August 22, 2016
by Luis Rodriguez, S.J.
Creighton University's Jesuit Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 420

2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12
Psalm 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 4-5
Matthew 23:13-22
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Pope John Paul II on the Queenship of Mary

There is a reality check in today’s gospel reading: which is greater, the gold or the temple that made the gold sacred? Although still four months away, that phrase makes me think of Christmas. Focusing on the wrapping, instead of focusing on the gift inside, would be rather odd, to say the least. What gives value to the present is the content, not the wrapping. What gave value to the gold was the temple, not its gilded exterior, its wrapping.

I was once traveling in Germany with a university colleague, a good friend and a very good man with a rather traditionalist penchant. As we entered a convent’s chapel to celebrate Mass, he asked me to use the Eucharistic Prayer I, not any of the others. I agreed to do that without asking him the reason for his request. But I reflected within myself that what gives value to the Mass is the Eucharist itself, not the wording we choose for that prayer. Its value comes from the re-enacting of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, not from the specific text used.

When we focus on specific externals and allow them to become the most important thing, we are in danger of engaging in what would almost amount to religious fetishism. Surely we need giving external expression to the deeper internal reality, but focusing on some specific externals as the “proper” way of celebrating that reality might be looking for “the easy way out.” It takes more intentionality to be focused on the deeper reality of what we celebrate through external signs and symbols, just as reflecting on the mysteries of the rosary requires more attention than does the repeated reciting of the Hail Mary. We need to pray that our religiosity not stop at external signs and symbols, but that we look beyond them to the deeper reality they point to.

In a way the gospel reading for this weekday is also most fitting for celebrating the memorial of Mary. We value and treasure her as blessed among women, to use the words of her relative Elizabeth. Yet, although Mary was already a person of deep faith, what really gave her value and made her blessed among women was the One she was carrying inside herself. It was the Content that gave the highest value to the “wrapping.”

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