I confess that I find it almost impossible to read this particular Gospel passage without thinking of the concluding sentence in chapter nine of Thomas of Celano’s Life of St. Francis. Chapter nine records how while at Mass one day St. Francis heard the Gospel passage in which Jesus tells his disciples that they should take nothing for the journey, no gold or silver, no sack, no staff and no sandals for their feet. Thomas concludes this narrative by writing: For he was no deaf hearer of the gospel; rather he committed everything he heard to his excellent memory and was careful to carry it out to the letter.
The words of the unknown woman in the crowd from today’s Gospel echo the words of Elizabeth to Mary when Mary came to visit her which we repeat each time we pray the “Hail Mary.” Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. What Jesus says in reply reminds us of Mary’s acceptance of God’s Word and the courageous way she lived it.
The observance of the word of God, as Gabriel spoke it to Mary, as Jesus speaks it here, and as Francis heard it from the lips of the priest, is a deep relationship with God – The Christ, the eternal Word. To observe the word of God, then, is to live one’s life in relationship with Jesus Christ.
One of the repeated themes in the papacy of Pope Francis is the relational aspect of faith. Human life is filled with relationships, and our relationship with God is at the center. The word that is used to refer to that relationship with God is faith. This relationship is the center of our being. The relationship of faith, in fact, is so central to the Christian that it becomes our deepest identity. For those of us who follow Francis of Assisi, we endeavor to emulate how his faith in God’s word governed his actions from the point of his conversion until his death.
All people who live their lives of faith, who hear the word of God and observe it, live their lives in the knowledge of their deepest identity as a child of God.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M ., Administrator