Our Lord tells us that His mother and brothers and sisters are those who hear the Word of God and act upon it. Our Lady heard the Word of God and acted upon it in a more perfect way than the rest of us ever will. Our Lord’s words are certainly not any kind of slap against his mother, but rather it’s to say something about the rest of us: that our relationship with him is dependent upon our hearing the Word of God and acting upon it – of putting it into practice each and every day.
Now this seems like a pretty easy and straightforward point, but if we are really honest with ourselves, we would have to ask the simple question: am I really, truly living according to the Word of God? We have all the examples right in front of us of how we are to live our lives, and yet many people don’t. It’s not that they are unable to do so; it’s more often the case that they don’t want to, either because it makes them different from everyone else, and they don’t want to be different, or because they are attached to some sin and they don’t want to give it up; then again some people simply don’t want to change, even for the better.
What would we do if we were in the situation that we hear about in the first reading? The Jews had been exiled in Babylon for more than 50 years. They hadn’t been able to practice their faith and offer sacrifice and now they are sent back home and expected to rebuild the temple. After so many upheavals they eventually get to the point where they can have sacrifice offered for the first time in many years.
What would we do if we were not able to get to Mass? Not because we couldn’t get into the car and drive to the nearest church, but because there was no church and there was no priest to offer Mass.
I read recently about what happened in Pope Saint John Paul II’s hometown during the Second World War. The Nazis came and destroyed almost everything and killed all the priests. On Sundays the people would gather in the ruins of the church but there was no priest and there was no Mass. At the time when Mass was due to begin, the sacristan would take out the priestly vestments and lay them carefully on the altar. The only sound in the church on Sunday mornings was the sound of weeping.
Today let us pray for those special people who give of their resources to enable churches to be built, priests to be trained, and religious to establish communities. Let us pray for our own benefactors, those who have heard the Word of God and acted upon it, and in so doing have become the mother, brothers and sisters of Our Lord.