Monday, August 15, 2011

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
(Mass During The Day)
Lessons From A Gum Wrapper

Readings: Apocalypse 11:19,12:1-6,10; Psalm 44:10-12,16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56
Picture: cc Save vs Death

Sisters and brothers, I’m not sure if there are any of you here who remember this. But, when I was growing up in the seventies, there was a particular brand of bubble-gum that was very popular with the kids. It was popular not really because of the gum itself–which was quite ordinary–but because of the wrapper. You see, printed on the inside of each gum wrapper was a picture. Sometimes, if you were lucky it was a superhero, like Spiderman or Ultraman, someone who possessed extra-ordinary powers. But that’s not all. What was so attractive about this picture was that it was transferable. All you had to do was to spill a few drops of water onto the image, and then press the wrapper onto your wrist, or somewhere else on your body, and after a few short seconds Ultraman would appear on your skin like a tattoo. And, of course, if you were a kid with a lively enough imagination, not only Ultraman’s image, but also his superpowers would be transferred onto you. And you could then go around like a true superhero looking for monsters to subdue, and innocent people to protect. Transferable superpowers, that was the real attraction. Not the gum.

I mention this because, strange as it may sound, there are close similarities between those bubblegum wrappers of my childhood and the solemn feast that we are so joyfully celebrating today. Consider what we just heard in our Mass readings. Notice how, as with those gum wrappers, we find in our readings a hero, someone with wonderful, extra-ordinary power. The first reading tells of how an evil monster–a huge red dragon–was threatening to devour a woman and her as yet unborn child. But, miraculously, not only did both woman and child escape, but the monster was defeated. The reading ends with a voice from heaven joyfully proclaiming that victory and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ. As with those gum wrappers, here too we find someone with superpower. Through his life, death and resurrection, Christ has conquered not just the evil dragon, but even Death itself.

More importantly, we’re also told that Christ’s extra-ordinary power over death does not simply remain with Him alone. Rather, like the image on the gum wrappers, this superpower is actually transferable. As we’re told in the second reading, just as all die in Adam, so all will be brought to life in Christ. All will be able to share in Christ’s victory over death. Transferable superpower. That is what we are celebrating today. For who do you think was the first candidate for the transfer of Christ’s power over death? Who else but the Lord’s very own mother, his first and closest disciple, the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. Today we celebrate the effects of this transfer of Christ’s power onto Mary. We believe that when her time on earth was complete, Mary, like her son Jesus, did not suffer the decay of death, but was assumed body and soul into heaven.

What is more, the effects of this power transfer did not begin only at the end of Mary’s life on earth. They were already felt when she was still a young teenager. As we heard in the gospel, soon after the Holy Spirit had descended upon her at the Annunciation, as soon as the power transfer had taken place, Mary immediately set out to do good. She went as quickly as she could to help her cousin Elizabeth, who was elderly and with child. And notice the effects of Mary’s visit. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the older woman herself experienced a transfer of power. And not just her, but also the child in her womb. As a result of Mary’s presence, both the mother and her unborn child were filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit. The wondrous effects of transferable superpower. This is what we are celebrating today.

There is one final similarity between the gum wrappers and the Assumption. You will remember that, in order for Ultraman to become imprinted onto one’s wrist, in order for his powers to be transferred, something was needed. One had to apply water. Similarly, the power  transfer that Mary experienced took place because something else was present. We learn what this thing is from what Elizabeth says about Mary in the gospel. Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled. Mary believed. The power transfer that she experienced was brought about by her faith. The same faith that is symbolized by the waters of Baptism. Through her faith, Mary allowed the image of her as yet unborn Son to be imprinted onto her heart, just as she let his power move her to do good. The faith that enables a transfer of superpower. This is what we celebrate today.

And this transfer of power is not for Mary alone. She was but the first candidate. As we will hear later in the Preface to our Eucharistic Prayer, Mary is the beginning and the pattern of the Church in its perfection and a sign of hope and comfort for God’s people on their pilgrim way. The power of Christ is meant to be transferred not just to Mary, but, beyond her, to all of her children. To you and to me. All of us who have been immersed in the waters of Baptism. All of us who have had the image of Christ imprinted onto our hearts. All of us who are given a share in Christ’s awesome power over death, the same power that we are celebrating at this Eucharist.

If all this is indeed true, sisters and brothers, if we are indeed celebrating the transfer of superpower today, then the question we need to ask ourselves is, having received this power, what are we doing with it today?

2 comments:

  1. You broke the Word so innocuously by this simple analogy, evoking a wondrous past of simple enjoyment, of bygone childhood pleasures over a chewing gum’s wrapper.
    At my current station in life, I can relate to that so well, the innocence of youth over unknowing truths. It poses the question: where can I find those gummy wrappers now that I am aware of this ability to transfer power? Can I only locate it in my imagination? Or maybe in the poorer countries where these products are still available?
    I shall now look at things differently, with un-blinkered eyes? Perhaps it is time for the older folks to peel off the veneer of consumerism, and unmask the gems that lie beneath the mundane. Everything has a purpose, now it’s for us to seek harder.
    Thank you Fr, it’s an inspiration to follow your homilies.

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  2. Having said earlier about seeking harder, one must not be looking in the wrong places.
    Just read this morning's S.T. report of another kind of transfer, of the unsavory kind. This is the scratch and win mentality of the gambling type that permeates in casinos .. stock markets .. and the like.
    The unsuspecting are lured into the belief that one has won some undeserving prize, but first you have to part with your money. It's a foolish game and yet there are always preys.
    Innocence vs concupiscence. What a contrast. Pray for those who are preys to the snares of the world.

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