The Gospel according to Matthew (23:13-22)
Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If one swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gold of the temple, one is obligated.’ Blind fools, which is greater, the gold, or the temple that made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If one swears by the altar, it means nothing, but if one swears by the gift on the altar, one is obligated.’ You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? One who swears by the altar swears by it and all that is upon it; one who swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it; one who swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who is seated on it.”
Reflection: Today is the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our Blessed Mother Queen of All saints. Mary’s motherhood is something that is continuous and eternal. It is a perpetual motherhood of the Savior of the world and is a perpetual instrumentality of all that comes to us from this Savior. God is the source, but Mary is the instrument. And she is the instrument because God wanted it this way. She can do nothing by herself, but she doesn’t have to do it by herself. She is not the Savior. She is the instrument. As a result of this, we must see her role as glorious and essential in the eternal plan of salvation. Devotion to her is a way of simply acknowledging what is true. Mary’s devotion is an acknowledgment of her continual role of mediation of grace in our world and in our lives.
In today’s scripture I sense some frustration coming from Jesus. As Christians, we are trained to devout ourselves in the name of God and our faith. This scripture is stating that the Pharisee’s and scribes are being hypocrites. Jesus is saying that they don’t have to show off their devotion in public.
So, what about our devotion? Our devotion is between you and Jesus only. Our devotion is displaying it by our action towards his people; towards our brothers and sisters; towards the Beatitudes. Perhaps this is what Jesus was talking about when he taught, “Blessed are the pure of heart” (Matthew 5:8). It’s having achieved a purity of intention, desire, and motivation that isn’t about me. It’s not about how I look and whether people are going to like me or affirm me. It’s not about making an impression that will ultimately benefit ourselves. We are all attracted to those loving people who are concerned about others more than themselves and concerned about us specifically. It’s really quite beautiful. We feel softened, we feel held, we feel more tender around people like that.
We can’t fake devotion but sometimes I do suggest we “fake it till we make it,” as many say. We need to practice some kind of heart-opening prayer and practice being compassionate and kind toward others. This is one of the hardest things in the teaching of spirituality because we cannot manufacture devotion. It is the work of grace, but of course we have to want it and create the conditions that can allow it to happen. Anything that helps us to be less willful, less pushy, less judgmental toward ourselves is a good place to start, because the face we turn toward ourselves is the face we turn toward the world.
Just as Mary was the instrument to show true compassion and devotion, let us mimic what she has showed us and be that tool that our sisters and brothers can use.
Action of the Day: Analyze your devotion. Sit with Jesus and ask him if you’re being a good example of Christianity or not. And, if not, how could you improve yourself.