At first glance, today’s Gospel sounds a little rude. I do totally love Jesus’ ideas, but sometimes he can come off as a little bit rude. Today someone says something nice about him and his mother. The woman compliments his divinity and suggests that the mother who bore and nursed him is likewise blessed. That sounds reasonable to me, but Jesus, instead of saying, “Thank you,” says, instead “those who hear the word of God and observe it are blessed.” But actually, these two statements might not be mutually exclusive. I think Jesus is not denying that he is blessed or denying that his mother should be blessed. But I think he is saying that it better to be a good role model. While Jesus certainly is blessed and worshipped, throughout the Gospels he seems to be trying harder to get people to follow his example than to worship him. Through his parables he tries to get people to think for themselves rather than blindly follow tradition. His mother certainly is blessed, but perhaps more important, she is a good role model.
The woman in the crowd indicates that Mary is blessed because she bore and nursed Jesus, but Jesus indicates that she is blessed because she made a difficult choice. When God spoke directly to her and asked her to bear the son of God – something that would bring her great joy but also great sorrow – she had a choice. She could say no. She could pretend she was not actually hearing God. How unbelievable must this have seemed? She was unmarried, hadn’t been with a man, but she’s told she will bear the son of God. Or she could say yes to a very huge undertaking. She heard the word of God and observed it. She dedicated her whole life and her whole being to it. She is blessed because of that. She is blessed not just because she bore Jesus, but because she chose to bear Jesus. She is blessed because she heard the word of God and observed it. And any of us can be likewise blessed if we hear the word of God and choose to observe it.
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