Luke 11: 27-28
While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!"
The teaching is precise: Listen to the word of God and keep it. A little earlier Luke tells us: “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you. But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’" Lk.8:19‑21.
Now we have an additional instruction: Listen and keep, yes but put it into practice. Finally there is: Keep and ponder in the heart. Listen, keep, put into practice, ponder in the heart. It is not by chance that all these actions are centered around Mary. St. Anselm says: "She so listened to the word of God that it took flesh within her." Mary is the model of one who listens, keeps the word and puts it into practice in her life. But she is also the model of one who ponders the word of God. Speaking of the Gospel of John, Origen says: "No one may understand the meaning of the Gospel, if they have not rested on the breast of Jesus and received Mary from Jesus, to be their mother also."
The directions: Keep, listen, put into practice, ponder ‑ their strength lies in their being found together. Jacques Loew suggests the quality of our lives, as Christians, will depend on the extent to which we manage to unite them.
To listen means to pay heed, to have an attentive ear, to be quiet. It is said, it was a custom in some Palestinian families that when a slave was received into a home the master of the house took him over to the door and drove an awl through the lobe of his ear into the door post. The object of the exercise was to remind the slave that his work was to listen! In the Old and New Testament, hearing is more important than seeing. Seeing is good but for the biblical writers hearing is more important.
Why the primacy of hearing? Because God spoke. Yahweh speaks to his people. God's word is also creative. "He spoke and all things were made." The words "He said" are the first thing that we are told about God. Our relationship with God is a mouth to ear relationship. How often the prophets say: "Listen!" Each morning a Jew begins the Tephilah with the words: "Listen O Israel". Recall the number of times when Jesus begins preaching in parables ‑ and says, "Listen".
To these instructions we may add: Pondering in the heart. "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" Lk. 2:19. The Greek word means to ponder‑over. It is a process which has been described as a gentle chewing of the word that slowly releases its inner riches. In Hebrew, the word for pondering means murmuring, meditating. "How blessed are those... who finds their pleasure in the law of Yahweh, murmuring that over, day and night."
Keeping the word is the work of sowing a seed, allowing it to take root. It presupposes a climate in which it can germinate and become rooted in the heart. Once we have heard the word we must make it stay in us, not keeping it in cold storage but allowing it to grow through successive stages in our lives.
This is the Story of Jesus drawn from the four Evangelists
Gospel passages accompanied by a number of brief commentaries