Hearing and Observing the Word of God like Mary, 27th Saturday (II), October 8, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass for the Priest Himself on the Anniversary of his Ordination
(18th Anniversary of My Diaconal Ordination)
October 8, 2016
Gal 3:22-29, Ps 105, Lk 11:27-28

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • In today’s Gospel, an anonymous woman from the crowd sought to praise Jesus’ mother Mary. “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed!,” she called out. If any womb was blessed, it was the immaculate womb of Mary of Nazareth that housed for nine months the Creator and Savior of the world. If any breasts were blessed, it would have been those who nursed and fed the one who gives us each day our daily bread. But Jesus wasn’t going to limit the praise of the mother whom he daily honored to her inimitable physical bonds to the Son of God made man. He replied to the woman by highlighting a far greater source of blessing, something that each and every one of us not only can emulate but is called to emulate: “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” The profoundest source of Mary’s beatitude was her faithful listening and response to God in her life. St. Athanasius described that before Mary had ever conceived the Word of God in her womb, she had already conceived Him in her heart through faith. So many medieval depictions of the Annunciation and the miraculous virginal conception of Jesus in the Incarnation show the Holy Spirit entering through Mary’s ears, to highlight just this faith. In a parallel scene, when Mary had come to see him together with many of his cousins from Nazareth, they told Jesus inside a crowded house where he was teaching and healing that his mother and relatives were outside waiting for him. Taking advantage of the teaching moment, he replied, ““Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:46-50). Mary is the paradigm of all those who do the will of God the Father, who hear what he asks and who act on it. To be a true brother or sister of Jesus in the family he came from heaven to earth to found, it’s not really enough just to be baptized, although that’s an essential start. We also have to listen to him as he describes for us the will of God and then, just as he did, say, mean and lovingly do the words “Thy will be done!”
  • When we look at the first reading today, we see one way in which so many Catholics in our part of the United States have historically failed to hear and do the word of God as it was announced through the doctor of the nations. St. Paul tells the Galatians and through them us, “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” The reality of baptism is meant to become the strongest bond in our life, to see that we are all equally beloved sons and daughters of God the Father, and that this reality is meant to be stronger than our ethnicity, stronger than our cultural upbringing, stronger than sex, stronger than any and all other social distinctions. But that’s not what happened in the building of the Church in so many other major cities that were populated by Catholics 100-150 years ago. We didn’t hear the Word of God as announced by St. Paul and we didn’t observe it. Even though in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, we thought that there was Irish, French-Canadian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Lithuanian and more. Even though Mass was celebrated in Latin, we wouldn’t worship together. So many thought that their ethnic differences were more important than their baptismal identity and similarities. That’s one of the reasons why we’re having to close so many Churches today, because we have had a surplus of Churches tailoring to individual ethnic groups rather than tailoring to all the Catholics in a particular geographical area. This system of “national,” “personal” or “ethnic” parishes didn’t happen because poor immigrants came and just wanted to do something themselves. It happened because they didn’t find the welcome from the Catholic groups that were already here, such that they needed to fend for themselves. The Church didn’t work together, but rather in many cases competed against each other. It happened because they were not truly hearing the word of God and acting on it, especially his word about the importance of the Christian unity for which he prayed during the Last Supper, and about how in him, the distinctions among us are far smaller than what unites us.
  • Today is the 18th anniversary of the diaconal ordination of my many classmates and me at St. Peter’s in the Vatican. At our ordination, Cardinal Edmund Szoka placed the Book of the Gospel in our hands, and said to us, “Receive the Word of God whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Those four verbs are so important not just for deacons but for all Christians. We need to receive this Word of God as a tremendous treasure. To believe it. To pass it on. And to put it into practice. That’s what Mary did. That’s what she wants to help us to do.
  • Today as we come to this Mass today, we seek to say with Mary, “Let it be done to me according to your word!” We seek with Mary to act on the Word that has been announced to us, by lovingly obeying it and allowing it to lead us to true communion in this world and forever. Our model always is Jesus, the Word made flesh, whom we ask to give us the grace to allow his word to take flesh in us just as it did in Mary’s womb and life.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
gal 3:22-29

Brothers and sisters:
Scripture confined all things under the power of sin,
that through faith in Jesus Christ
the promise might be given to those who believe.
Before faith came, we were held in custody under law,
confined for the faith that was to be revealed.
Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ,
that we might be justified by faith.
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.
For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free person,
there is not male and female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants,
heirs according to the promise.

Responsorial Psalm
ps 105:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

R. (8a) The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. The Lord remembers his covenant for ever.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
lk 11:27-28

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.”
virgin-birth