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.
We hear a lot about the Pharisees in all four gospels and it’s interesting to discover what made some of them tick. After all, we are all conditioned by the circumstances of our lives. The Pharisee party formed just after the Maccabean Revolt around 175 BC when Jews were under intense pressure to abandon their faith and adopt Greek religious practices. The Pharisees were dedicated lay people, many of whom loved God and tried to help their people be faithful to the Law of Moses. The word ‘Pharisee’ comes from a Hebrew word meaning ‘separate’, emphasizing their desire to stay pure and uncontaminated.
By the beginning of the first century AD the Pharisees were an elite, educated group who studied the Scriptures and taught their fellow Jews how to follow God’s laws. After the Temple was destroyed in AD 70, the Pharisees survived as the predominant Jewish religious group, and they are considered the precursors to modern Judaism.
So what was the problem with the Pharisees? Well, some of them—though not all—had a very hard time accepting the idea that Jesus could be the Messiah. He didn’t fit into their expectations of ritual purity or strict adherence to Jewish traditions. Many of them saw Jesus as a revolutionary whose new teachings threatened their people’s identity as the chosen race. Their zeal for the Law kept them from being open to the new thing God was doing through Jesus.
We can all fall prey to the same challenges that trapped the Pharisees. We can retreat in the face of something that upends our comfortable ways of looking at God or our faith. We can hold on to our traditions so tightly that we can’t accept the possibility that God may doing something new and exciting in our midst.
The Pharisees had lost their way, and so we shouldn’t be too quick to condemn them. In fact we should imitate their devotion and their love of God’s Law, and their heroic efforts to preserve their religion in a hostile culture. But, unlike them, we must always keep our hearts open to the eternal newness of God’s plan.