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Friends, in today’s Gospel, Jesus transforms a woman’s blessing of his mother into a blessing of those who obey God’s word. Jesus turned upside-down many of the social conventions of his time because he was so concerned with placing the instantiation of the kingdom of God first in the minds of his followers.

Among first-century Jews, the family was of paramount importance. An enthusiastic disciple of Jesus took this for granted when she shouted out, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” But Jesus dramatically relativizes the family in responding, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

He is insisting that the new community of the kingdom is more important than even the most revered social system. When we give the family a disproportionate importance, it becomes in short order dysfunctional.

Another time, a prospective disciple said that he was willing to follow Jesus but first begged permission to bury his father. But Jesus, having none of it, responded in a manner that undoubtedly scandalized him: “Let the dead bury their dead.” Once again, he was insisting that God’s kingdom is of paramount importance.