At the end of her earthly life, Mary was taken in soul and body to heaven, that is, to the glory of eternal life in God.
When a loved one dies, he continues to exist in a certain fashion in the men and women who knew and loved him. As far as they can, they keep alive in their mind and hearts. But though they may want it, they cannot keep him really alive.
But God's love is the very reason we exist. We exist only because he has loved us from eternity and willed us to be. This love can preserve in being all within the communion of this love.
The original sin of Adam and Eve meant a turning away from this love. Shut off from full communion with this creative and life-giving love, the human race would have but a shadowy existence, returning nearly to the nothingness from which God's love had called it. Yet God in his mercy and love sent his Son came to renew the communion and friendship. By his death and resurrection he broke the bonds of death and renewed man's friendship with God. Made sharers in the mystery of his death and resurrection, we share also in his victory over sin and death. Already now, incorporated in Christ through grace and baptism, through faith and charity, we share in Christ's resurrection, possess eternal life within us, according to his promise: "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, has eternal life" (John 6:54) And though subject to weakness of body and to death, we hope to share in this life also in our bodies. "And I will raise him up on the last day" (John 6:54)
We see the fulfillment of this saving mystery and of our hope in a special way in Mary. Chosen to be the Mother of God, she is so closely united to Christ that already, immediately at the end of her earthly life, she shares fully in the resurrection of her Son in body and in soul, she lives now what we profess in the creed and hope for at the end of the world, the bodily resurrection of the dead.
Mary's sharing in Christ's definitive victory over death crowns her faith in the Word of God and her complete dedication to the Lord, of whom she became the temple, body and soul. As St. Augustine remarks, "Before conceiving the Lord in her body she had already conceived him in her soul," and this grace was still greater than merely bodily motherhood, as Christ remarks in relation to the blessedness of this motherhood, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Luke 11:28) By divine grace Mary was prepared to be the dwelling place of God Himself, prepared body and soul, prepared forever. Thus she is blessed above all human creatures.
At the same time Mary shows us how we become blessed. We are blessed to the extent that we become dwelling places for the Lord, that we allow him to live in us. We do this first through faith. Elizabeth says to Mary: "Blessed is she who has believed" (Luke 1:45). This is the first step of beatitude, to believe and to trust in God, who reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ, who became Incarnate through the Virgin Mary, and who wills to show Himself through us – through our deeds and in our bodies – and to lead us to definitive communion with Him.
Mary responds: "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior" (Luke 1:46). She does not glory in praise of herself, but turns it to God. And this is the second step of beatitude, to turn the eyes of our heart to the Lord more than to ourselves, to love and to rejoice in the will of God more than in our own will. God's every will is done, and nothing happens without God's will, so to the extent we attain to this attitude of always loving and rejoicing in God's will, we shall already have attained the substance of true beatitude.
Let us praise and glorify the work of God in Mary, whom he graced above all other creatures and exalted in Heaven with her Son. Let us see in her what the Lord calls each of us to: a life of faith and love, a life that the Lord will bring to perfection in both our bodies and in our souls if we remain faithful to Him. And let us ask the Lord to strengthen our faith in eternal life, to increase our love, and to make us always joyful persons who live in trusting confidence that all things work out for good to those who love God.
(This homily takes up a number of thoughts expressed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.)