In Search of True Blessedness
October 9, 2021 (readings)
- Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
- Fr. John Bartunek, LC
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.”
Opening Prayer: So many thoughts and feelings swirl within me, Lord, as I approach you. But you are the anchor of my heart. I turn away from the noise and put my attention on you, my Savior, my King, my Friend, my All. Speak to me, Lord, and hear the longings of my heart that I don’t even know how to express.
Blessedness: Jesus began his first homily, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, with this shining word: Blessed. Blessedness is the biblical word for vibrant, lasting happiness. God blesses us, and we receive his blessing, and our lives take on the vitality and meaning they were meant to have. To be blessed is to live in the light of God’s love and from the power of God’s wisdom. All the philosophers and founders of religions throughout human history have sought the path to blessedness, though they have at times used different words. It is a universal human desire to be blessed, to live life to the full now and forever. Whenever we ask for a blessing or give a blessing, it is this we pray for: that God may touch our hearts and minds in a new, fresh way, so that our lives can grow in all that truly matters and fully satisfies. Christianity, our religion, the one fully true religion, is built on God’s desire to fulfill our desire to live a blessed life. May God be praised for opening the gates to blessedness!
True Blessedness: Christ’s words and presence moved this woman in the crowd so deeply that she couldn’t hold back her joy and amazement, so she cried out, Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed! Something about Jesus captured her heart and filled her soul with hope, joy, and love, so that it overflowed in this beautiful compliment, in this affirmation of the truly extraordinary goodness–greatness–of Jesus. By proclaiming his mother blessed, she was proclaiming him to be magnificent. Jesus heard the compliment, and surely it must have pleased him to see someone moved so deeply by his message. Yet, he wanted to bring this woman even further along the path of enlightenment. He wanted her not only to admire and enjoy him but to follow him. He wanted her not only to perceive his infinite goodness but to participate in that goodness herself. So, he took up her exclamation, Blessed is the womb…, and he elevated it. Natural happiness is one thing, but everlasting happiness is much, much more. And the latter springs not only from natural bonds and natural goodness, like that of motherhood and sonship, but from a supernatural communion with God. Jesus points out the sole path to that dynamic and fulfilling communion: Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it. To hear God’s word and heed it; to discover God’s will and embrace it; to begin to see oneself, others, and the world as God does and to act in accordance with that spiritual insight: This is how we grow in intimacy with Christ and increase our experience of everything that gives true and lasting meaning to our lives. In this response of Our Lord, we hear an echo of what he taught us in the Our Father: Thy Kingdom come; Thy will be done… If we consistently embrace and fulfill God’s will in our lives, we will consistently experience the peace and joy of his Kingdom.
Mary’s Greatness: Jesus’s correction of this listener’s exclamation may strike us as harsh. After all, the womb that bore him and the breasts at which he fed are those of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the greatest of saints. Maybe Jesus should have accepted the compliment more graciously in her honor. And yet, in pointing out the source of true and lasting blessedness, Jesus actually intensified the compliment given to his mother. Yes, Mary was blessed simply because of the gifts she was offered, but she achieved true blessedness by how she received those gifts: humbly, obediently, courageously. Mary is the first and best Christian, the one who “heard God’s word and obeyed it” to an incomparably marvelous degree. She is the first of Christ’s followers and the one who can best teach us Christian discipleship. Elsewhere in his Gospel, St. Luke describes beautifully how Mary consistently responded to God’s action in her life: But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19). She was continually hearing God’s word as it was spoken through all the events of her daily life, and she continually obeyed that loving word by nourishing her heart on it and fulfilling all that the Lord asked of her. That, truly, is the path of abundant life, of blessedness. May God grant each of us the grace to follow it.
Conversing with Christ: I too rejoice in your goodness, Lord, and in the abundant banquet of truth and beauty that you have laid out for me through the gift of faith. I bless you, Lord, and I beg you for your blessing! You know how hard it can be for me to hear your word, to listen to your quiet and respectful voice amid so much noise and dissonance. Help me, I beg you, Lord! Help me to hear and heed your word, to love your will as the place where our friendship grows, to follow Mary’s example of treasuring up all the gifts you give me and pondering them constantly in my heart.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will take stock of how well I am embracing and fulfilling your will by taking a few minutes to reread the Ten Commandments, to write out the current duties of my state in life, to list the challenging circumstances of my life, and to listen quietly to whatever insistent inspirations your Holy Spirit has been whispering into my heart. Thy Kingdom come, my Lord, Thy will be done!
For Further Reflection: Watch this short Spiritual Smoothie on What Is God’s Will?
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