While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed." He replied, "Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it. (Luke 11:27-28)
Luke, in his previous paragraphs had shown us that Jesus as a prophet has set “his face to go to Jerusalem” and he is “on the way” to accomplishing his “death and lifting up” (9:51). As Jesus goes, he speaks the word of God to those around him and cures many diseases.
And a certain woman in the crowd observing the miracle he had performed, seeing Jesus casting out a devil, and being affected with his teachings lift up her voice, and said to him, aloud, in the hearing of all the people, and with great earnestness and fervor: "Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed."
It was a beautiful tribute first to Jesus himself but also to his mother. In more contemporary terms we might rephrase it as, “May God bless the woman that produced such a fine son as you!”
To us nowadays, the praise is a courteous and thankful exclamation! I remembered a couple of years ago, my daughter, Quynh, happened to represent the teenagers to read a reading in Vietnamese in the Easter Vigil Mass; after the Mass, many parishioners came over to praise her and asked, “How can you proclaim so well a reading! Are you born in Vietnam? Who teach you that?” Quynh just smiled and looked at us as a thank-you to answer them. There is no other compliment delighted than this. All of us seem to have the same feelings!
However, no matter how gorgeous a compliment is, it needs to reflect the truth. Jesus responses immediately to the woman, refocusing her comments to the core of his teachings: to listen to the word of God and observe it. You are blessed only when you do that.
There would be no surprise when Luke has reemphasized these fundamental teachings of Jesus in this paragraph. In previous paragraphs, the parable of the Good Samaritan and the story of Martha and Mary convey similar messages of listening to and acting like Jesus. Listening to the word of God has to be the first priority in our daily busy activities like the listening attitude of Mary and observe the commands of the law as the compassionate Samaritan has done to his injured Jewish enemy.
Furthermore, Jesus’ reply to the woman in fact offers the greatest praise to his mother. It is Mary who teaches us how to accept the Word of God, how to incarnate it, live it, deepen it, make it be born and grow, allow it to shape us, even when we do not understand it, or when it makes us suffer. This is the vision which Luke has Mary portrayed to us in his Gospel’s account.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, we all want to be blessed; the real blessings can only come through listening to God’s word and observing it. Let us come together in this Communion service with the same mind, spirit, and conviction that our Lord Jesus Christ has died for us and empowered us to live and listen to his word every moment of our live. Amen.
Deacon Vincent Thu Huu Dam