On vacation a couple of years ago, I visited Register Cliff, Wyoming. It’s on the old Oregon Trail, and it’s a place next to the North Platte River with an extremely long stretch of exposed rock. On this rock, people made inscriptions as they passed by, their names and the date they were there. They were trailblazers who left the familiar in search of the promise of a better life in a new place. They passed through desolate areas, not know what was on the other side of the hills on the horizon. Some made it, some didn’t. They were driven by hope, hope of new future beyond what they knew.
In the first reading today we have a picture of a trailblazer. The Woman in the reading is associated with Mary, the Mother of God. The message of the book of Revelation is that there is no doubt about the final outcome of the struggle between good and evil. It was written to a people who were being persecuted, people who were being arrested, tortured and killed for the faith. It is a message of Hope, that beyond the cosmic struggle, beyond the struggle of daily life, beyond the struggle to endure persecution, Good will win and all we need to do is hold on. Mary is the sign of the Church that survives everything. We don’t have to outwit the future, we have to be ready, but we have to put our trust completely in God our savior, completely in Christ. This is how we win, this is how we endure. Mary is the example of a woman who accepted a future of Hope unconditionally: she knew it would be difficult, she knew it was risky, and she was told a sword would pierce her heart, but she said Yes to Christ before anyone else. That trust, that Hope, that faith is something we celebrate in Mary, who we believe received the same reward as the great prophet Elijah, to be taken up body and soul into heaven.
The Eucharist is the feast of the future made present. Sharing the Eucharist is a common acceptance of Hope in the future of the fullness of God’s Kingdom. We say Yes to God’s promise as Mary did, we say Yes to the Hope she embraced. Mary is our trailblazer, she was there at the beginning, she probably shared the Eucharist we share, she received the reward we hope to receive. When our time is over, when our work is done, our Hope will be fulfilled and it may be our greatest honor to have said of us what was said of Mary: “Blessed are you that believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”