A MESSAGE ON THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASSUMPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY INTO HEAVEN – 15TH AUGUST, 2019.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ and Gambians at home and abroad, we are once more blessed by God and opportune to witness and celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. We should truly be grateful to God for enabling us to participate in this festival that celebrates one of many marvelous deeds God has done for Mary in assuming her into heaven body and soul. Secondly, we should fittingly dispose ourselves, our minds and hearts to celebrate this feast in the right spirit, in order to, experience Mary’s powerful intercession for us, our Church, our country, The Gambia, and the world at large. The subject-matter of my message to all on this patron feast of our Diocese is: “Mary will never fail to intercede for us with her Son, Jesus.”
The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven is indeed a universal feast of the Catholic Church that is celebrated throughout the world. But it is a special, important, and memorable feast for all Gambians because it is the patron feast of our Cathedral, as well as, the Diocese, St. Mary’s Island, and our beloved country, The Gambia. For these reasons, it is rightly observed as a public holiday for all Gambians regardless of their religion, culture, status, and political affiliation. Our celebration of this feast should, therefore, encourage and enable us to recover our unity in diversity as a nation and overcome our ethnic differences and personal interest, especially, at this crucial and defining moment of our identity, national reconciliation, peaceful coexistence, and stability. As Catholics and believers in Christ, we need at this time more than ever before to entrust our concerns and worries to Mary and invoke her powerful intercession because she never fails to intercede with her Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. At least, there are cases in Scripture when Mary interceded or prayed to her Son, Jesus and she succeeded in obtaining a favorourable response from him.
In the story of the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee in Jn. 2:1-11, it was Mary who approached Jesus and informed him about what the newly wedded couple seriously needed at that moment to satisfy their guests. She simply told her Son they have no wine and when he said his hour had not yet come for him to be glorified, her instruction to the servants was: “Do whatever he tells us.” This statement clearly indicates the trust and confidence Mary had in her Son, Jesus but it also reveals her persuasive power over her Son and her willingness and determination to ensure that something is really done at her request. In this case, she went out of her way and anticipated Jesus’ positive intervention in a situation of need. Her request was ultimately granted when Jesus miraculously changed water into wine. He even provided the best quality wine for the invited guests. Mary’s active role, in this case, was duly recognized by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium nos. 58 that “she was moved with pity and her intercession brought about the beginning of the miracles of Jesus, the Messiah.” This clearly shows that it was through Mary’s intercession and persuasion that Jesus worked his first miracle for the benefit of those in need. Her influence on her Son, Jesus cannot, therefore, be doubted even in times of desperation and uncertainty.
Another example in Scripture of Mary’s prayerful intercession to her Son at a time when believers in Christ were expecting the fulfilment of his promise of the Holy Spirit is in Acts. 1:14. She was not simply passive and just waiting for her Son’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. We are told she devoted herself together with the apostles and other women to pray for the descent of the Spirit. Mary still turned to her Son in prayer at the hour of need. The external space and distance between her Son, Jesus and herself at that moment did not prevent Mary whatsoever from presenting her request and trusting that Jesus would hear her and fulfill his promise of the Holy Spirit. These two passages in Scripture clearly reveal that during her life here on earth, Mary interceded with her Son, Jesus at critical moments of need and her request was granted. Now that she is assumed body and soul into heaven, we have more reason to even believe that she is in a better position to readily intercede for us with her Son, Jesus and our prayers will be granted. As Vatican II stated in Lumen Gentium nos. 62, taken up to heaven, Mary did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to procure for us the gifts of salvation. By her motherly love she cares for her Son’s sisters and brothers who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into their blessed home. She is, therefore, invoked in the Church as advocate, helper, benefactress, and mediatrix.
The feast of the Assumption should, therefore, confirm and renew our trust and confidence in Mary’s intercession. We should constantly beseech her intercession with her Son, Jesus whenever we experience suffering, pain, disappointment, injustice, and discrimination as individuals and as a community of faith.
As we celebrate this feast in honor of Mary, we should recall and appreciate the role she plays both in God’s plan of salvation for humanity in Christ and our personal lives through her intercession. Mary is always interceding for us in heaven so our devotions and prayers to her are not worthless because she fervently presents them to her Son, Jesus on our behalf. This salient point was strongly emphasized by Pope Benedict XVI at the end of his General Audience on 22nd August, 2012. He said: “Dear friends, the devotion to Our Lady is an important element of our spiritual lives. In our prayers, let us not fail to address her with trust. Mary will not fail to intercede for us with her Son, Jesus … Mary is the Queen of Heaven who is close to God but she is also the Mother who is close to each one of us, who loves us and listens to our voice.” As the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, I wish all believers in Christ who celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven, our Moslem friends, and Gambians of all persuasions at home and abroad a joyful, memorable, unified, and uplifting festivity. Let us commend ourselves, families, communities, Church, our country, The Gambia, and the whole world to our Blessed Mother Mary now assumed into heaven and invoke her powerful intercession for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Your Servant in Christ,
+Most Rev. Dr. Gabriel Mendy, C.S.Sp.
Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Banjul, The Gambia.