At the Kidron Valley just at the foot of Mt. Olives in Jerusalem, there is a shrine known to Christians as the Tomb of the Virgin Mary. Pilgrims who visit this place will see a sarcophagus or a stone coffin encased with glass. The interior of which is empty because it does not contain Mary’s remains. Christian tradition teaches that Mary died a natural death like any human being. But after her burial, Jesus resurrected her and assumed her body and soul into heaven.
This is the feast Catholics celebrate every 15th of August, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The earliest printed reference to the belief that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven dates from the 4th century, in a document entitled “The Falling Asleep of the Holy Mother of God.” The document is written by the Apostle John, to whom Christ on the Cross had entrusted the care of His mother, and recounts the death, laying in the tomb and her assumption.
Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950 declared in his apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus (Latin: the most bountiful God) “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is God’s reward for Mary having lived a life of faith and obedience. She becomes an icon of hope for being a model disciple. She embraced God’s will in every aspect of her life; the perfect disciple who listens to God’s word and puts it into practice. Mary continues to challenge us today. She invites us to be men and women of faith.
In his first encyclical Lumen Fidei (The Light of Faith), Pope Francis wrote on the topic of faith. Here, he emphasizes lest we forget, that faith is a “guiding light” for a successful and fruitful life inspiring social action, personal devotion to God illuminating every aspect of human existence. This encyclical brings to our awareness that God exists and we need to give first place to Him in our lives! Convinced of his role to strengthen his brothers and sisters in the faith, the Pope encourages Christians to celebrate their faith. “We should not be swallowed by contemporary doubts, skepticism and depression that characterize our world,” he exhorts.
From this encyclical, we can highlight paragraphs focusing on the importance of faith in our lives. First of all, faith can transform our lives. Paragraph no. 4. “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see; we realize that it contains a great promise of fulfillment, and that a vision of the future opens up before us. Faith, received from God as a supernatural gift, becomes a light for our way, guiding our journey through time.”
Faith makes us see the truth objectively. Paragraph no. 3. “Yet in the absence of light everything becomes confused; it is impossible to tell good from evil, or the road to our destination from other roads which take us around in endless circles, going nowhere.”
Faith is a light for our society. Paragraph no. 55, “Faith also helps us to devise models of development which are based not simply on utility and profit, but consider creation as a gift for which we are all indebted; it teaches us to create just forms of government, in the realization that authority comes from God and is meant for the service of the common good.”
Pope Francis ends his encyclical with a prayer to Mary, Mother and Model of our Faith. “Mother help our faith! Sow in our faith the joy of the Risen One… Remind us that those who believe are never alone.” Armed with an active faith, we envision a more just and less corrupt society.
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