Saturday, 8 October 2016

Week 27 Saturday (Year 2)

Readings: Galatians 3:22-29; Psalm 105; Luke 11:27-28

This is probably the shortest gospel reading in the Church's liturgical year. But it packs a punch. Like Elisabeth earlier in Luke's gospel this woman 'raises her voice'. She is a preacher but unlike Elizabeth her message misses the mark. Jesus corrects her: my mother is to be praised in the first place for her faith, for hearing the Word of God and for keeping it.

It is as if the woman is still caught on the level of the first creation. The fruitfulness of the womb and the nourishment of the breast, these are blessings of that first creation. Hearing the Word of God and keeping it, these are blessings of the new creation. The first creation blesses but confines us, Paul says in the first reading. It is the new creation - an important theme of Galatians - that sets us free, the kingdom of faith and of the Spirit. New relationships are established in this kingdom and on a new basis: 'my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it', Jesus had explained earlier (Luke 8:21). It is not just about hearing the Word, and being able to parrot it back perhaps, it is about 'keeping' and 'doing' the Word (cf Luke 6:46-49).

Mary herself wondered about this transition from the first to the new creation. 'How can it be', she asks the angel of the annunciation. The first creation required only God's Word: 'let it be', and so it was. But the new, second, creation requires the words and believing hearts of human beings - Mary who says 'let it be done to me according to your word', Jesus who says 'my food is to do the will of my Father who sent me'. Such is the dignity bestowed on the creature by God, that we are made participants in the construction of the new creation, builders with Him of the kingdom that is coming.

Life remains difficult for us even when we believe and seek to do what the Word asks of us. This is because we belong to both creations. We belong to the Second, the Last, Adam who for freedom has set us free, but we still belong also to the First Adam. The 'old man' remains alive in us as long as we are pilgrims in this world and our work of being transformed is still underway. The 'new man' is already created and has come to birth in us. But we continue to struggle to convert our minds fully to what Christ has done for us, and to walk purely and simply in the way he has mapped out for us.

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