“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

Those are the words that we WOULD have heard from Jesus this Sunday, if this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary did not happen to fall on a Sunday this year.

But I think that it’s providential all the same…

Because what was Jesus referring to in those words? “Whoever eats my flesh, drinks my blood — Whoever consumes the Bread of Life, the Holy Eucharist, whoever does that — I will raise up on the Last Day. What’s he talking about there but the General Resurrection of all of the dead at the end of time.

When the story of this world is all over — and it will be over one day — When the Last Judgment is at hand — Jesus himself has promised that every single person who has ever lived and died WILL rise from their graves. Nobody will be left out. Some people will be raised to the joys of eternal life in the glorified body, and others will rise and then fall down forever into the pains of hell.

But at the end of the day, every single tomb will crack open and be left empty.  We will all rise from the dead.

And that is really important. Because I think a lot of Christians today sort of assume that Heaven is a bodiless, purely spiritual experience. And what’s more, I think a LOT of people think that purely immaterial existence would be infinitely better — as if our bodies were just inconvenient prisons that we are trapped inside of and that we need to freed from if we’re ever going to be truly happy. 

But that is probably the LEAST Catholic thing that I have ever heard in my entire life. It is a heresy. And it devalues the human body. It degrades the human person. It makes us less than what we actually are!

The teaching of Christ’s one, true, holy, and apostolic Church, on the other hand, is super clear on this — The human person is the precious union of both soul AND body. 

Our Bodies are an integral part of WHO WE ARE. We are incomplete without our bodily existence. And so when Jesus our Savior returns, and we all rise from the dead — hopefully to eternal life, but that’s not guaranteed — we will have bodies. 

Or perhaps put better: We will BE bodies.

Now what does all this have to do with our feast day today: the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Well…….A LOT…

Probably not many people have ever really heard the ancient story surrounding the Assumption of Mary, but it’s absolutely gorgeous… and it, too, involves an empty tomb.

As the story goes, the apostles lived and prayed with the Blessed Virgin Mary following Jesus’ Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. And during that privileged time in the early Church, the Holy Mother of God was a source of constant consolation, and encouragement, and prayer for those first bishops, priests, deacons and lay-folk. They were fearlessly going out on mission to share the Gospel with a world that very skeptical and very hostile — just like ours today! And Mary was their Mother! She was there to help them.

But then came the time when Mary’s earthly life drew to a close. And here’s where things get very interesting.

While the Church never officially states and declares whether or not Mary actually, physically died, one of the ways that we DO describe this event of Mary going home to God at last is this word “Dormition.”

Have you guys heard of this? The Dormition of Mary? It means “the Falling Asleep” of Mary. 

We heard in our second reading today from St. Paul that Jesus is the first-fruits — the first one to rise from the dead. And then AFTER him, ALL those who fall asleep… those who die in the Lord, fall asleep.

When her earthly mission was ended, Mary “falls asleep,” laid beautifully in a tomb, surrounded by the apostles and the disciples.

And then something incredible happened.

Upon returning to the Virgin’s tomb, the Apostles were astonished to find the tomb, not completely empty — but filled with what?

A bed of flowers.

What a beautiful and strange mystery!

And yet, evidently — the ENTIRE early Church universally accepted this strange fact that Mary’s body went missing, or better yet — was raised and WENT to Heaven.

Because when you look at all the holy relics the Church has venerated over very long history — and we have a LOT of them, and a lot of strange relics at that! — NOBODY anywhere in the ancient world claimed to have the bodily remains of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. 

You might find pieces of her veil. You might find pieces of her mantle…

But look all you want: You won’t find her bones!

That’s because God took her to himself! Prepared from all eternity to be the holy Ark of the New Covenant of our faith, the immaculate vessel through which Jesus — True God and True Man — would be offered to the entire world, Mary our Mother was preserved from the corruption of the grave, just like her son Jesus was.

She is so perfectly united to him that God raised her up in a unique and beautiful way — He glorified her earthly body, and assumed her into heaven, body and soul.

In other words: Mary has already risen bodily with Christ from the dead, and she leaves a bed of flowers behind!

This has HUGE ramifications on our lives as Christians today. Because… I’ll let you in on a secret: We are called to that same destiny. We are called to follow Mary and Jesus into Heaven bodily one day.

The Catechism puts it this way: “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin is a singular participation in her Son’s Resurrection AND an anticipation of the resurrection of other Christians.”

That’s us!

Just think! The Assumption of Our Blessed Mother is a looking forward to, a PREVIEW if you will, of our own Resurrection at the end of time.

And so, Jesus’ words from the Bread of Life Discourse, John Chapter 6, which we have been marching through as a Church for several Sundays now — those words come back to us and they are deeply connected: 

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” — not just immaterial, bodiless, spiritual life. No, he says: “I will raise him on the last day.”

When we eat this Bread, and drink this Cup — when we say “Yes” to Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist and allow Him into our lives, into our hearts — We are being promised the same destiny that Mary is already participating in as our Queen.

We are being promised Heaven.

So, receiving that insane, beautiful, life-promising gift of the True Body and True Blood of our Lord, we can boldly cry out with St. Paul:

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

We need more Christians fully convinced of this! Where are they? Why do so many seem to care more for the corruptible, earthly body — and we care so little about the future, incorruptible body of Heaven?

Right now, at this very moment, the world’s fear-machine is gearing up once again as infection rates rise and uncertainty looms large. People are scared. People are nervous. They’re also angry and exhausted… totally fed up.

But then, the Church gives us this beautiful celebration — the Assumption of Our Lady — and we see once again that we have absolutely NOTHING to be afraid of. 

We are safe in the Lord. He is our Rock and our Shield.

The Assumption of Mary is definitive proof that we who eat Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist and follow Him with our whole heart, repenting of our sins…WE WILL ONE DAY RISE VICTORIOUSLY FROM THE DEAD. 

Pope Benedict XVI put it this way: “By looking at Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, we understand that our death is not the end but rather the entrance into life that knows no death.”

We do not have to be paralyzed by our own mortality. We can know and trust that the Resurrection of Jesus is real — because we HAVE the Eucharist, we have eaten His Body and we have drunk His Blood — and that He will raise us on the Last Day — Just as he has done already in his beloved Mother.

What happened to Mary is what will happen to us, please God. We’re looking forward to that: To the redemption of our bodies… 

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ who promised us:

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”