Today we observe the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, and we acknowledge that the highest place any creature holds in heaven is occupied by a woman. Our Lady sums up her life in one word, “Fiat” which means “Let it be done.” We ask Our Lady’s protection and intercession as we seek to be as generous as her in our response to God’s will for us.
Wearing a cross or a crucifix on a necklace can be a good way to remind yourself throughout the day to keep God in your thoughts or actions. But imagine if the newest trend were to wear bigger and bigger crosses to demonstrate your piety. That would become a bit contradictory after a while. As people started buying bigger crosses, their sincere reason for wearing them would be lost in a sort of holiness contest.
This is the kind of thing Our Lord is pointing out in today’s gospel. The phylacteries are two small leather boxes that some Jews still wear today. The boxes contain parchment with key Scripture passages written on them. One box is tied to the top of the head, and one is tied to the inside of the arm so that it will touch the heart. The reason for wearing phylacteries is to help the wearers keep God foremost in their minds and hearts as well as in their actions.
However, some of the Pharisees started making their phylacteries larger and broader in a vain attempt to show more piety than their neighbours. They also started wearing their traditional tassels larger and lower for the same reason.
The traditions behind outward signs of devotion are sometimes very valid and holy, but we have to make sure that we aren’t putting our efforts into the external signs instead of making our interior connections deeper.
The best way to guard our hearts and minds is through the everyday, regular practices of prayer, repentance, and service. They may not feel as flashy as brand new crosses around our necks, but that’s okay. As we reach out to Jesus, we’ll find him reaching out to us. And we’ll find ourselves becoming more like him. Our Lord doesn’t care about what is fastened on our head, arms, or neck, because he wants to be fastened in our heart.