Over the years in ministry I have been richly blessed in hearing what I like to call the “transformation” stories of individuals. Some of those most powerful transformation stories come from those who have had to face the darkness of addiction in their lives. Whether it was addiction to alcohol, drugs, irresponsible and self-destructive sexual behavior, gambling, whatever – these addictions have an insidious and diabolic way of taking hold of individuals and imprisoning them in the lie that this behavior was truly going to make them happy, joyful, powerful, contented and rich for the rest of their lives. It was only through the crushing experience of being rendered helpless and victimized by these addictions and often through the grace of various 12 step programs that the light of transformation, healing and wholeness began to turn their lives around. It has been said that the history will undoubtedly name AA and the programs flowing from this movement as one of the most important transforming experiences for men and women in the 20th century.
My brothers and sisters, it is the Lord’s great gift to us that we experience the power and renewing gift of transformation in our lives. So important is that experience that as Catholics we look to one who has already experienced the fullness of transformation in Christ, Mary, the mother of the Lord and mother of the Church. The Church remembers her moment of complete transformation in the glory of heaven in the feast we celebrate today. But it is also an opportunity to rejoice in hope at what the Lord holds out for each of us who like Mary are called to surrender to God’s will in our lives and to help build the reign of God in our world.
The most important moment in the history of the Catholic Church this past century was undoubtedly the calling of the Second Vatican Council. The Council provided a rich opportunity for us as Catholics to “update” the manner in which we proclaim the constant truths of our faith. The council reminded us that all the baptized – both the ordained and lay faithful - are called to help shape a Church that is faithful to Jesus. Each of us is called through the gifts and talents that the Lord has given to us to shape a Church that invites all people to experience the transformation that only the Lord can bring to our lives.
For the vast majority of Catholics, the experience of what it means to be Church occurs in the parish. Through the celebration of the Sacraments, the proclamation of the Word of God, through our service to the sick, the poor and the alienated, we are called to be faithful stewards of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
This transformation of our hearts and lives is the great gift that the Lord wants for each of us. The challenge for parish communities today is our willingness to work together to be open to that gift of growth, renewal and development as we strive to be more faithful in our service to the Lord and His people. May we look to Mary, the first disciple, as our model and guide as we remain open to the unfailing surprises of God's grace in our daily lives - surprises that invite us to transformation and a foretaste of the fullness of life that awaits us, with Mary, in the heavenly Kingdom.