Daily Readings for October 10, 2015
Sometimes, maybe even most of the time, Jesus has a little zing in his words. In today’s gospel Jesus is interrupted by a woman who says “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” Do you hear yourself in her words? I know I hear myself.
Here, let me rework her words to help draw out what I mean. This is what I hear in my head as I read these words. “You are so lucky. You had such good parents. You grew up in such a good home. Oh, if we all could have been so lucky.” Or put a little more bluntly, “Thank God you were raised to be holy, but that’s just not for me.”
What lies! Jesus was a child refugee and an itinerant rabbi who was rejected by his own. His cousin was beheaded for speaking the truth and he escaped near death on more than one occasion. He was constantly snubbed and interrogated by the elite of society. His charity, like ours can be, was likely taken advantage of. His disciples had a bad habit of misunderstanding him, never bringing food with them, abandoning him, denying him, and even betraying him to his death. So I’d hardly call him lucky, but I would call him persistent.
The woman in the crowd hit the mark that he gained something from his mother, but what he learned from his mother is captured in his, dare I say, snarky response. Jesus tells the woman, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Or to rework this one as well, “Excuses, excuses. Stop comparing yourself to others! Instead allow the word of God to be your measure and your guide. God will lead you, let Him.”
This is what I believe Jesus learned from Mary, and Jesus is telling us; telling you and me; that this perseverance, this holiness, is for us too. You and I are called to hear the Word of God and observe it. To hear the Lord in Scripture, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in our families and communities, and even in God’s creation. And then to observe it. This is not just for someone else. This is for all of us.
Sometimes we talk about the universal call to holiness as if it was a new idea from Vatican II, or even from St. Francis de Sales, but I think it was made clear as day in this passage. Here, we are looking at Jesus and saying “Thank God you were made to be holy.” And He is turning it around on us saying, “Not just me. You too. Listen to me and follow me and I will make you holy. Just stop making excuses.”