I was asked to write the homily I gave at Mass on the Feast of the Assumption, 15th August . . .
“You meet a friend on your way to church who asks where you are going. Church, you reply. On a Thursday! Yes, it’s a Holy Day of Obligation. What does that mean? I’ll go to hell if I don’t go. I can’t believe that! Neither can I, you smile, but I used to. Isn’t it sad? In our Catholic schools, we frightened our children that if they didn’t go to Mass on Sundays and Holydays they would go to hell for a mortal sin.”
“How cruel such teaching. I was taught that. We don’t teach or believe it now, and should never have taught like that. Fellow students for the priesthood in Rome were amazed at the teaching of fear that our Catholic schools in the English-speaking world taught. “We’d send most of our Italian people to hell every week if we taught that,” said one of my Italian brethren.”
“There is a ferocity in Celtic spirituality that others do not admire. Their trust in a loving merciful God they offer in contrast to our fear of God and mortal sin that seems to have been a mark of our Catholic education. Today the Church invites us to mass on Sundays and Holy Days to celebrate God’s blessings and love and various themes of our faith. A Holy Day is an invitation and today we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven.”
“Would you be able to give a sensible answer to anyone who sincerely asked you to explain Mary’s Assumption? If not, why not? It’s worth answering that question to know what you believe.”
“We celebrate her beautiful life and her offering herself to God in that wonderful final moment: completely, body and soul, we say in loving admiration. Having lived her life for God she was able and blessed to make the offering of herself in that final moment, knowing, we believe, she had lived every moment for God.”
“We are not like that. We are all aware of wrong-doings, regrets. When we come before God we shall regret not having lived more sincerely in that divine love. In God’s loving gaze of mercy we shall see clearly for the first time the love with which we have been loved all our lives, from the womb and before: “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” says the Book of Jeremiah. We have always been in the mind and love of God”.
“We have failed that love. That is our sinfulness. We know it now and we shall know it so clearly when we meet God in our final moment, life complete. In that moment you will be the person you have allowed yourself to become down the years of your life. The choice is yours. If, today, you are bad-tempered, stubborn, selfish, cruel, prejudiced, that is what you have chosen; and you will see in God’s loving gaze what you might have been.”
“Such regret. Longing to be purified. That is purgatory. Purgatory is not a place. It is a coming before God to be purified in that loving merciful gaze. Pope Benedict XVI is one of a number of writers who thus explains “purgatory”: as a being purified, not a place.”
“We do it with each other. The deep regret of having hurt someone who loves us. Having no adequate words to say how sorry we are, helplessly looking at the loved hurt one – and seeing in their smiling eyes that we are forgiven, they still love us, they have wanted to forgive. Without words, we have said we are sorry; without words, we are told we are forgiven. What blessing. Purifying, not purgatory.”
“Mary did not know that moment. In her beautiful life, she did not turn away from God nor from anyone, we believe. She lived a quiet perfection of love every day, so that in her final moment she was able to offer herself totally to God. And God took her, body and soul, completely, into heaven. The Assumption.”
(25th August 2019)