“How do you know if you are doing it right? What’s the unmistakable result if the process has worked properly?”
I ask that question of academic administrators, seminary faculty and religious formators. I want to know what a “success story” of their respective programs would look like. What if we asked that question of God?
Let’s ask, “God, how would you know if your plan for human nature has been fulfilled? What would that look like?” Writing this on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, knowing next week we celebrate the Queenship of Mary, I think that God might reply with one word: “Mary.”
The Blessed Mother is what human nature looks like when that nature has fulfilled God’s design. Her soul is immaculate, her body uncorrupted and glorified—this is what we celebrate in the Assumption. The joy of this feast day is seeing that Mary is the perfect illustration of what God intends for his human creatures. Mary is what you look like when a human creature gets it right. Mary, assumed into Heaven body and soul, is proof that God’s plan for us is not merely wishful thinking but is already achieving its purpose.
Her intellect and will, unhampered by sin, choose knowingly, freely and gladly the truth, love and beauty of God, accepting her role as a creature made in God’s image and likeness, exercising authority and care over creation—this is what we celebrate in her Queenship. Mary, already Queen of Heaven and Earth, shows that God’s wisdom and goodness lead inevitably to his victory, a victory he is eager to share with us.
To which one might reply, “Well, that’s nice. But so what?” Might not a skeptic compare the doctrines of Mary to the discovery of a far distant galaxy? It’s something you can’t see with the naked eye and it doesn’t affect daily life, so what difference does it make?
It can and should make a very practical and enduring difference if we understand it properly. If we would understand these feast days properly, we must desire to end up like Mary, we must admit that we are unlike Mary, and we must live now in imitation of Mary.
To end up like Mary, we must pray and adore. At the beginning of Luke’s gospel, we are told that Mary “pondered all these things in her heart.” We should imitate Mary in her habit of prayerfully pondering. And we would do well to ponder the works of God and the life of Jesus in company with Mary, especially through the Rosary. I believe that our intercessors faithful to the daily recitation of the Rosary help keep the sky from falling in on us, buying us time to repent and prepare for the evil days that are coming.
More than ever, we need to receive and repeat the love and obedience of Mary, for there we find the truth about God’s plans for human nature. As we come to know God’s plans for human nature, savoring them in our heart and longing for them with our whole being, we will weep for joy and weep for sorrow. We will weep for joy as we behold God’s mercy; we will weep for sorrow as we behold human disobedience.
Think of it! The example of Mary proves that humans have an identity, dignity and destiny beyond what the pagans could have dreamed, beyond what the moderns could understand, beyond what the post-moderns can dare speak of. The dignity of the human soul, with its radical capacity for knowing the truth and willing the good is already present and fulfilled before the throne of God in the human nature of Mary. And the majesty of the human body, with God’s wisdom and self-revelation inscribed in gendered human flesh, is already present and fulfilled before the throne of God in the human nature of Mary.
The purpose of life in this world is to prepare ourselves, body and soul, to become what Mary has already become—a fulfilled, completed human creature of God, glorifying him in perfect joy for all eternity. It is with great sorrow then, as we marvel at the magnificent human vocation, that we must recall how, in our time, that the human body and the soul are being betrayed.
We are all too familiar with countless examples of such betrayal. Outshining them all is the one, bright perfect example of Mary, who is even now and for all eternity living what God has intended for human nature. Mary is living what God offers to all who would receive it from him—freedom from sin, death and corruption, union with him in glory, sharing with him in authority and care for creation.
Today, let’s imitate Mary in her “yes,” her “fiat” to God’s perfect plan for human nature.
Next week, I will write about preparations for the coming school year. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.