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 Gospel account from Luke 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 be willing to participate in the incarnation; conceiving, carrying to term, and giving birth to the Son of God. Mary then continued to listen for and be guided by the word of God and observed it through the rest of her life. Mary is the model disciple.
With the response of Jesus, he is seeking to realign the woman who called out, 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 an idol. 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 St. John Henry Cardinal Newman articulated 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 when we slow down, resist the urge to accomplish, and just get something done. Even prayer can just become a function instead of an encounter with the living God.
We can hear and experience God during prayer and meditation, in the events of our daily lives, as well as when we are attentive and willing to follow his subtle invitations. Sometimes this comes about when we encounter someone who is homeless. Instead of walking around or away, we share a few moments, a few dollars, some food, a pair of clean socks, or a bottle of water and to make the time to 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.
A few years ago, I was still on a leave of absence from school and visiting our oldest daughter, Mia, in San Francisco. She was away the first two days that I arrived and on Saturday night I visited the cathedral for Mass. On the way back to her apartment, I walked downtown to see some of the sights and came across a panhandler named Oman. I gave him a dollar, shook his hand and we talked for a few minutes. As I was leaving, a man across the street called out and said, “What about me?” I waved and smiled and started up the street. Then I stopped, turned back, crossed the street, and gave Charlie a dollar, a handshake, and some of my time as well.
When we are willing to see Jesus in one another, love will replace our fears, prejudices, and pride, and we will have the courage to be present, to provide aid, and comfort to those he sends us to encounter. 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 will reflect Jesus to others.