My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it. (Luke 8:21)
The phrase “word of God” appears in both 8:11 and 8:21 forming a kind of frame that contains the occurences of “word” in the explanation of the parable of the sower. Here are they:
- 8:12 … then the devil comes and takes the word out of their heart…
- 8:13 … when they receive the word with joy: and these have no roots…
- 8:15 … hearing the word, keep it and bring forth fruit in patience
What Jesus is saying in 8:21 is that his real family are the good soil in 8:15 of which an interesting translation appears in the 1980 edition of the NAB. It says: “The seed on good ground are those who hear the word in a spirit of openness, retain it and bear fruit through perseverance.” The only problem I see with this translation is that it doesn’t bring out the word “heart” which in the Greek is modified by the adjectives for “beautiful” and “good.” But the translation does add the verb “retain it”, which expands on the role of the “heart” especially since the word is already used before this with regard to the way Mary handled the “word-event” in her life: “and she kept all these things in her heart. (see Luke 2:19.51)”
The last remark about Mary should also show that the statement in verse 21 in no way belittles Mary or puts her outside Jesus’ real family. In fact, it was she who first accepted the word of God through the angel and she verified this acceptance throughout Jesus’ hidden years until the time He hung upon the cross and even through to Pentecost. When the power from on High came upon the disciples, Mary was there.
With baptism I was empowered to call Jesus’ Father in Heaven my own. Though the privilege has been given to me, I can claim it by living a life that conforms to that sonship. Paul has explained it: by baptism, I have died to sin so that I can live for God. On the basis of the Lucan passage under consideration, I should have a heart like that of Mary — able to retain the Word of God, live it with generosity and persevere in it.
Thank you, Lord, for calling me to a part of your family. With this same spirit of gratitude, knowing fully well what you did for me that I may have the privilege of being called your “brother”, I ask you to give me the grace to be more generous in responding to you and to do it perseveringly. Amen.