Saturday, November 21, 2015

On Mary: blessed is she who hears the word of God and keeps it


A. Mary's true blessedness

Today's Gospel reading in the 1962 missal is very short:
At that time, as Jesus was speaking to the multitudes, a certain woman from the crowd lifted up her voice and said to Him, Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts that nursed You. But He said, Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it. (Lk 11:27-28)
We know the name of the woman who bore Jesus in her womb and nursed Jesus with her breasts: Mary.  And for this her cousin Elizabeth called her blessed:
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit,s 42cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." (Lk 1:41-42)
These words of Elizabeth are what we repeat when we pray the Hail Mary:
Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou amongst women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
But Elizabeth added:
Blessed are you who believed* that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. (Lk 1:45)
Here, according to Christ, is where Mary's blessedness truly lies. As he told the woman who praised his mother:
Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it. (Lk 11:27-28)

B. When did Mary hear the word of God and keep it?

It is customary for Jews, men and women alike, to listen to the word of God in synagogues, .
In the Second Temple period women were religiously the equals of men: ancient Jewish sources from the land of Israel and from the Diaspora show that women frequented the synagogue and studied in the beit midrash (study hall). Women could be members of the quorum of ten needed to say the “Eighteen Benedictions”…and like men, women were permitted to say “Amen” in response to the priestly blessing.[1] (Patheos)
So we expect that Mary was in the synagogues, too. And she kept in her hearts the words of God as written in the Law and the Prophets.

But in the fullness of time, God sent an angel to Mary to announce the coming of the Messiah through her:
Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you....Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31n Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32o He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.... The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.q 36And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived* a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; 37for nothing will be impossible for God. (Lk 1:28-37)
Mary pondered on the angel's words. And she replied:
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Lk 1:38)
Mary kept the word of God in her heart as spoken by the angel. And the word of God came to fruition as the fruit in her womb, Jesus. Jesus is the Eternal Word of God, the Logos:
In the beginning* was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God... And the Word became flesh* and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:1-14)

When Jesus was born and became part of our history, Mary continued to ponder the words and actions of Christ and kept them all in her heart. Here are a two instances explicitly mentioned in the Gospel:
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. 17When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. 18All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. 19And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. (Lk 2:15-19)

When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” 49And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”* 50But they did not understand what he said to them. 51He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. (Lk 2:48-51)
C. Conclusion

Mary's true blessedness lies not so much in being the woman who bore Christ in her womb and nursed Him with her breasts, but rather in her hearing the word of God and keeping it, because the latter statement is the necessary condition for the former: without Mary's Yes to the angel's words, she won't be the Mother of Christ.  Throughout her life, Mary continued to ponder the words and actions of Christ as the Word of God, and kept all these in heart. May we, too, be like Mary, as we ponder on her life and that of Christ through the rosary.
Totus Tuus: A Consecration to Jesus Through Mary with Blessed John Paul II
Totus Tuus: A Consecration to Jesus Through Mary with Blessed John Paul II
The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: From the Visions of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich
The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary: From the Visions of Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich
The Synagogue Survival Kit: A Guide to Understanding Jewish Religious Services
Bits and Pieces Puzzle 500 Fully Interlocking Pieces. "In the Manger" Artist- Ruane Manning"
Bits and Pieces Puzzle 500 Fully Interlocking Pieces. "In the Manger" Artist- Ruane Manning"
Praying the Rosary with Pope Francis