Saturday of the Twenty-seventh Week in Ordinary Time
“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.”
Reading 1 GAL 3:22-29
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
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.
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.
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.
Alleluia LK 11:28
Blessed are those who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, 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.”
“Blessed is the womb that carried you….”
Commentary on Gal 3:7-14 From Living Space
Paul continues today explaining the concept of justification by faith.
Tellingly he goes right back to Abraham, who was understood to be the physical and spiritual father of the Jewish race. Everyone whose life is based on faith in God’s word is a child of Abraham. [It is significant that Matthew, writing for Jews, traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham, while Luke, writing for Gentiles, traces it back to Adam.]
Abraham was understood as the physical and spiritual father of the Jewish race (see, for example, John 8:31,33,39,53). Hence, Jews are also referred to as the “seed” or “descendants” of Abraham.
But now, Paul says that all believers – both Jews and Gentiles – are his spiritual children. The offspring of Abraham are all those whose lives are based on faith rather than external observance of the Law. And so Jesus can say that Zacchaeus the sinful tax collector, after his change of heart following his meeting with Jesus, is truly a “son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9).
Paul sees this already foretold in the book of Genesis when God told Abram to leave his country and become a great nation. At that time God had said: “In you all nations will be blessed” (Gen 12:3).
Abraham is constantly presented as the archetype of the man of total faith in God. Several times, against all logic and reason, he trusted in God’s promises and was not disappointed. Now Paul says that all those who have a similar faith in God will receive the same blessings as Abraham. And it is faith and not observance of external laws which brings this about.
On the contrary, Paul sees the keeping of the Law as a kind of curse. Some think that God can be won around, that they can “earn” salvation, by their scrupulous keeping of rules. But the book of Deuteronomy (quoted here by Paul) says that all are cursed who do not persevere in observing everything prescribed in the Law. Paul is clearly arguing that, as no one can possibly do that without failing in some degree, this curse cannot be avoided. The letter of James tells us that “whoever keeps the whole of the Law but fails in one has become accountable for all of it” (Jas 2:10). (As Catholics, we also taught that committing just one ‘mortal sin’ against just one commandment – e.g. deliberately missing Mass on Sunday – would earn eternal punishment.)
Further, observance of the Law is not the means by which we are put right by God, because (and again Paul quotes from the Old Testament) “the righteous man lives by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). In fact, the original text said by “faithfulness”. Paul is following the Greek Septuagint where the Hebrew ‘faithfulness’ is rendered by ‘faith’. Of course faithfulness is derived from faith.
Paul’s argument here and, at greater length in Romans, can be summarised as follows:
The Law gives information – it does not give spiritual strength. No law, whether Mosaic or otherwise, not even the primordial command given to Adam, can prevent sin, in fact law makes it worse:
- because, though law is not the source of sin, it becomes the instrument of sin by arousing concupiscence;
- because by informing the mind it increases the fault, which becomes a conscious ‘transgression’
- because the only remedy the law can offer is punishment, curse, condemnation, death; hence it can be called the ‘law of sin and death. (Jerusalem Bible, commenting on Rom 7:7ff).
Paul then, in his usual dramatic way, turns the tables. Those who had become cursed by their constant failure to keep the Law can be rescued and liberated by Christ who himself became an object of curse by dying for us on the tree of the cross. Paul clarifies this by quoting from Deuteronomy, “Cursed be everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Deut 21:23).
In this way, the blessing of Abraham, promised to “all nations” in Genesis, is realised for all, Jew and Gentile alike. By bypassing the mere observance of the Law, we are all filled with the Spirit through faith, our unconditional throwing of ourselves into the loving arms of our God. What Paul tells the Galatians is true for us, too.
Of course, we Christians do not now follow the Jewish law – or do we? When asked what is specific to their religion, many Catholics will say “the 10 commandments”. And a “good” Catholic is one who keeps the Ten Commandments and the “commandments of the Church” (though they are often rather vague as to what these are). But Paul would strenuously deny that.
The Ten Commandments belong primarily to the Old Testament and to observe them, however faithfully, does not make one a Christian at all. We remember the rich man who was called to follow Jesus. He said he had kept the Commandments perfectly all his life. It was not enough. He had to reach out in love to those in need by sharing his wealth. This he could not do and went away (Mark 10:22).
As Paul emphasises, the essence of our Christianity is our faith in the Way of Christ; it is the only source of life. Keeping the commandments is not the condition for our being saved. In fact, it is only when we are under the saving power of the Spirit of Jesus that we can begin to keep the Commandments. For the true Christian the Commandments are almost irrelevant. The Christian is measured by one law only and that is the law of love (agape, ‘agaph). When one keeps that commandment – to love other as Jesus has loved us – all other obligations are taken care of. “Love and do what you like,” St Augustine is supposed to have said.
