Not who you are but what you do – Saturday, 27th week in ordinary time – Luke 11:27-28

This text is similar to Matthew 12:48-50 in which Jesus is teaching in a crowded packed home and someone tells Jesus that his mother and brothers are standing outside waiting to talk to him. Jesus replies, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” He points to the disciples and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”  

What do we make of Jesus’ reaction here in the Gospel of Luke? It show Jesus speaking sternly. He risks being blunt with the woman in the crowd and dismissive of his mother. Looking at the text in context this woman seems to have expressed the popular feeling. The crowds who had seen the great miracles and heard the Master’s wise and skilful reply were evidently impressed with the wisdom as with the power of this famous Rabbi.

The woman in the crowd is blown away with who Jesus is and got carried away by a moment of emotion and she shouts out a blessing to what she assumes must be a very special mother. But to Jesus there is something within those words that needs to be addressed so Jesus pulled her back to reality.

Luke’s Gospel is full of blessings, especially in the infancy narrative of the first two chapters. All kinds of people; Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon, Anna – know themselves to be blessed on account of a child to be born.

In this text Jesus responds unexpectedly, not downgrading Mary, but pointing to the source of her blessedness, as her cousin Elizabeth did at the Visitation (Luke 1:42) In that sense he is not denying the blessedness of his mother but making a bigger point; “blessed rather” are the hearers and keepers of God’s word.

The meaning of the Greek term “rather” (menoun) is unclear. It appears four times in the New Testament but here it is used as a corrective; “yes, but rather.” Jesus agrees with the woman’s blessing identifying his mother as an example of one who hears God’s word and obeys it, but there is also a greater blessing available to those who believe.

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