I’m a big fan of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to regard her not just as an ally and an intercessor, but as a model of everything I want to be: loving, resilient, and strong.
So the first several times I heard this Gospel, I found myself feeling defensive on Mary’s behalf . . . and defensive towards her son, of all people. After all, the unnamed woman in the crowd calls out a blessing on Mary, and Jesus seems to dismiss it. He doesn’t do what the woman does and single his mother out for special praise; instead, he deflects the blessing and sends it back. (Luke 11:28)
At first, I wanted Jesus to respond differently. I wanted Him to say, You got that right! My mom IS the best! No one else even comes close! (After all, that’s exactly what I’d want my own sons to say.)
But I’ve since realized that Jesus’ response is not what I thought it was. It is not a diss against Mary. It’s Jesus doing what Jesus does best: broadening the circle.
By redirecting the woman’s blessing, Jesus shows that God’s work is not just done by a select few. Only one person could be His mother, but every person on Earth can hear the Word of God and follow it. Mary was called in her own special way, but Jesus' statement shows us that what makes her blessed is that she heard the word of God and followed it, an opportunity we all have.
I’m not sure we always believe this. We humans are pretty good at seeing others as more special than we are. Oh, that person is holier than I am because he’s a priest. That woman is holier because she has eight kids, and I only have one. That person is holier because she hasn’t made the mistakes I’ve made. And on, and on, and on.
This Gospel is a useful lesson that while we humans tend to have a narrow view of the world, Jesus has a wide one. We don’t need to be the mother of Jesus to be special. In fact, we don’t need to be a mother at all. We can be of any age, race, gender, shape; we can be single or married or religious; we can be artists or athletes or accountants or anything else.
Listen to God’s word, Jesus says, and follow it. And whoever you are: be blessed.
Ginny Kubitz Moyer is a mother, high school English teacher, and BBC period drama junkie. She is the author of Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood and Mary and Me: Catholic Women Reflect on the Mother of God. Ginny lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two boys, and about thirty thousand Legos. You can find out more about her here.