Those Who Hear the Word of God and Do It

In Luke 8:21, after Jesus was told His mother and brethren were standing outside desiring to see Him, He replied:

“My mother and my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

Now, at first reading, this might seem to be an insult to Mary, His mother, but we know Jesus is God and that He follows His own commandments. Rather than an insult, this is an honor. Don’t read this is as Jesus saying “I don’t have a mother,” nor “I care more for people who do my will than I do my own mother.” Rather, we can see in Jesus’ words a special honor for Mary’s docility to the will of God.

The Golden Chain quotes St. John Chrysostom as commenting on this passage:

Now He does not say this by way of reproof to His mother, but to greatly assist her, for if He was anxious for others to beget in them a just opinion of Himself, much more was He for His mother.

Golden Chain 9819

1640-50
The Virgin in Prayer by Sassoferrato

Read: Mary and my brethren (relatives–cousins, aunts, uncles, etc.) are among those who hear the word of God and do it.

In fact a few chapters later, Jesus again highlights Mary’s obedience again. Lk 11: 27-28:

27 As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!”28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

Mary is certainly blessed among women for being the Mother of God. Jesus doesn’t reject that; rather He emphasizes how Mary is even more blessed because she perfectly kept God’s word (she did the will of God).

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If Jesus Didn’t Rise From the Dead…

In 1 Cor. 15:12-19, St. Paul briefly plays devil’s advocate. What if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead? If so:
…our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ… …your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. …we are of all men most to be pitied. 1 Cor 15:14-19
True… All Christians admit this: IF, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity would be a silly group of people following a dead guy, and, as St. Paul mentioned, we would be most pitiable. Yes, Christianity hinges on the Resurrection of Jesus. This makes me think of Lee Strobel’s story (book, movie). He was an atheist and an award-winning investigative journalist whose wife had recently become a Christian. He wasn’t very happy with that idea, so he decided to prove to her that Christianity was silly. He learned this same concept: that Jesus’ Resurrection is the linchpin to the Christian belief. So he set out, as a journalist, to disprove Jesus’ Resurrection. St. Paul, however, was among those who literally met Jesus after His Resurrection, so he is certain that this is not the case:
 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead… 1 Cor. 15:20 [emphasis mine]

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

St. Paul would go on to join the Apostles in giving their lives rather than renounce belief in Jesus and His Resurrection. After consulting many secular authorities and looking into historical accounts, Strobel too was forced to admit the plausibility of the Resurrection. This caused a change in him so great that he became a Christian and eventually a pastor.
God, May my life constantly be formed and guided by You and the truth of Your Resurrection to the world. Amen.

No One Dies for a Story

Our faith is not based merely on story, but on history. In 1 Cor. 15:5-8, St. Paul describes many of the people to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection:

5 … he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. [emphasis mine]

This is a faith of witnesses, not merely storytellers.

Not only were the apostles witnesses by seeing Jesus risen from the dead, they were witnesses in living as men who knew the risen Jesus. They were also witnesses by their death–that is, they were “martyrs” (a term which means “witness”). All but John were executed (John’s torturers were unable to kill him). Some traditions vary about the exact method used to kill each apostle, but they’re all unanimous in that each was martyred:

  • Peter – crucified upside down
  • Andrew – crucified on an X-shaped cross
  • James the Greater – beheaded
  • John – boiled in oil but miraculously survived, exiled
  • Simon the Zealot – crucified
  • Jude – clubbed to death
  • James the Less – thrown off a pulpit and clubbed to death
  • Phillip – crucified upsidedown
  • Bartholomew – skinned alive
  • Matthew – Stabbed to death
  • Thomas – Stabbed/speared to death
  • Matthias – either crucified or stabbed (differing accounts)

No man dies for a mere story. You and I wouldn’t take the slightest injury to defend the existence of the Easter Bunny, but these men gladly took beatings, torture, and all sorts of misfortunes if only to give witness to others that they have seen a man who came back from the dead… a man who changed their lives… a man who was also God.

The Greatest Spiritual Gifts

In today’s Mass readings, St. Paul urges us to “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.”When I first read it, it seemed like Paul is pushing us toward figuring out which spiritual gifts are higher than the others and to pursue them. Then I looked at it in the RSV2CE translation, which states: “earnestly desire the higher gifts”–a more generic prodding toward all higher (spiritual) gifts. Paul does prefer certain gifts–as in 1 Cor. 14 when he explains how when gathered in Church, he prefers prophecy over speaking in tongues because it is more edifying for the building up of the Church. If, however, there is an interpreter for the one speaking in tongues, tongues can also be used for the building up of the Church. So it seems like Paul is urging all of us to strive for whatever spiritual gifts God wants to give us. He mentions a number of those gifts in 1 Cor. 14:
  • Prophecy
  • Speaking in Tongues
  • Interpreting Tongues
  • Teaching
  • Utterance of Wisdom
  • Utterance of Knowledge
  • Faith
  • Healing
  • Miracles
  • Discernment of Spirits
  • Etc.
Yes, those things all still happen today. One of the Catholic organizations dedicated to helping people learn about using the spiritual gifts today is Encounter Ministries.
Dear Lord, I wish to receive whatever gifts you have for me. Please use me as Your instrument and guide me to use those gifts to bring as many souls to you as possible. Amen.