Each year, as we enter the month of September after the summer, we look forward to a more normal pace of our life. However, this year we are not quite sure of what normalcy is as we continue to face the uncertainties and restrictions which the coronavirus has placed upon us. At school reopens, it is in a different context and with a different choice not easy to make. This time of the year reminds us that the holidays will quickly be approaching, but we wonder what they will be like this year. As we continue to move ahead, we do so with an uncertainty that seems to become more and more a part of our lives.
The month of September brings a number of celebrations in honor of Mary, Our Blessed Mother. Among them are the Birth of Mary (September 8), the Holy Name of Mary (September 12) and the Sorrows of Mary (September 15). Mary is one who lived with a great deal of uncertainty in her life. However, her faith and trust in God gave her a certainty even when she did not know how things were to turn out.
It is important to realize that Mary’s unwavering faith did not cause her to escape the reality of this life and all that is part of it. She was not separated from this life but fully engaged in it. This is where God had placed her with a human body which enfleshed her spiritual life and soul. Indeed, it was in the womb of the Virgin Mary that God enfleshed Himself in this life. Mary was on a journey in this life which leads to the fullness of life in heaven. Jesus enfleshed Himself through Mary to accompany us on this journey.
During the month of August, we celebrated the Assumption of Mary into heaven as well as her Coronation as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Mary’s Assumption and Queenship are not honors given exclusively to her but living reminders to all of us of the sanctity of our human life, body and soul, which will continue in the fullness of life in heaven where there will not be the fragility of this life. Our human existence, although tainted by original sin, is good and meant to bring us into union with God. That is why God created us. He has taken our humanity to His existence in heaven in His glorified body. Mary was the first to follow in this regard and reminds us of what awaits all of us.
Last year we commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the landing on the moon. We recalled the famous words of Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” That was a step into uncertainty but one which removed the uncertainty that it could be done. Pope Francis reminded us of these words at the Angelus on the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary this year. He reflected, “The Madonna has set foot in Paradise; she went there not only in spirit, but with her body as well, with all of herself. This step of the lowly Virgin of Nazareth was a huge leap forward for humanity. Going to the moon serves us little if we do not live as brothers and sisters on earth. But that one of us dwells in the flesh in heaven gives us hope: we understand that we are precious, destined to rise again. In Mary, the goal has been reached and we have before our eyes the reasons why we journey.”
It is interesting that a few days before the Assumption, Pope Francis made a fifteen-minute phone call to thank the owner of an ice cream parlor in Rome for the gift of ice cream. Pope Francis is a great lover of ice cream and even reminded the owner of his favorite flavor of ice cream which is coffee. Such a small and simple gesture, both of the ice cream and the thank you, are signs of the good things which God has given us in this world which are part of are human existence day in and day out. While ice cream may not exist in heaven, gratitude will and that should remind us of what the meaning of our life is all about even amidst uncertainty.
As we enter the month of September, let us do so inspired by the faith of Mary reminding us that God is always with us and leads us through difficult and uncertain times but always with our focus fixed on Him, the only certainty.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
August 28, 2020