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Bishop's Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2021

[St. John the Apostle & Evangelist Church, Mililani (50th anniversary of the parish and installation of pastor); St. Anthony Church, Papaaloa (installation of pastor of St. Anthony and Immaculate Heart of Mary, Papaikou)]

The lost ark.  The Holy Grail.  These are sacred containers about which myths, legends, and movies have been made.  The ark of the covenant was a box that was sacred to the Jewish people, because it contained the tablets on which God himself had written the Ten Commandments as well as some of the manna, the food that sustained the Israelites in the desert after they had been freed from slavery in Egypt.  It symbolized the presence of God with them.  The Holy Grail was the cup that Jesus used at the Last Supper when he instituted the Eucharist.  These containers, of course, were held sacred not for their own value but for the sacred things they contained.  We are familiar with at least some of the legends about searching high and low for these sacred objects.

Perhaps, however, they were lost by God’s own design, since there would be a more sacred and valuable container to hold the living Word of God and the living Bread come down from heaven.  This container, however, was no inanimate object, but the living person of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Just as the ark of the covenant was designed by God to be a thing of great beauty, God made her his most beautiful creature, not only endowing her with his own image and likeness, as he does with every human being ever created, but preserving her from the first moment of her conception from original sin.  She was a member of the human race, but is the highest honor of our race.  With her presence, there is no further need to seek the ancient ark or even the Holy Grail.  She is the vessel that held the Savior of the World, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And though, like her Son, she died, by the singular grace bestowed on her by her Son, she was immediately assumed, body and soul into heaven.  Jesus has promised that all his faithful disciples who eat his flesh and drink his blood would be raised up on the last day, but for her he actually fulfilled that promise immediately.

Yet Mary is more than a woman who became the Mother of God two thousand years ago.  She is alive today, and she continues to be the ark of the covenant and the Holy Grail, and she manifests this sacred privilege in the Church.  This is why we often refer to the Church as “Holy Mother.”  Just as Mary bore Jesus within her womb and gave him flesh and blood, the Church today and throughout the ages gives flesh to this divine love and makes Jesus present to the world.  The font of Baptism is the sacred womb through which God’s children are born again into eternal life.  The simple people who hear the Word of God and put it into practice and who receive in their own bodies the Bread of Life in the Eucharist are the Holy Grail that is mysteriously hidden in our normalcy, yet as present as it can possibly be to others.  It is through Holy Mother the Church – all of us who are united with Christ, Word and Living Bread – that the saving blood of Jesus is poured out even today upon the world.  As Jesus entrusted the Virgin Mary to his beloved disciple as he gave his life for us on the cross, he continues to entrust her to all of us, his beloved disciples who hear and heed his Word.

There is nothing more important a pastor can do than to constantly remind his parishioners of this incredible dignity and grace, because when we are most aware of being vessels of God’s grace, we become our best selves.  We remember that our final home is not this world, in which we wander with hungers and thirsts, sometimes losing hope, sometimes inflicted with diseases, and often unfaithful to our calling.  Our final and lasting home is in heaven, where Mary has preceded us.  When we fix our eyes on this everlasting prize, no sacrifice is too great to achieve it.  Our parishes are meant to be reminders of this high destiny.  We come here not to escape the present world, but to give thanks to God for it, to bless it, to learn how to nurture it, even when it is extremely difficult to do so.  We gather to hear the Word of God and to be nourished with the Bread of Life so that we, like Mary, can be the ark of the covenant and the Holy Grail through which all in the world have access to Jesus the Lord.

Yes, this high destiny we share with the Blessed Virgin Mary may seem as lost as the original ark of the covenant or the Holy Grail, yet when our pastors call us to believe despite the trials, the persecutions, the exhaustion, the deceptions and the lies that we all encounter in life – even despite our own hardness of heart and sinfulness – we become truly who we are meant to be.  We become vessels that hold heaven itself with its healing and merciful love.  We become the ones who travel to all corners of the world, near and far, to make present Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word and the Living Bread, for the life of the world.  And then we rightly join with our holy Queen enthroned above as our very souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord and rejoice in God our Savior.