A brief Gospel, but it captures beautifully the primary message of the entire week, that we must hear and do, we must believe and act. This reading in particular quietly points to the greatest Christian role model we have: Mary, the Mother of God.
Saturdays are traditionally a day when the Church remembers Our Lady; unless there is a particular feast or other observance, priests even have the option of celebrating a devotional Mass in honor of her. When it comes to faith in God, there is no greater Christian or witness of faith than she who believed and trusted so much in God that when an angel proposed that she become His mother, she said “Yes.” All her life, even submitting to the reality of her Son’s necessary suffering and death, she obeyed (from the Latin meaning “to hear”) and observed the word of God in everything. Thus, when the woman in the crowd blesses the woman who bore and raised Jesus, He is not downplaying Mary when He does not say “Thank you,” but rather is honoring His mother greatly by explaining exactly why all generations shall call her “blessed.” (Luke 1:48)
By her incredible faith Mary conceived the Word of God in her heart before He was conceived in her womb. Her “yes” was not merely a concession, nor was it merely permission, but rather she makes a gift of her whole self to the God who, in asking her to bear His Son, is giving His entire self to her. “Behold I am the handmaid—doulé in Greek—of the Lord…” Doulé can mean “handmaiden” but it can also mean “slave”; Mary is professing that she belongs completely and totally to God, giving herself to Him entirely. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…with all your being…” Is there anyone who has fulfilled this command more perfectly than Mary, who has heard His Word and acted on it so completely?
She shows us, in her example of faith, what happens when our own mustard seed faith bears fruit: Christ enters into the world. Because of the unique grace God offered her, and also because of her perfect faith and total obedience, Christ entered the world perfectly: the Word of God became flesh by her. The more we hear the Word of God and observe it, the more perfectly Jesus enters into the world through us. When we consider the many saints who have gone before us, we think of men and women—of all ages, races, classes, and so on—who modeled Christ for us in a way only they could.
As the Word of God took root in the heart and womb of Mary, so the seed of God’s Word takes root in our hearts, and the more we observe that Word the more it transforms us into the image and likeness of Jesus. We are meant to bear fruit that will remain (John 15:16), and the fruit we are to bear is the fruit of Mary’s womb: Jesus. We are the Body of Christ; as St. Teresa of Avila reminds us, “Christ has no body but yours…”
At one point in time, the omnipotent, omnipresent, infinite God was but a single cell in the womb of Mary; our faith begins as, and may yet be, a mustard seed. Yet that single cell was the Son of God, our Savior and the victor over sin and death; do not be discouraged if you feel your faith is not enough. Even a little bit, Jesus promises, goes a very, very long way.