While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it” (Lk 11:27-28).
The woman’s comment directed to Jesus in today’s reading is certainly better than the charge leveled against him yesterday that he was healing by the power of Beelzebul, yet even this complement is still off the mark. What made Mary truly blessed was her fiat, her yes, to being willing to participate in the incarnation; conceiving, carrying to term, and giving birth to the Son of God. Then continuing to hear the word of God and observing it through the rest of her life. Mary is the model disciple.
Jesus is, in clarifying the woman who called out, helping her, those present, and us today to a keep proper perspective regarding living under the kingdom or reign of God. God is to be sovereign, primary, first and foremost. We need to be careful not to put any “thing” or any “one” before God. Even today we need to be careful not to make Mary into a goddess. We honor Mary and the saints, we invoke their intercession for assistance as we do family and friends with us now, but we do not adore them, as we do with God. Mary points us to her Son, not to herself. She is like the moon that radiates the light of the sun. This is the point of discipleship.
As blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman articulates so well in his prayer, “Radiating Christ”, the goal of the disciple of Jesus is to come to that point where others may look up at us and “see no longer me, but only Thee, O Lord!” How do we do that? We place ourselves in a posture of humility, of prayer, of being willing to hear the word of God, observe it, and then act upon it and serve him through serving one another. This means we need to slow down, resist the urge to accomplish and just get something done. Sometimes when I am reading by breviary, I will catch myself just reading the psalms, the readings, and the prayers, to get them done, instead of letting the words pierce my heart, convict me, and call me to conform my life to Jesus. Prayer then becomes a function instead of an encounter with the living God. I will stop myself and begin again.
To hear God’s word, we must stop and listen. This can happen in the events of our daily lives as well, when we are attentive. It is resisting the temptation to walk around or away from someone who is homeless, and instead share a few moments, a few dollars, some food, and to even ask their name. Is this uncomfortable, yes, challenging, yes. But the Word of God calls us out beyond our comfort zones, and to be there for others.
Again think of Mary, who, from the beginning experienced suffering with Jesus. She conceived Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. What a gift, but at the same time what a trial! How was she going to explain this to Joseph, her betrothed! Simeon’s prophecy at Jesus’ dedication in the temple ended with the words to Mary, “and you yourself a sword will pierce” (cf Luke 2:25-35). We can trace Mary’s sorrows, and continued faithfulness as “she pondered these things in her heart” (cf Luke 2:19) throughout her life from raising Jesus, to being present during his public ministry where she saw him rejected in their hometown of Nazareth, the questions and accusations hurled at him, up to his arrest, scourging, and crucifixion.
In hearing and observing the words of Jesus, we cannot help but to be transformed. May we too, like Mary, ponder the life events of Jesus, turn to him in our trials, challenges, and experiences of injustice. Instead of being weighed down or buried by them, may we be yoked to Jesus, so we can persevere and become stronger, so to experience a joy and a peace that surpasses all understanding, a fulfillment that is beyond comprehension.
From this place of union with Jesus, may love replace our fears, prejudices, and pride, so we have the courage to be present, to provide aid and comfort to those he sends us to minister to. May we say yes, as did Mary, and so allow the Son of God to dwell within us, in the very depths of our souls, such that our thoughts, words, and actions, all reflect Jesus to others.
Photo: Last year’s Mass celebrating the 100th anniversary of visitation of Our Lady of Fatima with our St Peter family.