Tuesday September 24, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-fifth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13) Gospel (St. Luke 8:19-21)
This Gospel reading we just heard is one that is often brought up by people who do not like Our Lady to try to demonstrate that Jesus rebuked His mother, that He did not have any kind of special reverence for her, and therefore neither should we because He refused to acknowledge that she was His mother. That is not at all what happened. Jesus says that those who are His mother and His brothers are the ones who hear the word of God and keep it. Saint Elizabeth, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at the time that Our Lady came to visit, spoke very clearly and said, "Blessed is she who believed that the word of God spoken to her would be fulfilled." She heard the word of God and she kept it. That is right out of Scripture. And so, anyone who wants to suggest that somehow Our Lady was being rebuked in this is completely false. More than anyone, she is the one who heard the word of God and kept it.
But it is Our Lord's way of also letting us know that she is more blessed because of her spiritual maternity than her physical maternity. She is more blessed in her discipleship because she heard the word of God and kept it than she is in just simply being the mother of Jesus, which is obviously a great privilege. But to be the mother of Jesus, she could herself have somehow gone astray were it not for the grace of God keeping her on track. So what Our Lord is trying to point out is her fidelity to God's word - and, in fact, it is because of that fidelity to the word of God that she was able to give birth to the Word of God. She heard the word of God in her ears, she received it in her heart, and she consequently received Him physically in her womb. And so it is anything but a rebuke. It is simply stating the fact of how Our Lady is even greater because of her discipleship, because of her belief in what God had taught and what God had brought to her through the message of the angel. She is greater in that than she is in simply being a physical mother. She has the privilege of being both: she is not only the Mother of the Word of God, but she is the highest of all of the disciples of the Lord - the greatest, the most perfect, and the one who is higher than all the angels and the saints because, above all else, she received the word of God, she kept it, and she lived it perfectly.
In this way, Our Lord also opens things up for each one of us to tell us our relationship with Him, that if we want to be brothers and sisters of the Lord there is a requirement. That is, we must hear the word of God and keep it. We recall that some of those who were relatives of Our Lord (there is not a word in Aramaic for "cousins" so it is a broader term that they use: " brothers" - and that implies anybody who is a close relative), some of His brothers, His close relatives, thought He was crazy and they wanted to take Him away. These are people who may have been blood relatives but they did not believe. They heard the word of God and they rejected it. For us, then, we need to hear the word of God.
We have heard the word of God; we need now to keep it and we need to live it. We like to be able to call ourselves brothers and sisters of the Lord because we have the same Father, because we have the same mother, and therefore we are siblings of the Lord, but are we truly siblings of the Lord? Are we living the way He has taught us to live? Are we living as our mother has taught us to live? She is the one who teaches us and forms us into the very image and likeness of her Son. She is the one whom God allowed to form the Person of her Son with the grace of the Holy Spirit; therefore, she too is the one who will form us through the grace of the Holy Spirit into the image and likeness of her Son to become other Christs, to become true brothers and sisters of the Lord.
So what we need to be about is allowing ourselves to be formed, and the way we allow that is to listen to the word of God. Not only to listen to what we hear from the Scriptures, but to listen to the Word of God - that is, the Second Person of the Trinity - as He speaks in our hearts and He calls us to repentance, as He calls us to change our lives to be able to live lives of holiness in union with Himself. In this way, when we hear the word of God and keep it, then we can truly be the mother and the brothers of Our Lord.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.