Today’s feast is about Mary’s ascension into heaven. Frankly, we don’t know much about the life of Mary. As a young teenager, a teenager who could not read or write, she was informed she was to be the mother of God.
She could not have understood the full implications of that message, but she just humbly said, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Then she experienced the life of her son, the ups and downs, and, finally, His horrific passion and death. And now we celebrate her assumption into heaven, into bliss, into eternal happiness. I wonder what Mary felt as she went into the glories of Heaven,
In the early 80s, I was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. It was a well-guarded hotel, for Columbia was in turmoil. Violence, riots, shootings. Outside the hotel, it was teaming with people. There were poor people begging in the streets, the drug-addicted and the AIDS-afflicted. Inside it was an entirely different world. It was safe, bright and comfortable. Frankly, it felt like a slice of heaven on earth.
On my way up to my room, I noticed a sign hanging in the elevator advertising a party in suite 611. Obviously, the sign was intended for those who knew the occupants of suite 611. But then I began to think, what if there was a party in suite 611 that invited everyone, literally everyone?
The poor people outside the hotel, the beggars, the sick, the addicted, what if they all were invited into the magic place of endless food and drink? What if the waiters and busboys, the housekeeping staff, the people who worked in the hotel laundry and the desk clerk, what if they, too, were invited to the party in suite 611? Who would throw such a party?
No one would throw a party like that, no one. No one, that is, except God. Jesus believed in forgiveness without limit. He believed in healing the sick, feeding the hungry and including the outcasts. He believed that the earth could and would finally be transformed to heaven.
You remember how He taught His disciples to pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Jesus was not playing games. His intent was to start a revolution that would change the world. He was starting a new kind of community where everyone would be treated with kindness and respect, where the law would be love.
Recall how He said, “I give you a new commandment, love one another.” But He knew we could not do it alone, we could not do it without Him, so He gives us His very self in the form of bread and wine. The Body of Christ offered to Christians in consecrated bread and wine is not some thing, but some one! The Eucharistic Christ is present not as an object to be admired, but as a person to be encountered.
There is a Catholic truth that is all too easily forgotten: All of us are priests. Why? Because all of us offer the church’s central act of worship, the sacrifice of the Mass. Because in that sacrifice we offer not only Jesus but our very selves. If a small minority are ordained to lead the people in sacrifice, the sacrifice is still of the people, for the people, by the people.
Never forget a momentous word in the Mass: we. This bread, o God, this cup, we offer to you. And this Eucharist is not a reward for good behavior, where you can approach only if you are a saint. It is food for the journey. It is meant for all of us. How else can we become what we receive, the Body of Christ?
The party in suite 611 was restricted to the few who were invited, but this party is for all. Come forth in wonder and gratitude for such a great gift. And remember His words: I Myself am the living bread come down from heaven. But talk about the bread of life can sound awfully empty, and suspiciously hollow, and it will be empty, it will be hollow unless we who feed on the Eucharistic Christ realize that we do not need to keep His presence to ourselves.
We spread it. We take that presence from church to the world. Take the presence to a world that is hungry, not only for food but for freedom, for peace, for mercy and mostly hungry for God. I would suggest that each of us should put to ourselves one urgent question: Where I walk and work, where I play and pray, wherever I am, is there anyone who is less hungry because I am there? Is anyone ever invited into my suite 611?