Fr. Lam Hua, MM, on mission in Tanzania, considers how the Feast of the Assumption celebrates the amazing gift of creation.
“...[A] woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet…the woman herself fled into the desert…”
This reading for the Feast of the Assumption from the Book of Revelation depicts drastic changes in scenery – from the cosmos to the desert. It reflects the significant changes that occur throughout human life and the spiritual life. The desert scenery also reminds me of the precarious situation of people living around our parish area of Ndoleleji, Tanzania in Africa.
The people here are dependent on water from the ever-changing nearby river named Mangu. This river flows barely knee-high during the rainy season and becomes desert-sand during the dry season.
When one watches African wildlife shows on TV, we often see “watering holes” depicted – places of nourishment and refreshment for animals, lifelines during the dry season amidst the sun’s heat. Similarly, in its dry state, the Mangu river nearby to Ndoleleji can still provide life sustaining water for people and domestic animals when one digs over a meter into the dry riverbed.
We can look at the Assumption as a feast belonging to creation itself. The Assumption is a feast which celebrates and reminds us of the grace that was given to Mary as the Mother of Jesus Christ, God and human. We celebrate this feast with the challenge to be pure and holy as Mary was, so that we might one day be received into the heavenly kingdom. We also remember that we are a part of creation. God wants all of creation to be pure and holy, deserving of God’s blessing.
As the Church celebrates the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we can see from this Solemnity’s Gospel reading how God impregnates the earth with rich resources that sustain life. Among these resources water stands as the foremost necessity for people and animals alike. Even in the barrenness of Elizabeth’s womb or in Mary’s inexperience, God brought forth life. In the same way God also sustains life and provides nourishment from a river seemingly as dry as a desert.
As God blessed the two women with life, they each rejoiced and praised God, with Elizabeth also blessing those “who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis reminded the world of the sacredness and necessity of water for nature and humanity. This Gospel reading for the Assumption from Luke invites us to begin solving our water problem by viewing water as a gift from which we praise God for such blessing.
Every usage of water is akin to the two women rejoicing and praising God, even blessing others. So often we view water as less than a source of nourishment, merely a tool for wasteful recreation or for industrial use, leading to diminishing views of water being sacred. Just as there is sacredness in God’s action in Mary’s life, so too is the sacredness of water present in its usage if we, as users, remember to proclaim God’s praises.
The barrenness of Elizabeth’s womb is not an obstacle for God, the dry river is not an obstacle for God in providing water that nourishes people and animals, and Mary’s death is not an obstacle for God in showing how God can defeat even death. We therefore have much to celebrate, yet much more to sing God’s praises, and more responsibility to give our blessings to others who share in the usage of water, be it people, plants, or animals.
Photo of the Mangu river courtesy of Fr. Lam Hua.