Saturday of the Twenty-Seventh Week in Ordinary Time
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By JENNIFER BURGIN
While Jesus was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”
Today, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Pope John XXIII and the commemoration of the opening of the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962. Pope John XXIII was a loving and humble pontiff who advocated for human rights of the unborn as well as the elderly. Having lived through both World War I and II, he saw discrimination and suffering first hand. He is a perfect example of Jesus' invitation to hear the word of God and observe it. As pontiff, he felt the need to begin a comprehensive reform of the Church, modernizing the liturgy with more active roles for the laity. This was quite a progressive initiative. If only Saint John XXIII had lived long enough to see the fruits of his godly work. He would have been pleased.
In a prophetic light, especially relevant to October's Extraordinary Synod on the Family, Saint John XXIII said, "The family is the first essential cell of human society." This essential cell begins formation inside the womb; the same womb that bore the Christ Child and brought salvation into the world.
Blessed is the Womb A woman's womb is a wonder of creation. It nourishes and protects new life. For nine months, a baby grows and develops into a unique person; a brilliant combination of the mother and father's DNA. The woman in Luke's gospel blesses the womb that carried Jesus and the breasts that nursed him. A fertile womb was venerated in antiquity; fertility something cherished and nurtured; the more children in the household, the better, and the more hands to harvest the fields.
Interesting how children today are seen as a societal "burden" whereas in Jesus' time children were essential to family survival. In Jewish society, a barren woman was often cast aside, somehow "cursed" by God for disobeying the Commandments. Today a barren woman "by choice" could be an outspoken representative of the pro-abortion movement, highly praised for her decision to abort. In antiquity, a woman giving birth to a large family was seen as a tremendous blessing since infant mortality rates were so high. Contrast this with today's negative view of a large Catholic family: Why didn't they use birth control? How can they afford so many children?
Why is the womb a threat to some women? Why does it no longer hold the dignity and respect it once did? Blessed is the womb, but most importantly blessed is the fruit of the womb.
Blessed is the Word of God The fruit of our Blessed Mother's womb, Jesus Christ, became human flesh. It's hard to believe God became man out of unconditional love for us. Throughout history we've habitually doubted him and broke his Commandments. However, God still decided to dwell among us on earth, saving our souls from eternal damnation. Jesus worked with sinners out in the open fields - the most wretched of souls - preaching the Word among them. However, it was up to believers to observe his teachings, not simply pass them off to the waste side. As Saint Paul beautiful writes in the Letter to the Galatians, "For through faith you are all children of God through Christ Jesus.....for you are all one in Christ." As a child grows in the womb of his mother, so does our faith grow through Jesus Christ. We must nourish the faith, keep it healthy and vibrant. God will continue to bless us abundantly with his graces.
If it wasn't for Mary's courageous "Yes" to life, salvation history would never have played out. If Pope John XXIII never said "Yes" to opening the Second Vatican Council, our ordinary Mass may never have changed. No one can deny the Lord's influence in placing important people on earth who perform amazing things. Each one of these faithful servants hears the Word of God and observes it!
"Oh Jesus, Son of Mary, our Brother and our Savior, by the mystery of the body and blood which you deigned to assume from the Virgin's pure womb and which we today renew on our altar, preserve for us the gift of the faith for the salvation of souls, for the prosperity and greatness of our people and for the glory of your name, which will be at the same time our glory and our joy, in this present life and in eternity. Amen." - Saint Pope John XXIII
This meditation was written by Jennifer Burgin. Please visit he blog: Jennifer's Spectrum of Spirituality