The Solemnity of the Assumption
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10; Psalm 45; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
Do you believe in dragons? No?
On 24 March 1980, the dragon known as “Death Squad” waited outside a hospital chapel to devour Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador; murdering him while he gave birth to Christ in Word and Sacrament at the altar offering daily Mass. Dragons are real. They daily devour the lives of the poorest people around the world.
Thus Mary, in solidarity with the world’s poor sings: “God has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. God…has scattered the proud in their conceit…has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly…and the rich God has sent away empty.”
This year the Solemnity of the Assumption is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the martyr Oscar Romero. The words sung by Mary in the Magnificat foreshadowed Romero’s preaching. Archbishop Romero spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture. He served his people by naming the dragons that were devouring them to those in power. The letters many of you wrote to our congressional leaders in regard to the national budget cuts for food programs to feed the hungry name the dragons devouring our people. This is what it means to liberate people from unjust structures.
Consider the sign outside the rectory. Have you noticed it? No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor. It is written in Spanish, English and Arabic. It is meant to be a direct response to people who are prejudiced against immigrants and refugees from Central and South America and Muslim countries. It is meant to speak to those in power of laws that, out of fear, extreme nationalism and prejudice discriminate against people. Families, children, and parents seeking no less than our own ancestors did who, by the way, did not speak English but rather Polish, Italian, German, Greek, Armenian and who were not all legal.
Why is the dragon of opioid addiction devouring our people? From 15 to 80 years of age people are dying from overdoses throughout our country. Who is speaking up for them? Who is lifting up the lowly?
Why is one person, like former pharmaceutical CEO, Martin Shkreli, allowed without notice to raise the price of a lifesaving medication from $13.50 to $750.00 per pill? Who is speaking to power?
Dragons are real and they are only destroyed by challenging the people who are in power. None of the members of the Church can remain silent. It is our responsibility to speak for the dignity of every human being. This is at the core of Catholic Social Teaching. The common good outweighs the prerogatives, rights, privileges and entitlements of the individual or any group. The common good. Listen again to Mary’s song: “God…has scattered the proud in their conceit…God has cast down the mighty from their thrones…and the rich God has sent away empty.” These are not the words of the often reserved and sentimental images we have in our churches of the Virgin Mary. These are words of a woman who has looked the devouring dragon in the eye and with God became victorious. Why do our churches not image this strong and powerful voice for the poor rather than a meek medieval queen?
Yet this powerful image is the Virgin Mary that Romero knew. In his 1977 homily for today’s feast he preached: “The Church, like Mary, serves humanity by affirming the fact that every man and woman is a child of God, a sister and a brother that must be attended. “How does Mary serve? She is steadfast in defending the dignity, freedom and the rights of the human person, because she knows that men and women are not puppets, but are destined, like Mary, for the kingdom of Heaven.”
The Solemnity of the Assumption is not just about the destiny of Mary of Nazareth but about the life and destiny of every human being. How do we raise our voices to those people in power with the voices of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., the Salvadoran martyrs: Ita Ford, Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke and Dorothy Kazel, Saint Teresa of Kolkata and Blessed Archbishop Oscar Romero to lift up the lowly?