The power of love comes from faith in Jesus and the exercise of that love is the measure of our closeness to him. “As often as you do it to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to Me” (Matt 25:40). So, as Christians, we are to be measured not by how well we keep commandments and rules but by the strength of the love that binds us to God and our brothers and sisters.
Jesus Mary and Joseph. Photo credit New Line Cinema www.thenativitystory.com
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
Commentary on Luke 11:27-28
Is today’s short passage linked to yesterday’s, because it begins, “Now as Jesus was speaking…”?
After Jesus has effectively silenced his opponents and their ridiculous accusations, a woman cries out from the surrounding crowd: “Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!” It was a beautiful tribute first to Jesus himself but also to his mother (someone, presumably, totally unknown to the speaker). In more contemporary terms we might rephrase it as, “May God bless the woman that produced such a fine son as you!” This woman is clearly one of the crowd that has been amazed at the work that Jesus is doing in contrast to the cynical unbelievers who want to destroy Jesus.
And, indeed, we on a very different level do recognise the extraordinary privilege that was Mary’s to be the Mother of God’s only Son. We pray to Mary, “Blessed are you among women.”
But Jesus turns the woman’s words around. “Still happier are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Greatness in God’s eyes lies not in gifts and privileges that have been granted but in the response that is given to God.
The true source of Mary’s greatness was not in her being chosen to be Jesus’ mother, nor even in her preservation from original sin but in that unconditional ‘Yes’ she gave to the angel at the Annunciation. A ‘Yes’ she faithfully honoured to the day she stood in grief at the foot of the cross. She heard the word and she kept it – to the very end.
Some of the people we saw Jesus arguing with yesterday were powerful and influential in their society; they were the ‘great’ ones of that society. But they neither heard nor saw nor kept the word of God, although they claimed to be experts in it.
And even Jesus himself was not great just because of his powers over demons or his ability to silence his accusers but because he, too, heard the word of his Father and kept it. There was a total identity between what his Father wanted and what Jesus was saying and doing.
For us, too, it must be exactly the same. That is the only greatness that matters, the only greatness that we need be concerned about.
Reflection.Today’s Gospel is very brief, but it has a very important significance in the Gospel of Luke in general. It gives us the key to understand what Luke teaches regarding Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in theso called Gospel of the Infancy (Lk 1 and 2)..• Luke 11, 27: The exclamation of the woman. “At that time as Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said: “Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you!” The creative imagination of some apocryphal books suggests that the woman was a neighbour of Our Lady, there in Nazareth. She had a son called Dimas, who with other boys of Galilee at that time, went to war with the Romans, was made a prisoner and killed at the side of Jesus. He was the good thief (Lk 23, 39-43). His mother, having heard about the good that Jesus did to people, remembered her neighbour, Mary, and said: “Mary must be very happy to have such a son!”
• Luke 11, 28: The response of Jesus. Jesus responds, giving the greatest praise to his mother: “More blessed still are those who hear the word of God and keep it”. Luke speaks little about Mary: here (Lk 11, 28) and in the Gospel of the infancy (Lk 1 and 2). For him, Luke, Mary is the Daughter of Sion, image of the new People of God. He represents Mary as the model for the life of the communities. In Vatican Council II, the document prepared on Mary was inserted in the last chapter of the document Lumen Gentium on the Church. Mary is the model for the Church. And especially in the way in which Mary relates with the Word of God, Luke considers her as an example for the life of the communities: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it”.
Mary 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 is subjacent in the Gospel of the Infancy (Lk 1 and 2). The key to understand these two chapters is given to us by today’s Gospel: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” Let us see in these chapters how Mary enters into relationship with the Word of God.
a) Luke 1, 26-38:
The Annunciation: “Let it happen to me as you have said!”
To know how to open oneself, to accept the Word of God so that it becomes incarnate.
b) Luke 1, 39-45:
The Visitation: “Blessed is she who has believed!”
To know how to recognize the Word of God in a visit and in many other facts of life.
c) Luke 1, 46-56:
The Magnificat: “The Lord has done great things for me!”
To recognize the Word in the story of the people and sing a song of resistance and hope.
d) Luke 2, 1-20:
The Birth of Our Lord: “She pondered all these things in her heart!”
There was no place for them. The marginalized accept the Word.
e) Luke 2, 21-32:
The Presentation: “My eyes have seen the salvation!”
The many years of life purify the eyes.
f) Luke 2, 33-38:
Simeon and Anna: “A sword will pierce your soul too!”
