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Spirituality of the Readings
Solemnity of the Assumption
of the Blessed Virgin Mary
August 15, 2021
John Foley, SJ
Can You Hear?

­There are people who talk all the time. At least so it might seem. You or I could be one of them and not realize it. Maybe it is just exuberance of personality, or a brain packed full of ideas that simply must poke their way out.

Mary is the great example of hearing and then speaking.

Or it could be self-centeredness. I have known folks who take their breath in the middle of a sentence instead of at the end so that they can rush to the next sentence without a pause at the period, leaving no room for anyone else to butt in.

Am I being unkind? Not really. It takes all types.

But there is a lesson to be learned from this phenomenon, and it concerns each one of us.

The more we talk the less we listen.

Truly listen, I mean. If we talk all the time, our energy is taken up by our own thoughts and actions and effects. We miss one of the greatest treasures of all: the beauty of other people in their complexity and in their simplicity and their interiority.

Alright, should we then just sit in silence and let others talk? No, no. We must take care to exchange with others. To talk, yes, but also to listen.

All true relationships, be they societal niceties or deep friendships, are founded on receiving and giving. We give the gift of attention to the other, and we receive it back from them.

That being said, the Gospel surely gives us a test case. Why does the newly pregnant Mary talk so much this Sunday? She has hurried to her cousin Elizabeth’s house in the hill country, and hardly have they even said hello when Mary bursts into a long speech or song, the Magnificat. In it she even says that all generations are going to call her blessed! Talking about herself, so it seems.

But examine the words just before the Magnificat. Mary is actually responding to what Elizabeth has just said. “You are the mother of my Lord! Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

In return Mary does let excited words pour from her mouth.

The Magnificat is not about Mary, it is entirely about God. She will be blessed by all generations, she says, not at all because she is herself something great, but because God’s love and mercy are, and they will pour out through her to the world. Mary had a lifelong habit of listening to God’s love. She sensed the Holy Spirit when she received it. Her reaction? To speak the divine Word into the world. She is the great example of hearing and then speaking.

The feast of the Assumption salutes this trust and openness in Mary. At the end she had been at one with God all her life, even in the searing passion and death of her son. The Assumption is not a mythical statement of fancy, it is an acknowledgment of how close Mary had been to Jesus all life long, and especially in his death.

It would have been superfluous for her to die again

John Foley, SJ

Father Foley can be reached at:
Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go