Today is the third of this month’s series of “feasts of glory.” The Queenship of Mary is celebrated as an extension of the Solemnity of her Assumption. When Mary was taken, body and soul, into Heaven, it was fitting that her unique place in the Lord’s plan of salvation should be given the highest honors. Mary had no desire for earthly glory, for she knew herself as simply the “lowly handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:48), but that very lowliness made her especially receptive to heavenly glory. Today’s feast is a fulfillment of Jesus’ own promise about the reward to be given to the anawim: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5:3). It is also a celebration of the fulfillment of Mary’s own prophetic words about how the Lord “raises the lowly to high places” (Lk 1:52). In the Kingdom of Heaven, what other rank could Mary have than that of Queen? She is Queen of the Poor. She is Queen of Heaven and Earth.
The readings of today’s Mass are not chosen specifically for the feast, but today we ponder them with Mary, in light of her place in Heaven. The word of God is an inexhaustible source of insight into the Kingdom of God and our participation in it.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for their proud, self-centered attitudes. While they teach God’s law, they fail to practice their own teachings. They speak eloquently, but their words are empty. Caught up in their desire for honor and prestige, they focus on exterior show. Thus, they prevent the power and glory of God’s word from truly penetrating their hearts. Their self-exaltation prevents them from recognizing the Messiah whom they claim to await so fervently.
Jesus teaches his followers the opposite path. They must avoid the trap that the Pharisees have fallen into. True greatness, he says, is found in service to others. “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” This is the greatness we saw last Sunday in the Canaanite woman. She humbled herself before the Lord and he exalted her great faith. These words of the Lord apply to Mary above all others: she who humbled herself before the Lord is now exalted in glory.
It is significant that, in the first reading, the glory of God enters into the “inner court” of the temple. It does not remain on the outside. There is nothing in Ezekiel’s description to suggest that the exterior of the temple was changed at all by God’s coming to dwell within. This detail corresponds well with Jesus’ teaching in the Gospel. God makes his dwelling place in the hearts of his people. His work is largely interior, hidden from outside view.
The Lord is inviting us to focus on our interior life with him rather than dwell upon exterior performance. Too often we allow the pride that we take in our exterior acts to puff up our hearts with self satisfaction and worldly glory. We may offer to serve others, but we do it in order to gain something for ourselves, such as praise for our actions, or the esteem of others. Jesus teaches us that the only way to glory is by way of humility. This is his own path, the way of self-emptying, self-sacrificing love. Do we suppose that we can find a surer way to glory?
As we open our hearts to the word of God, the Holy Spirit helps us see the ways in which we defile his temple with exaggerated concern for ourselves. When we repent and turn our hearts to love rather than selfishness, we become more fitting temples for the Lord’s glory. Mary, our Mother and Queen, helps us with her prayers, so that God can reign in us and give his life and love to others through us.
Does my self-exaltation prevent the power and glory of God’s word from penetrating my heart? Do I focus on my interior life with God or dwell upon my exterior performance before man? When I ponder that true greatness is found in the service of others, do I find peace and joy?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.