Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2017 – Year A
Readings: Rv 11:19A; 12:1-6A, 10AB / Ps 45 / 1 Cor 15:20-27 / Lk 1:39-56
by Rev. Salvador Anonuevo, Pastor
Ever since I can remember, I always had a beautiful experience praying in the cemetery. I didn’t know the reason why. Maybe, because I grew up in a very small town in the more than seven thousand islands in the Philippine archipelago, where our house was not too far from the cemetery. The priest there celebrates Mass every Monday in the cemetery.
When I finally answered God’s call to become a priest, I was in the seminary, the Franciscan Seminary, which is just across from the cemetery, and I could see the priests praying their breviary. The breviary is the book that I and Deacon Eddie and all the priests, religious, and oblates use for our morning prayers, midday, evening and night prayers, and which the priests were praying in the cemetery.
That’s why it was common knowledge for everybody that, if somebody was looking for a priest, and he was not in the seminary, he was in the cemetery. If you could not find him in the cemetery, he must be in the seminary just across the street.
But somehow praying in a cemetery reminds us of where we are going. In our sister parish Resurrection in Moneta, we have our own Resurrection Catholic cemetery there. So, if they can’t find me there in the office, I must be in the cemetery. That’s where I usually pray my breviary.
Seven years ago, one of the parishioners, Bob Evans, who passed away a couple of years ago, was walking with me. I noticed him because he was always there. His name was already there on the tombstone. I said, “Bob, is this you?” He said, “Yes, and that’s my wife. She passed away a few years ago.” His name was already there. He has his own tombstone. I said, “What’s the reason for doing that?” He said, “Well, that’s where I am going, eventually. And besides, look at the date. That’s the year of my birth and the year of my death is not there yet. To make it easier for them, everything is there. So when I am born into life eternal, they’ll just have to add the date of my death.”
It makes a lot of sense actually. It’s not only Bob. Quite a number of our parishioners there in our sister parish already have their names on their tombstones, and they are still very much alive and walking around.
I visited Bob just a few days before he was born into life eternal, and he was about to eat his supper. He knew he was going anytime soon, but he was eating his supper as if he would live forever: as if he was not sick at all or as if he was not dying at all. He was praying every single day and looking forward to the day when he would enter into everlasting life.
Today as we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, our Holy Mother Church is reminding us of where we are going. And of course, the Gospel, the teachings of the church, the sacred scriptures give us guidance on how to get there. With this in mind, we really shouldn’t take our life too seriously.
I always say and have been saying this and I will say this again: I love, when I am preaching, the voices of these children. Because these voices are telling us, “Don’t take life too seriously. Everything is going to be fine.” And we believe that with God’s help who created heaven and earth, the future of these children will be just fine.
Since Saturday, I have been receiving calls and text messages from the relatives I have in San Diego and L.A. and in Queens, NY, most of whom have never been to Virginia. “How are you doing there?” I told them, “You are watching too much TV.” I don’t watch TV. The only reason I know is because my smart phone gives me all the headlines from FOX and CNN, and I include them in my evening prayer.
I told them most of the demonstrators are not from here. Actually, one of them who got caught in a picture carrying a torch has been all around Twitter and Facebook. I told them he is from California, from your place; he had to fly here. One of them is from North Dakota and was already disowned by his own father.
His father wrote a letter which is all over email these days that says my son didn’t get this value from home so from now on he can no longer attend or is no longer welcome in our family gatherings. He is no longer welcome here in our home unless he repents and like a prodigal son, says he is sorry. That’s his own father.
We all know and we are aware of the fact that the leaders of the church, the leaders of the community, the leaders in the government, they have been condemning certain views. But as a member of a Christian family, we don’t lose hope. We condemn the sin but love the sinner.
In my first day in one of my previous parishes in another state, I was welcomed. It was an interesting welcome from one of the parishioners there. When he looked at me, he asked, “Are you the new priest here in our church?” and I said “Yes.” He said, “You might be a good person but you are not the kind of priest we need here. This is a predominantly white parish. I don’t think it will work.” So I told him, “Thank you very much for your encouragement, but I am here to serve you. I was sent by the bishop to be your pastor, and I will try my best.” I went in to celebrate the Mass.
Fast forward two years after that. That same person became a very good friend of mine. Actually, even now we still call each other. And even now he has not given me permission to mention his name. But I said “I’m sorry I’ve been telling your stories.” He said, “That’s OK, but just don’t mention my name, please.”
A couple of years after that I visited him in the hospital. He had told me the story why he has that attitude to anybody who doesn’t look like him or whose color is different from him. I forgave him and I understood, but then when I visited him in the hospital he said “Father, I am really sorry again.” “Don’t mention it, everything is fine. We are friends.” “No, I am just here to tell you my nurse here in the hospital is a Filipina and my Doctor is from India, and I love them and they love me.” Everything is fine. Well, people change.
We always have hope. For as long as we are still breathing, for as long as we are still alive, we don’t give up hope. We know that we have a God who is in charge. Today, we have heard in the gospel the Blessed Mother visiting her cousin Elizabeth, who was advanced in years.
At that particular time, Elizabeth needed some help, and the Blessed Mother had to walk several miles to be there. That’s her and that’s also what she has been doing for her children. We are celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother in Fatima until October 13. It happened during World War I and we know the Blessed Mother was there to help her children. The Blessed Mother was there in Guadalupe when her children needed her. The Blessed Mother has been all over the world, making us feel that she will never abandon us and she will always ask her son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to help us.
She is the same Blessed Mother who will always be with us to pray with us so that we will always be able to live in God’s presence and be as worry free and care free and confident as these children whose voices we are listening to right now. They’re not worrying about anything. They know that for as long as they are with their parents, everything is going to be fine. Yes, for as long as we have faith in God our Father, everything will just be fine. We believe where the blessed Mother is now we all hope to follow.