Translation of the Holy Gospel According to Luke
At that time Jesus was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb. And when He had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke, and the multitudes were in admiration at it. But some of them said: He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils. And others, tempting, asked of Him a sign from Heaven. But He, seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be brought to desolation, and house upon house shall fall. And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall this kingdom stand? Because you say that through Beelzebub I cast out devils. Now if I cast out devils by Beelzebub, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges. But if I by the finger of God cast out devils: doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth. But if a stronger than he come upon him and overcome him, he will take away all his armor wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils. He that is not with Me is against Me: and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest: and not finding, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. And it came to pass, as He spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to Him: Blessed is the womb that bore Thee, and the paps that gave Thee suck. But He said: Yea, rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.
From St. Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris Mater
The Gospel of Luke records the moment when a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to Jesus: Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked! (Lc 11,27) These words were an expression of praise of Mary as Jesus’ mother according to the flesh. Probably the Mother of Jesus was not personally known to this woman; in fact, when Jesus began his messianic activity Mary did not accompany him but continued to remain at Nazareth. One could say that the words of that unknown woman in a way brought Mary out of her hiddenness.
Through these words, there flashed out in the midst of the crowd, at least for an instant, the gospel of Jesus’ infancy. This is the gospel in which Mary is present as the mother who conceives Jesus in her womb, gives him birth and nurses him: the nursing mother referred to by the woman in the crowd. Thanks to this motherhood, Jesus, the Son of the Most High (cf. Lc 1:32), is a true son of man. He is “flesh,” like every other man: he is the Word (who) became flesh (cf. Jn 1:14). He is of the flesh and blood of Mary!
But to the blessing uttered by that woman upon her who was his mother according to the flesh, Jesus replies in a significant way: Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it (Lc 11:28). He wishes to divert attention from motherhood understood only as a fleshly bond, in order to direct it towards those mysterious bonds of the spirit which develop from hearing and keeping God’s word…
Now, when Jesus left Nazareth and began his public life throughout Palestine, he was completely and exclusively concerned with his Father’s business (cf. Lc 2:49). He announced the Kingdom: the “Kingdom of God” and “his Father’s business,” which add a new dimension and meaning to everything human, and therefore to every human bond, insofar as these things relate to the goals and tasks assigned to every human being. Within this new dimension… “motherhood” in the dimension of the Kingdom of God and in the radius of the fatherhood of God himself, takes on another meaning. In the words reported by Luke, Jesus teaches precisely this new meaning of motherhood.
Is Jesus thereby distancing himself from his mother according to the flesh? Does he perhaps wish to leave her in the hidden obscurity which she herself has chosen? If this seems to be the case from the tone of those words, one must nevertheless note that the new and different motherhood which Jesus speaks of to his disciples refers precisely to Mary in a very special way. Is not Mary the first of those who hear the word of God and do it? And therefore does not the blessing uttered by Jesus in response to the woman in the crowd refer primarily to her? Without any doubt, Mary is worthy of blessing by the very fact that she became the mother of Jesus according to the flesh (Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked), but also and especially because already at the Annunciation she accepted the word of God, because she believed it, because she was obedient to God, and because she kept the word and pondered it in her heart (cf. Lc 1:38) and by means of her whole life accomplished it. Thus we can say that the blessing proclaimed by Jesus is not in opposition, despite appearances, to the blessing uttered by the unknown woman, but rather coincides with that blessing in the person of this Virgin Mother, who called herself only the handmaid of the Lord (Lc 1:38). If it is true that all generations will call her blessed (cf. Lc 1:48), then it can be said that the unnamed woman was the first to confirm unwittingly that prophetic phrase of Mary’s Magnificat and to begin the Magnificat of the ages.
If through faith Mary became the bearer of the Son given to her by the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit, while preserving her virginity intact, in that same faith she discovered and accepted the other dimension of motherhood revealed by Jesus during his messianic mission. One can say that this dimension of motherhood belonged to Mary from the beginning, that is to say from the moment of the conception and birth of her Son. From that time she was the one who believed. But as the messianic mission of her Son grew clearer to her eyes and spirit, she herself as a mother became ever more open to that new dimension of motherhood which was to constitute her “part” beside her Son. Had she not said from the very beginning: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word (Lc 1K38)? Through faith Mary continued to hear and to ponder that word, in which there became ever clearer, in a way which surpasses knowledge (Ep 3:19), the self-revelation of the living God. Thus in a sense Mary as Mother became the first “disciple” of her Son, the first to whom he seemed to say: Follow me, even before he addressed this call to the Apostles or to anyone else (cf. Jn 1:43).
What deep understanding existed between Jesus and his mother? How can we probe the mystery of their intimate spiritual union? But the fact speaks for itself. It is certain that that event already quite clearly outlines the new dimension, the new meaning of Mary’s motherhood. Her motherhood has a significance which is not exclusively contained in the words of Jesus and in the various episodes reported by the Synoptics (Lc 11:27-28 and Lc 8:19-21 Mt 12:,46-50 Mc 3:31-35). In these texts Jesus means above all to contrast the motherhood resulting from the fact of birth with what this “motherhood” is to be in the dimension of the Kingdom of God, in the salvific radius of God’s fatherhood.