Then another sign appeared in the sky, it was a huge red dragon…..Its tail swept away a third of the stars…and hurled them down to the earth. Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child… (Revelations 12:3-4).
The Book of Revelations can seem scary with Hollywood using it to produce apocalyptic movies where demons and intergalactic forces threaten to wipe out human kind. But if we lived as Christians in the late 1st Century when Revelations was written, we knew the author meant anything but that case. Their world was in turmoil. Over a million people were killed in a bloody, Jewish revolt ending with Roman Legions destroying the Holy Temple and much of Jerusalem. The Apostles were imprisoned, stoned, beheaded, crucified, or never heard from again. Christians were hunted down and persecuted. Many were lax about their faith or led astray by false teachers and prophets. But even with all that going on, we would hear a different message from Revelations. Not a message of fear and dismay, but one hope where good triumphs over evil.
We would know this Scripture passage as a symbolic play on Greek Mythology and really about the birth of Jesus and the promise God made – that the righteous will enjoy happiness and the unrighteous will be destroyed. And at the center of this drama going on in the skies we would see a very special lady. A lady unafraid. A lady we knew as the mother of Jesus.
This Wednesday, we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption, Mary passing from this world into heaven. As Catholics, we honor Mary as we would a great leader. We don’t worship or adore her. We don’t pray to her as a substitute for Jesus. We hold Mary in the highest esteem as the chosen mother of the Son of God. We see Mary as a very extraordinary lady – gentle, quiet, and submissive to God. But knowing she had to be strong, determined, brave, trusting, and very courageous. Mary saw evil work against her Son. She watched people plot against him and his own town folk reject him. Her heart broke as her Son was accused, beaten, and crucified. But Mary knew God had a plan, even though she may not have known what that plan was.
We honor Mary by remembering her life of joy and heartbreak was not in vain. We honor Mary by teaching our children what she taught us – the goodness of God, His promise of hope, and how to live a faithful life. When we can do that, then Satan cannot win and God will reign.
God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen… A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun…and on her head a crown of twelve stars… She gave birth to a son…destined to rule all the nations…(Revelations 11:19, 12:1,5). Holy Mary, Mother of God – pray for us.