The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke 10:38-42; 11:27-28
Every time that the Church celebrates a feast of the Mother of God, this is the passage that is read. This means that today’s gospel reading is read more than almost any other gospel passage in the life of the Church (excluding the Orthros (matins gospels)). The Church is trying to deliver a message to it’s faithful through the words of this gospel. The Church is seeking to teach us something about the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. What is the whole point of the reading?
A woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to the Lord Jesus “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts that Thou didst suck!” This woman in the crowd was heaping praise on the Mother of God without knowing that she was indeed the Mother of God. She likely thought of Jesus as a great prophet or possibly as the long awaited Messiah. So she cried out to Him in a way that would show honor and respect to His mother. And no one would have argued that she who raised that Son, deserved that honor and respect. Even this idea of familial connection is so contrary to our modern and confused sensibilities. A man and woman meet and decide to get married and quite often there is a kind of strife that will exist between the wife and the mother of that man. It is as if the wife is jealous of the mother and vice versa. It is as if the wife thinks that her husband became what he was spontaneously or perhaps through sheer dumb luck. No. The husband became what he was by the grace of God working through his family. His parents worked hard to raise him and steer him in the right direction. They gave their lives in order to make sure that he would get a solid education and become a thoughtful and productive member of the community instead of a leach and a drain on society. So it is good for the wives to transfer a portion of the love that they have for their husbands, to the mothers who worked so hard to raise them. This is part of what it means to be Eucharistic people. People who live a total and complete life of thanksgiving.
This familial connection is the context of the praise that is being offered by this woman in the crowd. She has such an admiration for the Lord Jesus Christ that she can’t neglect to praise His mother…..and neither should we! The problem with her generous praise is that it focuses merely on the physical aspects of motherhood. She has focused on the fact that the Virgin Mary gave birth to the Lord Jesus and that she nursed Him and gave Him nourishment. The Lord accepted and even appreciated the praise offered to His mother but He corrected the reason for the praise. Our Lord does not tell us that the Mother of God is special because of the physical acts of motherhood. Those are important but for the Lord they are not the most important aspects. Our Lord is going to tell us what is most important about the Mother of God, His mother, and in the process He is going to show us the way to become like His mother. He is going to offer us a path to becoming blessed saints and members of the household of God. The woman yells “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the breasts that Thou didst suck!” And He replies to the woman who has cried out to Him with these beautiful words “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
These words are simple and powerful, life changing words! According to the Lord what was important about His mother was that she heard the word of God and didn’t stop there. She followed up on the hearing of the word, by keeping the word that she heard. Hearing is good, obedience is better! Hearing is half of the equation, but half of the equation does not give us a finished product. If I am making an apple pie and I have only half of the ingredients, can I actually make an apple pie? Not a chance! Well what if I have all of the ingredients but I only follow half of the steps, what then? Still we will end up without a pie. Half of the recipe is not enough, half of the equation is not enough to make a finished product. In this case the product is a saintly life.
Our Lord Jesus is saying to us “I love each of you, and I want you to know that you can also be truly blessed as My mother is truly blessed!” Blessings are not reserved only for the Mother of Our Lord, they are the inheritance of every one of us who faithfully hears the word of God and takes it one step further by keeping the word. We may have some obstacles that are holding us back from complete obedience. Perhaps we are afraid to look different or to stick out in the crowd. Perhaps we are held back by some unconfessed sins. Perhaps we have a different world view that is not built on the teachings of Jesus Christ. Perhaps our goals in life do not line up with the goals that Christ has for each of us. Or perhaps we don’t believe that we have the strength and the discipline to keep the word of God, and guess what? You are absolutely right! We have no strength and no discipline on our own. My strength, our strength…is the Lord and His word. Thousands upon thousands of our brothers and sisters in the faith have turned to Christ in all of their weaknesses and sinfulness and have found that the Lord is faithful to remake them and to refashion them into a new creation. Many have become saints! How does God do all of this? By the power of His word. Psalm 33:9 reads “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” It is by His word that God creates out of nothing. So the word is truly powerful, but the word also needs a place to dwell. When the word is allowed to dwell in us and sink deep into our bones, a whole new universe is created within each of us as we are refashioned by the infinite God. The corruptible old man falls away and the new man grows and is nurtured and strengthened and lives on eternally with the God whom he loves.
The Theotokos was steeped in the word of God. She heard the word of God even in the womb as her parents were pious and God-fearing people. She was immersed in the word of God during her years where she was raised in the Holy Temple. She not only heard, but she kept the word of God like a treasure. She was familiar with the word of God and made a life out of keeping the word faithfully. She was weak girl and the word made her stronger than the mightiest men who ever walked the earth. She was a young woman and the word of God lifted her higher than the greatest kings and emperors of the world. Because she kept the word with care and love, she was chosen to carry the Word made flesh. We ask her prayers and her support as we seek to keep the word of God, as we seek to be called “Blessed.” Glory be to God forever, AMEN.