To accept and incarnate the Word in life, to be a sign of contradiction.
g) Luke 2, 39-52:
At twelve years old in the Temple: “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
They did not understand what he meant!
h)Luke 11, 27-28:
The praise to the mother: “Blessed the womb that bore you!”
Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.
• Do you succeed in discovering the Word of God in your life?
• How do you live devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus?
Sing to him, make music for him,
recount all his wonders!
Glory in his holy name,
let the hearts that seek Yahweh rejoice! (Ps 105,2-3)
There is no peace in the world because there is no peace within us. When we are prisoners of sin, we cannot find peace. “Scripture makes no exceptions when it says that sin is master everywhere.” St Paul also wrote, “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21) Indeed, when we are ruled by sin, we live under the bondage of the Evil One and our passions that cause us to hurt ourselves and our loved ones.
So how does the world attempt to preserve peace and unity among peoples? Through the institution of laws! Laws are necessary to ensure that men and women respect each other and if they break the permitted boundaries, they will be punished accordingly. So the laws are enacted to ensure the protection of the individual. For this reason, no institution, secular or religious, government or corporate can do without the laws. We have laws against the use of drugs, irresponsible driving, excessive gambling, and infidelities. To ensure that justice also prevails in the Church, we have Canon Law.
Laws have its value when we are still ignorant. They are given to us so that we know what is right or wrong. Without the laws, we might not do what is evil. Laws are given to help us to distinguish between good and evil. To that extent when given by God they reveal His will and provide the guidelines for harmonious and just relationships between one another. Of course, not all laws enacted are good, especially civil laws, because they are not always enlightened. This is particularly true today in a world of relativism and secularism. Civil laws do not always live up to the perfection of truth and love. Hence, some civil laws, out of recognition of the weaknesses of men, permit certain levels of “immoral” lifestyle, such as divorce, abortion, gambling and pornography.
But laws have limits because they are written on tablets. They cannot modify the state of the person. Laws are meant for those who are still weak, rebellious and young; not for the strong and disciplined. So although the laws, even those given by God in the Old Testament, are good, holy and righteous, they cannot impart spiritual life or love. They cannot make a person morally upright. Instead, he becomes a slave, fearful of breaking the laws because of punishment rather than because of love of others. Even for those who can fulfill the laws, they can become prideful, self-righteous and lacking mercy and compassion for the weak.
So more than just the laws, salvation is through grace. “Before faith came, we were allowed no freedom by the Law; we were being looked after till faith was revealed. The Law was to be our guardian until the Christ came and we could be justified by faith.” The only way to heal and restore man is not just to provide the laws but to give him the capacity to observe them. What we need is not just the map but the ability and strength as well. This strength to observe the laws must come from love. When there is love, we can observe everything freely and generously. Jesus is our justification because He is the love of God made tangible for us. In Jesus, we no longer do things to please God or earn His favour, but motivated by the Spirit of God’s love in us. Salvation is through the forgiveness of sins won by Christ Jesus for us. In faith, we only have to accept God’s forgiveness in Christ through baptism and the reception of the Holy Spirit. In giving us the Holy Spirit, He gives us the power to obey His Father, freely and joyfully.
In the gospel, we are reminded that Mary too is the work of grace. She was chosen to be the Mother of the Saviour, not on her account of a good life but by the grace of God. She was full of grace and favoured by the Lord. For this reason, Jesus told the woman in her outburst that the cause for her joy must go beyond biological motherhood to spiritual motherhood. “Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!” In a certain sense, we all have been graced with the gift of sonship and daughtership through our baptism. But grace given must also be received.
How do we know that we have received this grace? Through obedience to the laws! What Jesus extolled in the gospel was not kinship or connection with Him through biological or genealogical ties but obedience to the Word of God. Having received His grace, we must cooperate with His Word so that the grace of God can grow and flower in us. Mary was chosen to be the Mother of God by grace. However, she was not contented to be chosen; she allowed the grace of God to work through her each day as she responded faithfully to the Word of God in obedience to His divine will. Her life was one of fiat and docility to God’s commandments. Loved by God unconditionally, Mary in return surrendered her entire life to God’s plan, which included the giving up of her only Son on the cross.
The responsorial psalm reminds us that God has chosen us all. He has made His covenant with us. It is His will that we become His sons and daughters because we are created for Him. We are the Chosen People of God and members of His family. “O children of Abraham, his servant, O sons of the Jacob he chose. He, the Lord, is our God: his judgements prevail in all the earth.” So in faith, let us follow Mary and St Paul in claiming our privilege as God’s children in grace and in gratitude demonstrate in our lives that we have been truly saved by grace. Let us not receive the grace of God in vain.
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