Today is a feast of embrace. What the feast centrally is about is Jesus’ embrace of Mary, but our Gospel speaks to us of Mary’s embrace of Jesus. What we celebrate today is Jesus’ assumption, taking up, embracing, his Mother, lifting her, body and soul, directly into heaven at the moment of her death. We celebrate Christ’s embrace. We celebrate that Jesus, who came to show us what love looks like, showed a fully human love, a love that includes children’s love for their mother, without thereby excluding anyone else from that. But, Christ’s love being divine love doesn’t make it any less human, and fully human love isn’t impersonal, generalized beneficence, but full-hearted fully-particular affection. And, in this feast, we celebrate one way Christ loved his mother.
But, it’s interesting that our Gospel gives us Mary’s embrace of Christ. It gives us her bodily embrace, that he began his human life totally embedded in her body, fed by her body and blood, the person from whom he learnt how to feed us. It gives us her embrace of faith, which Elizabeth perceives and praises, her embrace of God’s word, that she trusts. And it gives us her song, in which she proclaims to us that this life of dual embrace, her embrace of Christ and Christ’s of her, is not something narrow, something that just matters for the two of them, but something that ripples out, something earth-shattering, something that conquers death, something that casts the mighty from their thrones and lifts up the humble.
This past weekend, we heard a song in Charlottesville that clashes with and jars against that song of Mary. We heard a song of supremacy, the ugly and sinful soundings of white supremacy. We heard a song that tried to steady those thrones and secure the power of oppressors. We heard a song that rejected the embrace of Christ. And I use that phrase ‘embrace of Christ,’ deliberately aware of its ambiguity: they were refusing to embrace Christ, present on the margins, and thereby refusing the embrace he offers them, offers all of us.
Now, grace, salvation, isn’t something we earn, we don’t accrue enough ‘I embraced Christ’ points and thereby pull ourselves up into heaven. But, God respects our freedom. And to truly desire heaven, to desire Christ to embrace us, is to desire to embrace him here and now. It’s the same desire. Someone who desires white heaven, someone who desires a heaven based on exclusion or oppression of others, someone who desires a heaven based on their own supremacy, doesn’t desire heaven. And God doesn’t force heaven on people who don’t want it.
Mary invites us to drown out that song and sing her song with her. More than inviting, Mary is in heaven praying that we will sing her song with her. Christ can fan into flame any spark of hunger for justice that burns inside us. Christ offers himself for embrace, in the Eucharist, on the margins, when we dare to destabilize whatever we delude ourselves into thinking makes us supreme. And Christ waits with embrace to offer, earth-shattering embrace.