Superlative – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Matthew 23:13-22, Monday of 21st Week in Ordinary Time (Queenship of Mary)

We, human beings, are a superlative-seeking species. At home, we heard our elders say, “my favorite son”, “my brightest daughter”, “my naughtiest”. At school, superlatives were rewarded, too: valedictorian, first honor. They even spread the awards around so that differently-abled kids could also be superlatives in their own category: “Best in Conduct”, “Best in Penmanship”, & when I was in grade 3, I was “Best in Cleaning”.

And, as if you didn’t notice, we’re a beauty-contest crazy country precisely because we’re superlative seekers: Mutya ng Dabaw, Ms Supra-National (whatever that is), Ms Engineering, Ms Management, Ms Education, Ms Communication! But happily, they spread the superlatives there, too. So, if you’re not top five, you could still be Ms Photogenic, pinakamaganda ka kahit sa picture lang; or Ms Talent, pinakamaganda kang kumain ng apoy; or Ms Sunsilk, bagsak ka nga sa ibang kategorya, pinakamaganda naman ang bagsak ng buhok mo.

The good side about being a superlative-seeking people like we are is that we also recognize the most lowly & then raise them to a place of honor. We have the Ramon Magsaysay Awards, for instance, for those who do quiet but masterful & charitable work. We have the Tulong-Dunong scholarship that helps students who are hard-up but very bright. In fact, the superlatives that move us most deeply are those we award upon the humble who become our pride, upon the silent who become our voice, upon the poor who become our wealth.

Placing upon Mary the superlative of being “queen” is very much like that. Is there is anything in the gospels that hints of any imperial self-entitlement in Mary? None. Did she ever put on airs of royalty? Never. She didn’t command anyone kneel before her, it was she who knelt before God & accepted being mother of his son. She wasn’t trailed by an entourage of handmaidens, but she declared herself as the Lord’s handmaid. No soldier, no servant, no minion ever lay his life down at her word of rule back in her day. It was she who offered to always be at God’s disposal, “Let it be done unto me according to your word.”

So, if there’s anything the Queenship of Mary should remind us, dear sisters & brothers in the Ateneo, let it be the thing we neglect far too often as Ateneans: that that superlative pursuit of magis is not so much higher intelligence, greater achievements, wider fame, more awards. No; magis, in its original sense in the SpEx, means more humble, more surrendering, more quiet, more docile & disposed to suffering with Christ & for Christ. In other words, it’s the minima that lies in the heart of magis, it’s the minima that give magis its deepest meaning, that is, to be lowlier in the eyes of the world but more precious in the eyes of God. Our Church raises Mary to the superlative of queen on account of that. Her magis for God was fully overshadowed & incarnated in minima.

May our magis be like that of Mary, our queen, a magis of minima. Mary, queen of heaven & earth, pray for us.

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