OUR LADY IN THE GOSPEL
“There is a passage in the Gospel of this day, which may have struck many of us as needing some illustration. While our Lord was preaching, a woman in the crowd cried out, “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee and the breasts which Thou hast sucked” (Luke 11). Our Lord assents, but instead of dwelling on the good words of this woman, He goes on to say something further. He speaks of a greater blessedness. “Yea,” He says, “but blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” Now these words of our Lord require notice, if it were only for this reason, because there are many persons nowadays who think they are said in depreciation of the glory and blessedness of the Most Holy Virgin Mary; as if our Lord had said, “My Mother is blessed, but my true servants are more blessed than she is.” I shall say some words then on this passage, and with a peculiar fitness, because we have just passed the festival of Lady Day, the great feast on which we commemorate the Annunciation, that is, the visit of the Angel Gabriel to her, and the miraculous conception of the Son of God, her Lord and Saviour, in her womb.
Now a very few words will be sufficient to show that our Lord’s words are no disparagement to the dignity and glory of His Mother, as the first of creatures and the Queen of all Saints. For consider, He says that it is a more blessed thing to keep His commandments than to be His Mother, and do you think that the Most Holy Mother of God did not keep the commandments of God? Of course no one, no Protestant even—no one will deny she did. Well, if so, what our Lord says is that the Blessed Virgin was more blessed in that she kept His commandments than because she was His Mother. And what Catholic denies this? On the contrary we all confess it. All Catholics confess it. The Holy Fathers of the Church tell us again and again that our Lady was more blessed in doing God’s will than in being His Mother. She was blessed in two ways. She was blessed in being His Mother; she was blessed in being filled with the spirit of faith and obedience. And the latter blessedness was the greater. I say the Holy Fathers say so expressly. St. Augustine says, “More blessed was Mary in receiving the faith of Christ, than in receiving the flesh of Christ.” In like manner St. Elizabeth says to her at the Visitation, “Beata es quae credidisti, Blessed art thou who didst believe”; and St. Chrysostom goes so far as to say that she would not have been blessed, even though she had borne Christ in the body, unless she had heard the word of God and kept it.