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Ten years ago I took the GRE exam. Naturally, it was brutal. My sister-in-law could have walked into the examination room the next day without even studying for the exam and have aced it. She would have received a perfect score, but it was not the case with me. So when I found out I had to take the exam, I went to YouTube and wrote, “How to pass the GRE.” A woman popped up on the screen and said, “You don’t have to ace the exam. All you have to do is get the score you need in order to be accepted. Just go to your school and find out what score they require and use that score as your goal.” I learned only the vocabulary I needed, took the GRE, and got accepted, BARELY. But that is my point. I just received the score which I needed and nothing more. The reason I bring this up is because we want to know what “score” we need to get excepted into the kingdom of heaven. What does it take to get in?

 You remember the story of the Prodigal Son…the son took the father’s inheritance and spent the money on parties until he was broke. We know this to be true because he did not invest it in property or gold; otherwise, he would have had something to live on. No, he spent the inheritance on parties because he had nothing left. When there was a drought, he had no food. So he returned to his father. His father saw him in the distance and welcomed him back home with a party. Really? A party! Is this not how he got into trouble in the first place? Does he really need another party? How about a little discipline? He should have gone to his room and stewed over his own juices. Why a party? He needed food, and the father gave him a party with copious food–very pleasant, enjoyable, comfort food. More than he could possibly imagine. So, why was the father so good to him? Why did he exceed every expectation? What did he do to win his father over? How did he pull off another party? In his lowest state, he found that he needed his father.

When Mary visited Elizabeth in Luke’s Gospel, Elizabeth asked a question: “How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me”?  I find that question a bit odd. If I had been Elizabeth, I would have asked Mary a different question: “How did you know I was pregnant? I didn’t tell anyone. In fact, I went into seclusion the moment I conceived. My husband, Zechariah, didn’t tell anyone because the angel Gabriel made him mute for not believing…he believes now. So how did you know I was expecting”? We, the readers, know that the angel told Mary, but Elizabeth didn’t know that. Yet Elizabeth didn’t ask the question that I thought needed to be asked. She asked why God had blessed her. Why did she ask that question? Let’s review. First, Elizabeth was supposed to be sterile and too old to have a child. Yet there she was going to have a child. So naturally, she was thrilled about that. Yet, there was more. Her child is a prophet. A prophet is someone who gives information from God to other people. When John leaped in his mother’s womb, John was giving information to Elizabeth that she was in the presence of divinity. So naturally, Elizabeth was very happy to be in the presence of God and to have a son who was a prophet. Stack all these gifts into one moment and you have Elizabeth thinking, “Why is God so good to me?” It is the same question we ask about the father of the prodigal son, “Why is the father so good to the son?”

Mary answered her question which is famously known as the Magnificat. She told Elizabeth, “You needed God and God answered your need beyond your furthest expectations.”

On the feast of the Assumption, it is a good time for us to think about the requirements to Heaven. What do you need to do to get into Heaven? We have to need God. Do we need God? Are there areas in our life that need filling? Do we have a reason to need God? If we do, then we have a reason to be close to God because God loves those who need Him. 

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