Indian Christians all over the world is going to have twin celebrations on 15th August 2021 to commemorate the freedom achieved from the British Colonial rule and the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. This feast teaches us that Mary, our mother, having completed her earthly life, is assumed into heaven body and soul; and is crowned Queen of heaven and earth. Mary seemed to have found a special place in the heart of God that she is specially chosen by the Almighty Father to become the mother of His only Son. Tradition says that Mary found herself in God’s grace and favor as she received the good news regarding the birth of Jesus and that she would be the mother of God’s only Son.
As we celebrate the 74thIndependence Day of our nation, it is also an occasion for us to remember the valiant efforts of the freedom fighters who, without shedding blood, through non-violence and love, created history by freeing India from the British Colonial powers. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of our nation, our mother land, for all the advancement she has achieved since independence. However, for the past one and a half year we are facing unimaginable suffering and loss of lives. Covid-19 pandemic continues to thrive in India, and its excruciating rage continues in Kerala, Maharashtra, and a few states in Northeast. A resilient India battles against all odds to conquer aninvisible enemy. Thousands have succumbed to the Virus, while lakhs have fought the hard battle to emerge victorious. We need to appreciate the efforts of our health workers, government machinery and non-state entities that came forward to ease the hard battle.
Now the people face another issue posed by the pandemic. Many suffer from post-covid related complications. Loss of wages and employment, death of near and dear ones in the family, and isolation from society have cast a long-lasting impact. In respect of children, they have been deprived of contact with their peers, with limited social interactions and outdoor games. The mental and social vacuum the pandemic is going to leave behind will require the government, social groups, schools, religious organizations, and spiritual leaders to join hands in the post-pandemic era to ensure that humanity comes out of this pandemic with less physical and mental damage. As priests religious, and faithful, let uscontinue to reach out to the people with the message of comfort and peace.
“As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil” (CCC 1732). True freedom is the need of the hour. For the past one and a half year, all are locked down in their homes. The situation like an emergency, shows the absence of true freedom. We lost a dear warrior of justice and peace in Stan Swamy who spent his life for the upliftment of the poor and the marginalized people in Jharkhand. He was very calm amidst his arrest and the consequent imprisonment and hospitalization. Peace comes when our mind is at peace. Our nation needs to wake up from its slumber to free its citizens from the clutches of social evils and selfish corrupt power-hungry individuals. Covid-19 pandemic has unsettled the equanimity, calmness, and contentedness in most of us. This pandemic has disturbed the fundamental freedoms of life, which most of us took for granted. Now, with such freedoms curtained, most of us struggled within as we could not decide what is better for us, which source of information is reliable for us and whom should we reach out for help or to whom should we offer our support. With so much confusion, endless questions and disturbing images and stories in the media, we tried our best not to give up hope.
Amidst such uncertainties in life, every Christian is called to live in hope. Jesus Christ is the man of hope. His life teaches us to shed every anxiety and fear and to trust in God and to live as free children of the heavenly Father who cares for everyone. Jesus’ death teaches us to look beyond our life here on earth and to hope for a life in eternity with him. The dogma of Mother Mary’s Assumption into heaven adds to the hope that like Mother Mary, we, who follow Jesus,also will share a life in eternity with Jesus and Mary. Mary was preserved from original sin and protected from corruption totally by the merits of her son Jesus. Mary’s assumption teaches us to aim high, the things of heaven, while we live here on earth. Pope Francis says: “For those who are afflicted with doubts and sadness, and live with their eyes turned ‘downwards’, the feast of the Assumption is a call to look ‘upwards’ and see that “on the threshold of Heaven there is a mother waiting for us”.As pilgrims on earth, we are called to imitate our heavenly mother, the model of virtues, and progress in “faith, hope, and charity” (LG 65). Our destiny is God and the Church “will receive its perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things” (Acts 3:21; LG 48).
As children who are struggling on earth due to various natural calamities and pandemic, let us entrust ourselves to the sure protection of Mary. She is our refuge, a sign of certain hope, and comfort of the afflicted. Pope Francis says: Mary’s Assumption shines as “a sign of sure hope and solace to the people of God during its sojourn on earth”. Unlike the earthly achievements, Mary’s Assumption is “the huge leap forward for humanity” (Pope Francis). Mary gave ample space to God in her life and experienced God’s total protection in her life. She is the perfection of humility that she surrendered herself totally to the plan of God in total freedom that she could give to the world the eternal son of the Father.
To be truly free means to surrender our reason and will to God’s infinite wisdom and power. Then God reigns supreme and rules over our hearts andHis glory will be revealed through our lives. “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility” (CCC 1731). “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes” (CCC 1733). As we celebrate the 74th Independence Day, let us continue to work together with people of good will, belonging to every caste, creed, and culture, to build a nation where there will be true freedom, harmony, and peace. Let us pray for our leaders that they may strive together to establish a society built on the values of fraternity, equality, justice, prosperity, and dialogue; and never enmity, misunderstanding or conflict.
I wish all of you a very happy feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and a happy Independence Day! May our nation be under the maternal protection of Mary. Amen!