A teacher, a garbage collector, and a politician wound up together at the Pearly Gates. St. Peter informed them that in order to get into Heaven, they would each have to answer one question.
St. Peter addressed the teacher and asked, “What was the name of the ship that crashed into the iceberg? They have made a movie about it.”
The teacher answered quickly, “That would be the Titanic.” St. Peter let him through the gate.
St. Peter turned to the garbage collector and, figuring Heaven didn't REALLY need all the odors that this guy would bring with him, decided to make the question a little harder: “How many people died on the ship?”
Fortunately for him, the trash man had just seen the movie and answered, “About 1,500.” “That's right! You may enter.”
St. Peter then turned to the politician, “Names those people?”
We sometimes misunderstand Christ’s work of salvation when we think of His salvation as presenting to humanity two possibilities: salvation or damnation, heaven or hell, God or the loss of God depending on our own effort. Certainly, we must use our freedom to choose whether we would participate in God’s plan for salvation. Our use of freedom, however, must not mislead us to think that the outcome is at our disposition. It is not like God only sitting on the sidelines as a spectator at a game, waiting to cheer who will win the contest: We or the forces of evil. Quite to the contrary, Jesus, in His death and resurrection, has paid the price for our salvation. This salvation is not just a divine wish or a promise. It is an irrevocably complete salvation gift, bought and given to us through Jesus Christ. Only those who explicitly deny God and deliberately refuse to accept Jesus Christ as their savior would be in perdition. In other words, perdition is only for people who do not want to be saved; they actively and willingly exclude themselves from the Kingdom of God.
Now I am confident that all of us sitting in this church will be going to heaven. There is no reason for us to believe otherwise. It is not possible, I believe, for us not to go to heaven if we want to go there. We come here because we believe in Jesus Christ. We come here because we accept Christ as our Savior. We come here because we want to go to heaven and we are trying to follow Christ. We are heading toward that direction. Occasionally we sin out of our own weaknesses. Or we sin because we are naïve, ignorant and dumb. We sin only because we have not really known and understood God well enough. We have sinned because we do not know how good it is not to sin.
Mary on the other hand, knows God and understands God’s will. She is sinless. The more a person knows God the less sin he or she would commit. We pray with the Church today:
“All powerful and ever-living God, you raised the sinless Virgin Mary, mother of your Son, body and soul to the glory of heaven. May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory . . .”
The Church believes and proclaims that “The immaculate Mother of God, Mary every virgin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven.” The story of her death and her being taken up into heaven is ever beautiful. After the death and ascension of Jesus, she lived with St. John, the beloved disciple. We are not certain on the year of her death and how old she was. The earliest account was found from the writing of St. John the Theologian. When her day of departure was approaching, all the apostles were miraculously called to her bedside, to be with her in her dying moments. For example, St. Bartholomew recounted: “I was in the Thebais proclaiming the word, and behold the Holy Spirit says to me, the mother of thy Lord is taking her departure; go, then, to salute her in Bethlehem. And, behold, a cloud of light having snatched me up, brought me to you . . .” The apostles carried the couch, and laid down her precious and holy body in Gethsemane in a new tomb. And, behold, a perfume of sweet savour came forth out of the holy sepulcher of our Lady the mother of God; and for three days the voices of invisible angels were heard glorifying Christ our God, who had been born of her. And when the third day was ended, the voices were no longer heard; and from that time forth all knew that her spotless and precious body had been transferred to paradise.”
As we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Church teaches us to hope for our own salvation and resurrection as well. Mary’s assumption is the sign of hope for us. Her assumption into heaven invites us to contemplate our own salvation and motivates us to imitate her spirit of discipleship.
A class of middle-grade CCD students were asked to speculate on what it would be like if Mary and her little boy Jesus were living today. Here was one response: “They would go shopping at the supermarket, and Jesus would sit in the grocery cart and want candy and chocolate milk, and Mary would tell him not until after supper because they were real persons. But all the checkout people would hope Mary came through their lane because she always made them feel good.”
Mary is like a basketball player who never misses a shot – not because she has magic powers or isn’t really human, but because she is just that good. Surely most of Mary’s life is spent around her family and taking care of her household’s chores. She is a wife, a mother, and a cousin etc... She cooks, mixes flour, mkde trips to the well and to village vendors. She washes dishes and clothes. She waters the garden and sweeps the floors. She helps her son to do homework’s and teaches him to pray . . . She’s never lost her temper or misjudged others. She regularly goes to the synagogue and the temple. The Gospel describes her as a handmaid of the Lord. Her soul anchors in God. Her daily song is the Manificat. Her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior! She says yes to God. She brings joy to her cousin Elizabeth and the little baby John; she seeks helps for the newly married couple at Cana. Jesus acknowledges that she is better praised and blessed because she is doing the will of the heavenly Father; she faithfully walks with Jesus to the foot of the cross.
As we reflect on this joyful feast, we realize that Mary is inviting us to walk and sing along with her the Manificat in the world. We too are invited to proclaim in joy and in humility, in services and in love, in compassion and justice of God. Like Mary, in saying “yes” to God through services for the Kingdom, we too will one day share in her destiny. She is the beautiful Queen of Heaven standing next to the throne of God. The question for us is not whether we will go to heaven or not, but where will we be in heaven? And how beautiful will we be? Going to heaven is like going to a concert or to a football game. You might afford to obtain a front seat ticket or just a back seat ticket far away from the stage. Our investments in the kingdom now will afford us a seat in the front row or a seat far in the back of the theater or the staditum. All the contributions to the Kingdom and the good deeds we are doing on earth for others in God’s name, and all the virtues we are practicing in life for the love of God, will reflect the beauty of our own resurrected bodies when Jesus raises us up from the dead. The more investments in the Kingdom of God we make now the better it will be for us in the life to come.