Friday, October 7, 2016


Homily for Oct. 8th, 2016: Luke 11:27-28.

          “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed,” a woman in the crowd cries out as Jesus is speaking. Jesus’ response to this tribute to his mother surprises us. He might have said, “Truly,” “Indeed,” or perhaps just “Thank you.” He owed his mother so much: his humanity, loving care from infancy through childhood, youth, and adolescence. Yet he says none of those things. The response Jesus actually makes seems almost to contradict what the woman in the crowd has cried out. “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

In reality this is not a contradiction. For Mary is the first hearer of God’s word. It came to her first when the angel Gabriel told her that she was to be the mother of God’s Son. How much of that word did Mary understand? Well, she understood at least this: that in a small village where gossip was rife and everybody knew everybody else’s business, she was to be an unmarried mother. Despite this bleak prospect, Mary immediately said yes: “Be it done to me according to your word.”

Mary’s attention to God’s word did not stop there. After Mary and Joseph’s frantic search for their 12-year-old son who, unbeknownst to them, had stayed behind in Jerusalem, they heard the boy’s puzzling questions: “Why did you search for me? Did you not know that I must be in my father’s house?” On the threshold of his teens, Jesus already knew that God, and not Joseph, was his Father.

Luke (alone of the four gospel writers) tells us that Mary and Joseph “did not understand” what their son had said to them (2:50). After returning to Nazareth, however, Mary continued to “ponder these things in her heart” (vs. 51).

The Lord asks us to do the same. More, he promises that when we do listen to his word, ponder in our hearts what he says to us, and put his teaching into action, we are “blessed.” And that word, in Luke’s original Greek text, makarios, means “happy.”