“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” These words, which welled up from the depths of Mary’s heart at the Visitation, re-echo in this cathedral today. They re-echo in our hearts and in the hearts of the faithful in churches and homes throughout our diocese on this beautiful feast of Our Lady’s Assumption. They re-echo in my heart which rejoices that over 12,000 men and women of all ages throughout our diocese entrust their lives to her today. Like the apostle John, we welcome the Mother of Christ into our home, into our hearts. Our Marian consecration is our saying “yes” to the beautiful gift Jesus gave us from the cross when He said to John: “Behold your mother.” We are responding with faith to Our Lord’s gift of love, the gift of His mother, and to our Mother’s love. She wants to act in our lives, to share with us the joy of her faith, to help us to know and follow her Son. She invites us, as she invited the servants at the wedding feast of Cana, to do whatever Jesus tells us. She wants to lead us to know the height and depth…. Of Christ’s love for us. And she wants us to be with her in the glory of heaven, in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. Today we say yes to her. We say yes to the truths of our baptismal promises. We say with her: “Behold the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your Word.” And so we are able to rejoice with her in God our Savior and to repeat her words in the Magnificat: “the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his Name.”
I believe the Lord will do great things for us, for our diocese, and for the thousands who make the Marian consecration today. He will do so through the one who cooperated fully in His saving work, through His mother who was the first to experience within herself the supernatural consequences of Christ’s mediation. She pours out upon us and upon the Church her maternal love. Mary is the mediatrix of God’s mercy who helps us to receive the mercy she sang about in the Magnificat, the mercy promised to Abraham and his children forever. She is our mother who stretches out her arms to embrace all who take refuge in her. She is “the most merciful, the most compassionate mother, the most tender mother, the most loving mother” (Saint Lawrence of Brindisi). She gives us hope in the midst of life’s challenges, the hope that comes from placing all our trust in the Lord, like she did. She became our hope when she was assumed body and soul into heaven, our sure hope of salvation. Hope was lost through the sin of Eve; hope is restored through Mary, the new Eve, through whom the Savior, the new Adam, came into the world. Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life.” Mary was brought to life and, when she passed from this world, her body was not corrupted by death. She was assumed body and soul into heaven. There she is our advocate, always interceding for us, accompanying us with her love.
In these past 33 days, we have been united in our prayers of preparation for today, for our Marian consecration, guided by the wisdom of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and Saint John Paul II. These spiritual giants, heroes of our faith, reached the heights of holiness, powerfully aided by their devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They learned from Mary, and they teach us to learn from Mary, the way of perfection. They learned from Mary’s example to be faithful disciples of Jesus, to be steadfast in faith, persevering in hope, and abounding in love. They learned, in a word, to follow Jesus. They learned to be authentic Christians, to be saints. That’s what Mary teaches us. And she not only teaches us, she helps us. Through her prayers, she fills our hearts with the light of Christ’s holiness.
The beauty of Mary’s virtue and holiness came from the Holy Spirit. She was adorned with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Mary was present in the upper room with the apostles at Pentecost, praying for the coming of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had already descended upon Mary at the Annunciation, when she conceived the Son of God by His power, when she became the Mother of God. At Pentecost, that outpouring of the Holy Spirit was repeated and reinforced in her because of the new motherhood she had received at the foot of the cross. At Pentecost, she received a renewed gift of the Spirit for the fruitfulness of her new motherhood as Mother of the Church, as our Mother. Just as Mary prayed for the disciples in the upper room, she also prays for us today. She prays that we too will open our hearts to the seven-fold gift of the Holy Spirit. In her motherly love, she implores the Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us in the way of her Son. Today I entrust our diocese to Mary’s intercession so that the Holy Spirit may descend in abundance upon us, filling the hearts of all the faithful and enkindling in us the fire of His love.
Before we make the Marian consecration, I invite you to think about the “woman clothed with the sun” in the book of Revelation. This woman, who represents both Mary and the Church, is clothed with the sun, that is, she is, as Pope Benedict explained, “surrounded and penetrated by God’s light.” The moon is under her feet. The moon is “the image of death and mortality.” On her head is a crown of twelve stars that represent the people of God: the twelve tribes of Israel and the Church founded on the twelve apostles. The dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, wanting to devour her child. But he couldn’t. “Her child was caught up to God and his throne” and “the woman fled into the desert where she had a place prepared by God.”
The dragon, Satan, evil, is present throughout human history. The struggle between the woman and the dragon, between God and the evil one, between the Church and the enemy, is perennial. We see it in the world and world events. Saint Maximilian Kolbe saw it dramatically in Auschwitz. Pope John Paul experienced it when he was shot in Saint Peter’s Square. We see it today in wars, violence, persecution, hatred, and destruction of innocent human life. The struggle between good and evil is one that we as disciples of Jesus must also confront, in our own lives and even in our own hearts. All the disciples of Jesus must face this struggle. Pope Francis teaches us that we do not face this struggle alone, that “the Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us…. Mary has of course already entered, once and for all, into heavenly glory” (that’s what we celebrate on today’s feast of the Assumption), “but this does not mean that she is distant or detached from us; rather Mary accompanies us, struggles with us, sustains Christians in their fight against the forces of evil.” Pope Francis especially recommends the holy rosary to sustain us in this battle. The Marian consecration is a powerful way for us to be on the winning side in this battle. In Mary, Christ’s victory over Satan shines. The woman who escaped the dragon fled into the desert, the wilderness. We live in that desert, that wilderness. This time on earth is a like the desert, a time of anguish, persecution and trial. But it is not an indefinite time. Liberation and the hour of glory will come. And during this time in the desert of the world, God nourishes us with the bread of his Word and of the Holy Eucharist. And he has given us the help of His mother. Saint John Paul called Mary “the icon of the pilgrim Church in the wilderness of history but on her way to the glorious destination of the heavenly Jerusalem,” and “the shining emblem of humanity redeemed and enveloped by the grace that saves.” She