking outfit, or ask rightly in order for the President to notice you at a press conference.A Not so teaches usMary.A God all on His own without us whistling, begging, or doing anything "has been mindful" of us.A He was so mindful of us thatHe took on our flesh and blood.
You can't imagine just how mindful your God is of you.A Scripture says, Your God has you etched into the palms of His hands.A Your God carefully counts your hairs each day.A Your God thinks your tears are so precious that He rushes to get a bottle to catch each one that falls.A ThenHe rushes to get His notebook to write down why you cried it.A That's what Scripture says.
A You think, I think, we think, that God has some secret hatred, some unrequited vengeance, some wrath yet to be poured out against us for our very real sins, as if Jesus didn't bear all God's wrath and vengeance for us.A But apart from Jesus what do we have we to offer?A Works?A Faith?A Prayer?A No, all we have is our sins.A My works, my faith, my prayers are all tainted, befouled by my sins.A But listen to what Mary sings:> His mercy extends to those who fear Him...He has lifted up the humble...He has filled the hungry with good things...remembering to be merciful. @
Yes, while all we can think of is our sins, our inability to please God, the judgement our lives deserve,A God, for Jesus' sake, is busy remembering to be merciful, kind and condescending to the fearful, the broken, and the empty.A Our God in Christ doesn't need to be convinced, petitioned, or coerced into being giving, forgiving, and merciful by His mother or by us.A He wills to be this way towards us for Jesus' sake, and He can't fail to be this way for Jesus' sake.A No matter how things might look.A No matter how things might feel.A God can't deny that Jesus lived your life, and died your death, so that He might give you all the love and help Jesus deserves.
We are taught this by today's festival.A By God making His path to the cross pass through the Virgin Mary, He shows how much He accepts sinners.A He's not ashamed to call one, "Mom."A And He shows His grace toward sinners.A If Mary's sins couldn't prevent her from being God's Mother, then I don't think your sins can prevent you from being God's child.A And He shows His willingness to go to profound depths for the sake of sinners.A If God willingly went into a human womb to save sinners, then you can bet He'll go into family rooms, bedrooms, or hospital rooms for the sake of sinners.
A Your God, Jesus, is so much on your side that you can assume He wants to hear your prayers, come to your aid, and save you more than you want Him to.A Far from needing to convince or coax Him to act on your behalf, you canassume as Isaiah says that before you call He'llanswer and while you're yet speaking, He'll hear you.A You can assume that Jesus will do no moreor less for you than He would do for His own dear mother. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Mary, Mother of God (8-15-04); Luke 1:46-55