October 8th, 2022 – Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
Today’s very brief Gospel, two verses, is taken from Luke’s Gospel, and we can see clearly two parts. First, as Saint Bede explains, we hear a woman boldly confess Jesus’ incarnation: “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Yet, Jesus replies with what might seem like a startling reply: “He replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.’” We can consider two lessons here: first, that Christ doesn’t mean to diminish Mary, and, second, that we really need to put the Gospel into practice in our lives.
Regarding the first, it is clear that Christ’s words are not meant to diminish Mary at all; indeed, we can think of her great joys at carrying the Word Incarnate in her womb, as is clearly seen in the Visitation. Likewise, to be the one responsible for feeding and protecting the Child Jesus is also a great honor. Truly Mary can be called blessed above and beyond all other men and women because of these graces.
However, as Saint John Chrysostom notes, Christ is making a point: he writes “In this answer He sought not to disown His mother, but to show that His birth would have profited her nothing, had she not been really fruitful in works and faith.” In other words, what makes Mary blessed isn’t simply that she gave birth to the Savior. It’s not just a physical relationship with Christ that brings holiness and blessedness; what makes for holiness is putting God’s word into practice. Indeed, this is the point that Saint John Chrysostom makes as he continues commenting by saying: “But if it profited Mary nothing that Christ derived His birth from her, without the inward virtue of her heart, much less will it avail us to have a virtuous father, brother, or son, while we ourselves are strangers to virtue.”
This leads to our second point: we really need to not only hear the word, but also to put it into practice. This is what makes for holiness. Again, it’s not simply belonging to a particular family (or even religious family) that makes us saints: to quote a priest: “The Constitutions, the Directories, and the Regulations don’t give perseverance. Holy superiors don’t give perseverance. Virtuous colleagues don’t give perseverance. Docile subjects don’t give perseverance. Assignments that we think are better don’t give perseverance. Having orthodox doctrine doesn’t give perseverance. Our orthopraxis doesn’t give perseverance.” None of these things, by itself, is enough to ensure eternal blessedness. To really be blessed, meaning, blessed forever in heaven, we need grace (because final perseverance, eternal blessedness, is a grace) and we need to do our part, which is not only to hear God’s word, meaning, His commandments in the general and also in the specifics of my life and vocation. It is this which makes a person blessed, not having particular friends or family members.
Today, we can ask ourselves: how seriously do we take the work of our salvation? Do we simply sit back and let others work around us, or do we really strive to put the word into practice in our own lives?
Let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Christ, for the grace to really listen for God’s word in our lives and follow through with what He asks of us.