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Richard LeonardAugust 13, 2008
Daniel went to his mother demanding a new bicycle for Christmas. "Danny, we can’t afford it", she said, "so write a letter to Jesus and pray for one instead". "Dear Jesus, I’ve been a good boy this year and would appreciate a new bicycle. Your Friend, Daniel" Now Danny guessed that Jesus really knew he was brat. So he gave the letter another try. "Dear Jesus, I’ve been an OK boy this year and I want a new bicycle. Yours Truly, Daniel" Danny knew this wasn’t true so he tore it up and tried again. "Dear Jesus, I’ve thought about being a good boy so may I have a new bicycle? Daniel" Finally, Danny thought better of making these false claims and so ran to the Church. He went inside and stole a small statue of Mary and ran out the door. He went home hid it under his bed and wrote this letter. "Jesus, let’s face it, I’ve broken most of the Commandments; tore up my sister’s doll and lots more, I’m desperate. I’ve got your mother Mary, if ever want to see her again, give me a bike for Christmas. - You know who." This story has a serious lesson for us on the feast of the Assumption. Throughout history there are those who have ransomed the memory of Mary to fit in with how they understand women should behave in society. As a result, sometimes, Mary is presented as meek and mild, passive and subservient. The problem with this view is that it is impossible to reconcile it with the ten stories we have of Mary in the New Testament: the Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation, flight into Egypt, loosing Jesus in the Temple, going to bring Jesus home from his public ministry, the wedding feast at Cana, being at the foot of the Cross and Pentecost. The strength and power of Mary’s witness is most especially captured in the Magnificat from which we just heard. Here Mary extols how God is saving us by turning the world on its head, doing the very opposite of what was expected. The New Testament does not demonstrate a meek woman, devoid of creativity and initiative. It shows a strong, noble woman who put her free will at the disposal of God’s will. That is what the feast of the Assumption celebrates: that because God will never be outdone in fidelity and generosity, he remained utterly faithful to Mary through death, as she was utterly faithful to him in life. The Catholic Tradition has always honoured Mary as being obedient, the pre-eminent disciple of her Son and the sign of what could await all Christians who are invited to share in the mission of Jesus on earth. Religious obedience is not passive. We listen to the voice of God and choose to say yes to Christ’s love and liberation. Discipleship does not mean our personality counts for nothing. Rather, it’s the valuing of every individual’s ability to contribute to Christ’s kingdom in a unique way. Prefiguring what can happen for all of us, does not diminish the particular gifts God lavished on Mary, but reassures us that God recognises his own in this world and the next. May this Assumption Day see us then stop ransoming the image of Mary to the distortions of the past and find in her creative and free self-giving a pattern for our Christian lives, and a beacon of hope to which we can hold firm. Richard Leonard, S.J.
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