Dear Friends in Christ! In our Polish tradition this Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary is also the beginning of harvest festivities. Today we are coming to our churches carrying the first herbs, grains, fruits, vegetables etc, of this year. After the Mass most of us will continue celebrating at BBQs and with good lunches. So, what does it mean for us Catholics? Do we simply copy what the unbelievers do? Our celebration has its origin in the Book of Deuteronomy where we read: “You shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God.” That’s why Jews pray after meal not before, as they follow this precept. When your tummy is full and when you feel content you are to bless the Lord, your God. This simple sentence also reveals the tendency of our nature. When we face lack of something, when things fall apart in our life, when there is a disaster we turn to God straight away, but when things go smoothly God is out of the picture. Somebody wisely made the following observation: “In the plain falling down there is no atheist. Everybody turns to God and begs for help.” That’s why as we go on reading the Deuteronomy we find this passage: “Take care that you do not forget the Lord your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the Lord your God. Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors.”
This celebration of our Lady in green is like the reminder from the Holy Scriptures we have just read, remember who makes all that possible- it is YOUR GOD.
In the Holy Land which is very rocky and dry there is a beautiful place called Caesarea Philippi. Travelling north from Jerusalem travelers step into a little paradise. It is green and blessed with cheerful streams. In Caesarea Philippi, there is one of the three springs of the Jordan River that flows through the Holy Land providing the barren land with much needed moisture for vegetation. Because the spring in Caesarea is the most spectacular pagans built there a temple for their god – Pan. In this way they wanted to say: “Look, our god provides the land with the means for growth and abundance.” According to the Gospel Our Blessed Lord asked his disciples at Caesarea Philippi “Who do you say I am?” St Peter answered: “You are the Son of God who was o come to the world.” By his answer Peter said: “Jesus, you are the source of growth and abundance. Not this pagan idol worshipped in the temple here, but you with your Father and the Holy Spirit provides us with the means for survival. This temple here is a mistake, like the mistake was made by the people who attributed to this idol the blessings given to the Holy Land.”
Dear Friends! This harvest celebration today isn’t simply limited to herbs, grains, fruits and vegetables. Today we are celebrating the most beautiful fruit of our earth, a beautiful person, more precisely a beautiful, holy woman: the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today we celebrate the harvest of her life when she was taken into heaven with her body and soul as the fully ripe fruit of the planet. Today we look into heaven but Mary tells us as she did that day when she visited Elizabeth admired Mary’s beauty and holiness: “Do you think that I have achieved that on my own? Do you think that I have made myself beautiful and holy by myself? I am like the moon. The moon doesn’t shines. It only reflects the light of the sun. Without the Sun the moon would disappear in the darkness of the universe. Without God, without his light and holiness I would disappear in the darkness of sin. God has done great things for me. Holy is his name and his mercy from age to age.”
Our Lady tells us today: “If you want to be good, just, noble, and holy, remember that all these qualities come from God. If you see good qualities in you, bless your God. Don’t say: “I did it myself.”
My dear Friends!
While in the Holy Land I thought about a present I could bring you. Of course I remembered you in my prayers as I was visiting the places associated with Jesus but I knew that we all like presents. However I also knew that if I brought you all even a little thing I would need to charter an extra flight. When I was in the Caesarea Philippi, when I was praying at the spring when the water gushes forth to form later the Jordan River it hit me that I could take some of the water from there. I did it. I filled my bottle from the spring and when I returned to Jerusalem I took the water to the Tomb where Jesus was placed on Good Friday and from where He rose on Easter Sunday. There in his Tomb I blessed the water.
At the end of the Mass I will bless the plant arrangements you have brought to our church, and you as well. I want to ask you: When I walk by blessing you with the water from the Jordan look at the first fruits of our fields and say quietly like St Peter: “Lord it comes from you. You provide us with this good harvest.”
Then, think about your good qualities, that you are kind, forgiving, caring, reliable, hardworking, religious, etc and say again quietly in your heart what Mary tells us: “All these good qualities of me come from you too. My Lord, without you I wouldn’t be able to produce them. Thank you for giving me these good qualities of my being.”