While he 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
Mary, Jesus’ mother and I, we kinda have this thing going on. My name, Maria, springs from my birth day, which falls on one of her feast days. My middle name is Regina. Maria Regina. My older siblings had a hard time with that when the baby came home.
As my spiritual life has grown, I’ve gotten to know Mary more closely and deeply as an intercessor and friend. And certainly as a fellow mother. When I first read this passage it stung a little bit. When the woman in the crowd said, “Blessed is your mother,” And Jesus said, “No, blessed are those that hear the Word of God and observe it,” I hurt for my friend Mary.
But then I realized that Jesus was just doing what she’d taught him to do. In motherhood we learn, over time, that as we prepare this young life to live in the fullness of whom God created him or her to be, we learn that it really isn’t about us as mothers. It’s about their lives. Oftentimes we project onto our kids what we would have them do, and maybe we take the way our kids behave as a reflection on us. “If I were a better mom, they wouldn’t have pulled that.” As people of faith, when we reflect on our role as mothers, we begin to see that it really isn’t about us. We resign ourselves to understanding that we did the best that we could with the information and resources we had available to us at the time. And then at some point, we have to gently and lovingly release these children to God. And trust that they’ll make good choices, and when they don’t that they’ll find their way back. But, find their way back not necessarily to what we would have them do, but to what they are created to be.
So here’s Jesus out on the road saying, “No, it’s not about my mom. It’s about all those who hear the Word of God and observe it.” Really, his mother was the first among us to hear the Word of God and observe it. Mary’s whole life was about pointing the way to God. It wasn’t about Mary, it was about her being the instrument of God, being a way by which God was brought more fully into the world. Mary prayed that beautiful prayer, the Magnificat, when she sees her cousin Elizabeth. That prayer is a statement of pure, beautiful, true humility.
We might think of humility as pushing away a compliment, or somehow lessening ourselves. Someone says to us, “Hey, I love that blouse!” and we reply, “Oh, this old thing; Got it at a resale shop.” We push aside the compliment instead of simply saying “Thank you.”
When Elizabeth sees Mary on the way and hears her voice, the baby within her leaps for joy. Elizabeth throws her arms around Mary and says, “Blessed am I that the mother of our Lord would come visit me.” Mary doesn’t say, “Aw shucks, forget about it.” Mary says, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my savior. He has looked on me in my lowliness, and all ages to come will call me blessed.”
Well, who does this little girl from Nazareth think she is? “All ages to come will call me blessed.” But she doesn’t say it in the spirit of: “Am I the bomb, or what?” She says it in spirit of: “Look what God has done for me? So of course all ages to come will call me blessed!”
It’s the exact opposite of the diva. You know the term “diva” gets kicked around these days. “Well, I’m a diva, I’ve got it going on.” And the diva performers, they get on stage, and it’s not about their music or the incredible voice they’ve been gifted with, it’s about how hard they’re working up on stage to bring it to the audience. Well, I’m sorry, it’s not about how hard you’re working—it’s about the tremendous talent you have. It is about you, sure, in your taking care of this instrument to shine it to the world—but get out of the way. Get out of the way, because it’s about your talent serving what God would do in this moment. And Mary was all over that. Mary was no diva. Mary was about how God was doing great things in her and for her and through her. So all praise to God, because God’s the source of it all and it’s coming through her and it’s going right back to God. That’s what Mary’s about.
So Mary points us to relationship with God, and with her son. Mary was the first example in Jesus’ life of what it meant to turn it all over to God. That little boy saw in his mom complete surrender, complete joy, and complete openness to God. And in that, in his humanity, his divinity rose up and was lived to its fullest. Mary was the first example to Jesus.
So Jesus was perfectly right to respond to this person and say, “It’s not about my mom. It’s about those that hear the Word and observe it. And my mom was just the first. Blessed are you who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Mary carried all these mysteries in her heart as she raised that boy. I think part of Mary’s witness for us is that her life didn’t change. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her of these great things that would happen to her, she was already engaged to Joseph. She’d already planned to make a home, to raise a child. And so the circumstances of her life didn’t change at all. And yet, she spoke that great “yes” that changed the world.
And so we are invited to speak that same yes. It’s not about the circumstances of our lives, having to make some bold, dramatic, great change when we say yes to God. But it’s about saying yes right where we are. And in that yes, our lives will be transformed. In that yes, the lives of everyone we meet will be impacted, because we will be living out of that love of God. We will be as Mary has been called “the reed of God.” The reed is that part of a wind instrument that you blow through to create the music. Carol Houselander’s book by this name has wonderful reflections on Mary as the reed of God. We are invited too, to be a reed of God. To be that through which the life of God flows –that love, compassion, healing, mercy, joy and peace—into this world. Mary knew that deep joy, she lived out of that deep love. And she taught her son well.