MEANNESS IS NOT AN ATTRIBUTE OF A ‘BROTHER, SISTER OR MOTHER’ OF JESUS
First Reading: Proverbs 21:1-6,10-13
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 118(119):1,27,30,34-35,44
Gospel Reading: Luke 8:19-21
In his “Spiritual thoughts,” St. Joseph Marello (the founder of the Oblates of St. Joseph) expresses: “Meanness does not enter heaven.” Where meanness could mean: wickedness, perversity, malignancy, unkindness, spitefulness, or unfairness, etc. The expression was so direct and explicit that it calls the faithful to root out all forms of meanness and embrace virtue in order to achieve heaven. Today, we are faced with a similar exhortation from the book of Proverbs with the theme: “On wickedness and virtue,” which corresponds with Jesus’ depiction of those who do His Father’s Will as His mother and brothers.
To begin with, the Book of Proverbs (where today’s first reading is taken from) is a wide collection of maxims and sentences independent of each other, without any kind of ideological thread, where the wisdom of the various generations of Israel is deposited. Its aim is to make every Israelite a true man: strong, self-controlled, inwardly free, hardworking, skilful, loyal, acquisition of virtues, uprooting wickedness and evil, etc.; in fact, it is the basis for being. The virtues suggested in today’s first reading are the usual ones – justice, charity, humility, hard work towards a good end, etc. Here, the author reminds his audience that “acting virtuously and with justice is more pleasing to the Lord than sacrifice.” He then goes on to elaborate the attitudes and vices in relation to meanness/wickedness: haughty eye, proud heart, a lying tongue, mocker, intent on evil, shutting the ear against the poor man’s cry. He then concludes by saying that The Just One hurls the wicked to destruction, and even when they cry to God, they shall not be heard.
A proper understanding of the antecedent could serve as a preparatory ground in understanding Christ’s yardstick for becoming part of His family (as His mother, brothers, and sisters) in today’s gospel reading. Here, he said: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” Put differently, living out God’s Word that we hear is the definition of acting virtuously and justly. These virtues and attitudes tend to produce the miracle of becoming Jesus’ mother, brothers and sisters, as opposed to meanness – wickedness, perversity, malignancy, unkindness, spitefulness, or unfairness, etc., which has no place in the family of Jesus.
Dear friends in Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary is the model of how the Word is heard and accepted. The beatitude: “Blessed is the one who believed that what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1:45), is the first beatitude that echoes in the Gospel through the lips of Elizabeth who was filled with the Holy Spirit, and descends on the Blessed Virgin Mary; it is the beatitude of faith, which welcomes the Word of God and adheres to it with all life. It is the bliss that Jesus will one day proclaim: “Blessed… those who listen to the Word of God and put it into practice!” (Lk 11:28); it is the “best part” that Mary of Bethany chose, seated at the feet of the Lord, listening to his Word, and which will not be taken away from her (cf. Lk 10: 38-42). Just as Mary listened to the Word, put it into practice (her fiat) and then became a Mother, the same can happen to us today. It can make us acquire the dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary because we will generate Christ in us by doing the Will of the Father.
Therefore, it is not enough to listen to the Word, it is necessary to keep it and put it into practice, as the Virgin Mary did: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). Likewise, “Be of those who put the word into practice – exhorts St. James – and not just listeners, deceiving yourselves.” (Jas. 1:22). True “listening to the Word” takes place when one loves, not in words, but “in deeds and in truth” (1Jn 3:18). For this reason, we must continue to pray like today’s Psalmist: “Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands, for there is my delight. I shall always keep your law forever and ever.”
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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