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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Luke 11, 27-28

It happened that as he was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, 'Blessed the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you!'

But he replied, 'More blessed still are those who hear the word of God and keep it!'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

If you believe, you will see the glory of God,
thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

As often happens in the Gospels, Jesus is speaking to the crowds, teaching them the path to salvation. As usual, everyone was astonished and amazed by the words coming out of his mouth. In another part of the Gospel it is written that Jesus “spoke with authority and not like the scribes.” This astonishment makes a woman cry out from the crowd: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” It is a very short passage from Luke’s Gospel. But its spontaneity underlines the essential dimension of a believer’s life, a dimension that is extraordinarily clear in Mary’s attitude. By praising Mary, the woman in the crowd was trying to express her admiration for Jesus. But nonetheless, she was speaking from the perspective of a worldly way of thinking, according to which everything happens naturally. It is a temptation to which we ourselves can easily fall victim: it is easy to believe that everything depends on a person’s personality and social environment, that is, on his or her nature, abilities, and the means he or she has available. It is not so. And Jesus corrects this woman. True blessedness, Jesus affirms, does not come from letting ourselves be guided by spontaneity, by our instincts, our natural inclinations, or by our personality, but from our ability to listen to the Word of God. That is why he responds to the woman by saying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” And thus he reveals the true blessedness of Mary, his mother. Having listened to the Word of God communicated to her by the angel, she, in fact, was able to participate in God’s great plan of love for the world as the Mother of the Son. Paradoxically, if Mary had not given her consent, God would have had to choose another way to save humanity. It is the extraordinary - and even terrible - mystery of a love that accepts the risk of human freedom. God’s love bound itself to the risks of human freedom. There is no love without freedom, both in giving and in accepting. Those who accept the love that God freely offers are made part of God’s saving plan. That is why we must rediscover the centrality of listening in our lives as believers. The Word of God does not come from the world’s wisdom; indeed it is the Word that engenders a new wisdom, heals sickened lives, restores peace, and converts hearts. Yes, listening to and living the word makes us children of God and brothers and sisters of each other, or rather, brothers and sisters of all of humanity, as Charles de Foucauld was fond of saying.

Sunday Vigil