Saturday of week 27 of Ordinary Time – Gospel


Commentary on Luke 11:27-28

Is today’s short passage linked to yesterday’s, because it begins, “Now as Jesus was speaking…”?

After Jesus has effectively silenced his opponents and their ridiculous accusations, a woman cries out from the surrounding crowd: “Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!” It was a beautiful tribute first to Jesus himself but also to his mother (someone, presumably, totally unknown to the speaker). In more contemporary terms we might rephrase it as, “May God bless the woman that produced such a fine son as you!” This woman is clearly one of the crowd that has been amazed at the work that Jesus is doing in contrast to the cynical unbelievers who want to destroy Jesus.

And, indeed, we on a very different level do recognise the extraordinary privilege that was Mary’s to be the Mother of God’s only Son. We pray to Mary, “Blessed are you among women.”

But Jesus turns the woman’s words around. “Still happier are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Greatness in God’s eyes lies not in gifts and privileges that have been granted but in the response that is given to God.

The true source of Mary’s greatness was not in her being chosen to be Jesus’ mother, nor even in her preservation from original sin but in that unconditional ‘Yes’ she gave to the angel at the Annunciation. A ‘Yes’ she faithfully honoured to the day she stood in grief at the foot of the cross.

She heard the word and she kept it – to the very end.

Some of the people we saw Jesus arguing with yesterday were powerful and influential in their society; they were the ‘great’ ones of that society. But they neither heard nor saw nor kept the word of God, although they claimed to be experts in it.

And even Jesus himself was not great just because of his powers over demons or his ability to silence his accusers but because he, too, heard the word of his Father and kept it. There was a total identity between what his Father wanted and what Jesus was saying and doing.

For us, too, it must be exactly the same. That is the only greatness that matters, the only greatness that we need be concerned about.

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