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He Is Not a Tame Lion

Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary

First Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters,
as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more,
and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.
Accordingly, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God
regarding your endurance and faith in all your persecutions
and the afflictions you endure.

This is evidence of the just judgment of God,
so that you may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God
for which you are suffering.

We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96:1-2A, 2B-3, 4-5

R. (3) Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
For great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
awesome is he, beyond all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are things of nought,
but the LORD made the heavens.
R. Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.

Gospel: 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.”

NAB

aug 22

Our Church has a rich and beautiful tradition of rituals and prayers and sacramentals. Devotions to these have helped generations of Catholics to come to a deeper relationship with God. Rituals like the sign of the cross, prayers like the Morning Offering and the Angelus, sacramentals like holy water and rosary beads, are all a part of my daily practice of my faith. Using them helps me to remember to pray and helps me to focus while I’m doing it. But it’s important to remember that no particular practice can guarantee salvation, or an answer to a prayer. Especially if, like the scribes and Pharisees, our hearts aren’t in the right place.

So, how can we avoid the “Woes of the Pharisees”?

Saying the Rosary for nine days in a row, for a particular intention, as an act of devotion, hoping that God will give me the desire of my heart, or change my heart if that desire is not His will . . .  This is a novena. Thumbs Up.

Saying a particular prayer to Saint Jude six times each day for nine consecutive days and leaving nine photocopies in the Church each day, as directed, with the expectation that my prayer will be answered on or before the ninth day and the guarantee that it has never been known to fail . . . This is a glorified chain letter. And an enormous waste of paper. Thumbs down.

Asking for the intercession of Saint Joseph when selling my home, or putting a statue of Saint Joseph in my house to remind me to continue to ask him to pray for me as I try to sell it, or burying a statue of Saint Joseph on my property in order to dedicate it to God, through Saint Joseph . . . This is prayer, and the use of sacramentals. Thumbs up.

Burying a statue of Saint Joseph upside down in my yard because I believe that this will irritate Saint Joseph and so make him make God make my house sell faster . . . . This is silly and manipulative. Even the Pharisees think it sounds kinda weird. Thumbs down.

The good and proper use of the accoutrements of our faith comes down to avoiding the hypocrisy and superstitious practices that Jesus points out in the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees. We don’t pray in a particular way or place, or using particular objects, thinking we can guarantee that God will do what we say. God, after all, (as C.S. Lewis says of Aslan) is not a tame lion. Instead, we use those things to help us love God more and live our faith more completely. We ask for what we desire, but mostly we ask that our desires would align with His will. We hope, like Saint Paul, “that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in us, and us in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.” And also that Jesus never has cause to call us fools.

How are the sacramentals and devotions at play in your spiritual life? Can you go deeper in those areas?

photo credit

Kendra Tierney lives in Los Angeles, CA where her interests include blogging, homeschooling, looking after her eight children, and fixing up a hundred year old tumbledown mansion. You can find out more about her here.

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