Sunday Scripture readings, Aug. 15, 2021: Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1) 1 Chr 15:3-4, 15-16; 16:1-2 Psalm 132:6-7, 9-10, 13-14
2) 1 Cor 15:54-57 Gospel: Lk 11:27-28
Mary testifies that God is with us
On this feast of Mary, I think of my uncle Nick. Since he was a barber, he was, naturally, my barber when I was growing up. His barbershop was a quiet place, and we had many relaxed one-on-one chats as he cut my hair. I don’t recall that we ever discussed religion, and I’m certain we never talked about what he did in the Navy.
So when, some years after Nick died, my cousin Paul made me a gift of his father’s World War II memorabilia, there were some revelations. Black-and-white snapshots of guys standing in front of tents on beaches in Italy where landings had been made gave me an idea of what my uncle had been involved in.
Along with the photos — and here was a real surprise — was a brown scapular: two pieces of brown cloth the size of large postage stamps, joined by strings, for hanging around the neck. To one of the pieces a little picture of Mary and Jesus is attached.
Apparently my uncle had it on him when he wasn’t swimming reconnaissance of the beaches before the landings. I wonder what was in his mind as he wore this expression of devotion through three dangerous years.
It is at least possible to say what the scapular means. Like everything to do with Mary, it communicates the basic message that her life speaks — a message symbolized in an odd way by the first reading of the vigil of today’s feast.
The Old Testament text describes King David bringing the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. The ark was an elaborate box containing signs of God’s dealings with the Israelites. It was a tangible focal point of the Israelites’ worship. In a mysterious way, it bore God’s presence.
Even more mysteriously, the ark prefigured a greater reality to come. God was going to make himself present in the human world as a human person. The ark foreshadowed the one who was to bear this person, his mother, Mary. She is the ark, the one in whom God has truly become present. Her entire being testifies to her son, Jesus, God with us.
This is her message to all of us, whether we are on a field of battle or in a barbershop, in a classroom or a living room or a hospital room. God, Mary declares, is here.
Perrotta is the editor and an author of the “Six Weeks With the Bible” series, teaches part time at Siena Heights University and leads Holy Land pilgrimages. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.