Ru 2. 1-3,8-11, 4. 13-17; Ps 128; Mt 23. 1-12
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Courageous, Loving Humility
This memorial celebrating Mary’s queenship is younger than we are. Yet in the 4th Century, poet-St. Ephrem called Mary “queen.” Reflecting on her annunciation, Ephrem sang, “Mother of God, queen of the universe, you are above all the saints, the hope of the patriarchs and the joy of the saints.” In a prayer he composed, Ephrem called the “Mother of God,” “...Queen of the world, hope of those who are in despair: You are the joy of the saints; you are the peacemaker between sinners and God….”/1/
When we pray “Hail Holy Queen,” when we ponder the rosary-mysteries of her assumption and her queenship of heaven and earth, we touch an ancient detail of our church’s tradition.
The first reading about Ruth suggests that Mary’s royal reach exceeds Catholics and other Christians. Islam, too, reveres Mary. Many people with no affiliation with faith don’t fight to get out of Mary’s orbit. Indeed, the queenly “consolation of the world”/2/ does not discriminate on the basis of faith or even on how well people, who claim faith, live it.
The first reading about Ruth recalls God’s love is universal and worked in all things and people so that in the fullness of time Mary’s Son would live, die and rise to absolutely new life. Ruth, not a Jew, was kind to her Jewish mother-in-law and sister-in-law. The people praised the foreigner because she loved her husband and his mother, Naomi. People said to her, “[Your] daughter-in-law...loves you. She is worth more to you than seven sons!” Ruth was the grandmother of David, is whose line Jesus was born.
Jesus’ matriarchal ancestor, Ruth, was also modest: Freely showing deference, Ruth said to [Boaz], “Why should I, a foreigner, be favored with your notice?” Hers was not false humility nor poor self-esteem; she was not puffed up.
Being puffed up, a phrase St. Paul used/3/, is a human temptation, and it’s more seductive when one knows privilege. If following Jesus is a challenge, then it’s a daily one of aligning hearts and minds with strong, courageous, loving humility, which shapes us not honors, privilege or moral superiority. That’s how Jesus encouraged his disciples to differ from the scribes and the Pharisees, who occupied…the chair of Moses. Jesus was not merely advising, “Practice what you preach,” because anyone can do what is right without have one’s heart in the doing.
Staking one’s heart and life on this new way instead of on privilege is the royal/4/ way Jesus embodied and proclaimed. What Jesus embodied and proclaimed returns us to the “Queen of world” and “of the universe.” Rejoicing in Mary’s Assumption and Queenship increases our joyful courage to anticipate her destiny by the ways we live.
|1. Ephrem’s Marian Prayer calls Mary “queen” twice. |
3. 1 Corinthians 4. 6, 18, 19; 5. 2; 13. 4; Colossians 2. 18.
4. See James 2.8.
Wiki-image of icon of Mary is in the public domain .