Gospel for Tuesday, August 15: Luke 1:39-56
Assumption B. V. Mary
39In those days Mary set out for the mountain and quickly reached a town in Judah. 40As she entered Zechariah’s house, she greeted Elizabeth. 41As soon as Elizabeth had heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit 42and exclaimed in a loud voice, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43To what do I owe that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44Behold, as soon as the voice of your greeting reached my ears, the child rejoiced with joy in my womb. 45And blessed is she who believed in the fulfillment of the words of the Lord.”
46Then Mary said:
“My soul magnifies the Lord
47and my spirit exults in God my savior,
48because he has looked upon the humility of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed.
49Great things has the Almighty done in me
And holy is his name:
50From generation to generation his mercy
Is stretched out upon those who fear him.
51He has unfolded the power of his arm,
Has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52he has overthrown the mighty from their thrones,
he has lifted up the lowly;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
has sent back empty-handed the rich.
54He has rescued Israel, his servant,
remembering his mercy,
55as he had promised to our fathers,
to Abraham and his descendants,
56Mary stayed with her about three months, then returned to her home.
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
We have reflected on the “Magnificat” several times. Today we want to meditate on the significance of the Feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven also with her body.
A BIT OF BIBLICAL ANTHROPOLOGY…
I hope I am not shocking anyone if I mention that, in the Bible, the “soul,” as we understand it, does not exist! Biblical anthropology is quite different from that of the Greek philosophers, unfortunately still used by some preaching and – alas! – even by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In the Hebrew Bible, a term is used to designate the human person that refers to the body and its organs: the word bāśār, “flesh,” is used (Gen. 2:23; 6:12-13.17). The human body is inhabited by the rûăḥ (1 Sam 1:15; Is 26:9; Ib 7:11; 12:10), which designates primarily the “wind” and, derivatively, the vital “breath” (Sl 104:29). Animals, too, therefore have souls (not for nothing are they called that): they have the vital rùah that has as its expression the “breath-breath” (nepeš) and “blood” (dām). “Humanity, however, has a further exclusive component with God, called in Hebrew nishmat-hajjim (Gen 2:7), self-awareness (Pr 20:27), which makes man and woman free and moral creatures (‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’)” (G. F. Ravasi).
“I BELIEVE IN THE RESURRECTION OF THE FLESH.”
That is why the Church does not affirm the immortality of the soul, but in its “Creed” proclaims, “I believe in the resurrection of the flesh, in eternal life” (Apostolic Symbol); “I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (Nicene-Constantinopolitan Symbol). Thus the Catholic Church proclaimed with Pius XII in 1950 the Assumption into heaven also with the body of Mary, the prototype of all believers. St. Justin stated, “When you meet someone who claims to be a Christian, you ask him, ‘Do you believe in the resurrection of the dead or the immortality of the soul?’ If he answers you, ‘The immortality of the soul,’ he is not a Christian.”
Enzo Bianchi states, “It seems that the resurrection of the flesh, the resurrection of our bodies, is the strangest ‘thing’ that the Christian faith asks us to believe. It is no coincidence that sociological analyses conducted on the faith of Italian Catholics show that while the majority of the population believes in God, not even 20 percent believe in the resurrection of the flesh… When one then listens to Christians’ thoughts on the beyond, one is often embarrassed. They often speak of reincarnation (an expression unknown until a century ago and introduced with the phenomenon of spiritualism)… These Christians who often think of reincarnation as an Eastern religious belief do not know, by the way, that in Hinduism and Buddhism reincarnation means a condemnation, because salvation is brought about by coming out of the cycle of reincarnations!”
Biblical revelation, on the other hand, is a hymn to corporeality, called to redemption and resurrection. Paul proclaims resurrection not as demanded by a supposed immortality of the soul, but by God’s love for man: “The body is for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (1 Cor. 6:13). This is a chilling concept: God himself loves and sanctifies our bodies, called to immortality, members of the very body of Christ, “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:13-19).
Of course, in eschatology our bodies will be transfigured, with no more sickness or death: “So also is the resurrection of the dead: one sows corruptible and rises incorruptible; one sows ignoble and rises glorious; one sows weak and rises full of strength; one sows an animal body, rises a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42-45). But it will be our bodies! Just as in the accounts of the appearance of the Risen One it is emphasized that between the body of Jesus before the resurrection and the risen body there is profound diversity (he passes through walls: Jn 20:19), but there is also true continuity (he can be touched: Jn 20:20-27; he eats with the disciples: Lk 24:41-42; Acts 10:41).
“We know that already in the New Testament, at the origins of the church, the belief in the resurrection of the flesh was challenged: the Christians in Corinth struggled to accept this proclamation,” Paul testifies to us (1 Cor. 15), “and always the Apostle or one of his disciples had to warn against those who, like Hymenaeus and Philetus, claimed that the resurrection had already taken place with baptism and was only a spiritual fact (2 Tim. 2:16-18). Unbelievable humanly this universal event, yet it is at the heart of Christian hope: will bodies dissolved in the earth, reduced to the state of germs, be able to rise again…? Yes, proclaims the Christian faith, with its view of divine blessing and approval of the body, of matter. Our God has willed to become man, the Word of God has become sárx, flesh, has dwelt among us (cf. Jn. 1:14), and now our frail and mortal humanity is transfigured for eternity… Yes, Job’s desire is faith for us Christians: ‘This flesh of mine will see the Savior’ (Job 19:26-27)” (E. Bianchi).
We need to proclaim forcefully the resurrection of the flesh in this age not only overwhelmed by the terror of death, but in which the body is often instrumentalized and soiled in a commodified sexuality reduced to pure pleasure, in which life is despised in genetic manipulations or in the suppression of its birth or terminal phase, in which torture and the death penalty are still practiced, and in which the bodies of so many brothers and sisters are allowed to suffer agonizingly from hunger, war, or from so many diseases that are not cured because the rich do not share their wealth…
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at email@example.com.