As we prepare to celebrate our patronal feast, Mary Assumed into Heaven, each day of our novena clergy of the Archdiocese of Cape Town will offer reflections on Our Lady.
In this reflection for Saturday, 14 August, Fr Peter-John Pearson reflects on Mary assumed into Heaven, praying with us for a radical transformation of us as a nation.
This video is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please share these daily reflections on your parish WhatsApp groups and other social media platforms.
The text of the video is provided below, especially for those who are deaf.
Both the social upheaval and the pandemic have reminded us that we need hearts and minds and systems that are more inclusive and loud, unambiguous demands for social justice that are more direct and strategic. It has been noted frequently that the both the pandemic and the social unrest in our country have foregrounded that inclusion and naming our needs are the two dominant signs of the times.
We are challenged by this feast not least because it is the feast of dignity, of integrity. In a country where for centuries the dignity of the majority was denied, where every policy and the social environment fell short of any kind of integrity, the gift of this feast as our patronal feast was and remains, hugely, a challenge to restore dignity and nurture a culture of integrity. The increasing poverty, the glaring injustices, the legacy of racism, the spiralling unemployment, the spikes in gender based violence and the great theft from the poor which is seen in the rampant corruption and the subversion of good governance and accountability all underline that this feast speaks as powerfully to our present reality as it spoke to our cruel past. Mary’s public witness underlines spells out the consequences of our devotion.
The events of recent weeks have reminded us that social cohesion in our country is weak, that many are left out, feel no sense of belonging and that far too many are abandoned on the margins. They live in an environment where they have no voice, where there is no hope of participating in shaping their future.
I have always been deeply struck by that powerful narrative of the Visitation. Mary and Elizabeth meet. Two women with unusual, awkward stories, stories that do not fit the norm. They meet and share a space where only their voices are heard. Zachariah has been silenced. There is no dominant group’s voice, no male voice, no institutional voice. The voices that usually exclude or interpret the stories of the excluded are silent and the voices of the women fill that space. They speak for themselves, interpret their reality, find their agency. No one speaks for them. They need neither a man nor an institution to speak for them. If we take the feast seriously, if we understand the pain of exclusion and the silencing of the voices of the poor and women and migrants and those on the peripheries, then we will surely put our energy on this feast into making space for the excluded voices, designing systems especially economic systems that allows for an experience of justice that in turns honours’ every person’s dignity. We must ensure that excluded voices in every sphere find public expression no matter how unsettling they may be.
There is of course another Marian text which John includes in his gospel. It is the story of the wedding at Cana. Mary understands that something is missing which is critical for the joy of the couple and for a preservation of the dignity. She makes the demand urgently, stridently almost and definitely unambiguously. They have no wine! We look around and we see that there are many basic rights which undermine people’s dignity, compromise their integrity and rob them of joy, just as the lack of wine did for the wedding couple. They have, and in our world-they have no education, no sanitation, no protection against gender based violence, no water, no houses. The list is as endless as it is unjust. The consequence of our devotion must surely be that like Mary we name boldly the things that are denied, the rights that are compromised. To not join in these demands is to have reduced Mary to a plastic piety. She who was raised from amidst the anawim is fearless in raising her voice alongside her cousins and singing that Magnificat that calls for a season of pulling down the mighty from their thrones and raising the lowly, that challenges us to send the rich empty away and to fill the hungry with good things. It is Mary who in a public space at a wedding calls for a reversal of want and need of basic necessities and demands the ‘best wine,’ the best houses, toilets, schools and security for all. In that way we hour Mary Assumed into Heaven and ensure that the Kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of our God.