The Good Word
Memorial of Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn, Priest, and Paul Chŏng Ha-sang, and Companions, Martyrs, Karl Esker, C.Ss.R.
In the middle of the 19th century, tens of thousands of Christians were martyred in Korea. A few were priests, some were catechists, but most were simply believers and families of believers. They profoundly believed Jesus’ words in the gospel today: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” They heard the word of God, lived it daily, and surrendered their lives rather than renounce their faith in Jesus. What most impressed the witness of the executions was the serenity and joy with which the martyrs accepted death. Most of us will not be called to make this extreme sacrifice, but all of us are called to hear and act upon the Word of God.
Jesus’ words: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it,” come after he was told that his mother and brothers were “standing outside and they wish[ed] to see [him].” Some may think that Jesus is belittling family ties, and even his mother Mary; but Luke is one of the gospel writers who exalts the role of Mary, so there must be another message here.
Jesus always cautioned his disciples that following him was not for the faint hearted, and there would be no preferential treatment in God’s kingdom, except for the poor and downtrodden. So, being a member of Jesus’ blood family or coming from the same town as Jesus would get no one quicker into heaven, unless they, too, heard and acted upon the Word of God.
Of course, we know that Mary the was one who most quickly heard and acted upon God’s Word. She was the one who answered: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word,” when the angel presented to her God’s plan for the mother of the Redeemer. She went with haste to care for her cousin Elizabeth in the last months of her pregnancy and sang: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.” And in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us that Mary was with the Apostles, awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit: “All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
The joy of Jesus’ words: “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it,” is that Jesus considers all of us, struggling to act according to his words, to be members of his family. He will look after us and care for us as his own. We do not have to be martyrs, but we do have to humbly allow God to direct our lives according to his plans, to avoid making wealth our goal in life, and to open our ears to the cry of the poor, as we hear in today’s reading from the Book of Proverbs.
May God bless you.