The Gospel account today has our Lord disputing with the Pharisees -- something we see often enough when he is in Jerusalem, and particularly after they have seen Him work a miracle. By this time in His public life our Lord has won so many followers among the common people of Judea that the Pharisees feel the need to attack Him and His work. Their reaction, when He healed the man who was unable to speak, was that Jesus was "casting out devils by the prince of devils"1 -- essentially trying to claim that the Son of God was in league with the devil.
This is a common theme throughout the Gospels. Those in authority in Jewish society, those who should have been most anxious to welcome the Messias, are the most difficult for Him to deal with. Ultimately, they are the ones who will put Him to death. It takes a humble peasant woman from the crowd to recognize Him for what He is. The Venerable Bede, points out that she indeed proclaimed the truth of our Lord's Incarnation:
And, of course the woman is doing what Bede says, for she is putting the Pharisees in place for their incredulity. Even more, she is testifying to the fact that the Son of God was "made of a woman." Our God became one of us to redeem us, and He took the entirety of His physical being from the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is interesting that, today, people who are against the Church try to co-opt this very same passage in the vain hope of trying to "prove" that our Lord would object to the veneration we have for His holy Mother. They try to make Him say that Mary is unimportant, and that only those who "hear the word of God and keep it" are true Christians -- as though somehow the Mother of God did not hear His words or keep them -- an entirely "un-Biblical" idea, for as Saint Luke tells us, "His Mother kept all these things carefully in her heart."
Yet the Christian world today is filled with rationalists. It is probably safe to say that such people cannot bear to see Mary honored as God's most special daughter, because many of them are not entirely comfortable with the idea that Jesus is God's even more special Son. Modern Biblical research -- by people who continue to call themselves Christians -- often tries to minimize the divine nature of Jesus Christ. They make the bizarre dichotomy between the "Christ of Faith" and the "Christ of History," as though it is somehow possible for what we believe about Jesus Christ to be different from what Jesus Christ actually was and did, and that it is possible for these understandings -- no matter how contradictory -- to both be true. The old nonsense of the Moslem philosopher Averroës, that there can be a "dual truth," raises its head once again among modernist Christians!
It simply will not do for Mary to be the Mother of God, for those rationalists and modernists who think of Jesus Christ as nothing more than a bright and compassionate fellow -- a mere man of similar stature to the sadus, and gurus, and bhodi-satvas of the other "great world religions"; someone like Confucius, or the Buddha, or Mahatmas Ghandi. That seems to be the great temptation of the age -- to somehow bring about the unity of all peoples by reducing them to the lowest common denominator -- to reduce the Son of God to a mere llegend like the gods of the pagans; to portray Him as a mere philosopher surrounded by quaint legends of miracles that must be discarded in the enlightened times of the 21st century. The kindest thing one can say about such people -- be they Catholic or Protestant -- is that they have lost their faith, and have not the decency to seek employment elsewhere -- may God help them.
There is a practical, Lenten, lesson to be learned from this Gospel, beyond contemplating the Incarnation of our Lord and the divine Maternity of His Mother. "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it." It is good to recognize that Jesus Christ is God, come into the world --and that He was born of the Virgin Mary. But it is also necessary to do as our Lord said at the end of today's Gospel passage -- something that fits well with our Lenten observance, but which then must continue throughout the years of our lives. We must strive to learn what our Lord had to teach us -- we do that by reading the Scriptures, listening to them and to sermons on them at Mass, even by meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary. But then we must also strive to act on what we know. The Venerable Bede says it nicely:
I want to conclude this morning by reading something to you -- some of you have heard it before, but I think it ought to be read at lease once a year in every church where English is spoken. It was written my Msgr. Ronald Knox, a very well spoken convert to the Catholic Faith in the early twentieth century.
Msgr. Ronald Knox: Mother of God
From The Belief of Catholics
They have said that we deify her; that is not because we exaggerate the eminence of God's Mother, but because they belittle the eminence of God. A creature miraculously preserved from sin by the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost -- that is to them a divine title, because that is all the claim their grudging theologies will concede, often enough, to our Lord Himself. They refuse to honor the God- bearing Woman because their Christ is only a God-bearing Man. We who know that God could (if He would) annihilate every existing creature without abating anything of His blessedness or His glory, are not afraid less the honor done to His creature of perfect Womanhood should prejudice the honor due to Him. Touchstone of truth in the ages of controversy, romance of the medieval world, she has not lost with the rise of new devotions, any fragment of her ancient glory. Other lights may glow and dim as the centuries pass, she cannot suffer change; and when a Catholic ceases to honor her, he ceases to be a Catholic.