Reflection for Friday, August 15, 2008: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemnity.

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Kokensparger, Brian
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The world is currently embroiled in the Olympics. In every sport, technology has intervened to provide athletes with as much of a competitive advantage as the rulebook will allow. New suits help swimmers shave one tenth of a second off of their times. Special shoes help long jumpers achieve an extra quarter of an inch on their jumps. Oxygen deprivation tents help marathoners move up one or two places at the end of their races. Experimental diets and wired workout machines help athletes learn about their metabolic rhythms and how to keep themselves as fit as possible before, during, and after their events.|But this technology does not come without a cost. High-tech research, development, and training are prohibitively expensive, so much so that the Olympic Games are in danger of becoming a showcase of competition among the haves, with little or no recognition of the efforts put forth by the have-nots.|That is why we cannot help but relish those rare times when an "unknown" athlete, perhaps from a poorer country, with little technological assistance, arises in his or her sport to unexpectedly take the medal stand.|It is against this backdrop that I read today's readings, all of which support the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.|The three readings give us entirely different views of the Blessed Mother. The first reading, from Revelations, shows us a woman about to give birth before a horrific dragon, which is poised to devour her newly-born child. Hollywood could not give us a more striking representation of the cosmic significance of Mary's act of acceptance. The second reading reveals Jesus as "firstfruits," promising that the fruit of Mary's womb will overcome every authority and power, even death itself. And finally, the Gospel passage lets us all inside the simple human reality of Mary's existence, where the infant in Elizabeth's womb leaps at her approach. What follows is, to me, the most poetically rich passage of the Bible.|We love these images for the same reason that we love to cheer on the "underdogs" at the Olympics.|Like the Olympic athletes who were not "supposed" to take the medal stand, this young woman of simple means was not "supposed" to be the Mother of God, at least by most accounts. I cannot help but think that if a list of likely candidates for the position had been drawn up in that day, she most likely would not have been on it.|And therein lies the root of the Christian message: the proud are scattered, the mighty are cast down from their thrones, the lowly are lifted, the hungry are filled with good things, and the rich are sent away empty.|Mary became the Mother of God because she _ among all women _ did not expect to be. She lived her simple daily life in the best way that she knew how, and the angel came to her _ she did not go to him. However, when her time came to "step up" and accept the call, she did so with a confidence and grace that only years of humble and quiet preparation could provide. I don't know about you, but this gives me great hope. It tells me that Grace is not bought or sold. It is not a prize that goes to the disciple with the most time to pray or the best retreat team. Nor is it a popularity contest where certain backroom agreements predetermine the outcome.|The more humble, the more meager, the more lamentable a human's circumstances, the more likely that God will enter those circumstances to usher in the light of Christ.|And that is good news for all of us. Because if we have to rely purely on our efforts, then no matter how much we pray, no matter how much we try to live the Beatitudes, no matter how often and how intently we answer the call, there will always be someone out there who can do it just a little better than we can. Luckily enough for us, our relationship with God is not a competitive sport. It's a partnership. There will never be anyone more qualified to undertake what God has in store for us than we are.|Enjoy the remainder of the games!
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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