While he was speaking, a woman from the crowd called out and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” He replied, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”Luke 11:27-28
“Bles-sed” is pronounced in two syllables in this couplet.
The Blessed Virgin Mary is the first of all those who “hear the word of God and observe it.” Hearing and obeying go hand in hand in Biblical tradition, from Abraham and Moses to the prophets and Jesus Christ:
…Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.Genesis 26:5 (RSV)
Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.Deuteronomy 12:28 (NKJV)
But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.Luke 8:15 (NABRE)
The Hebrew word pair, shamar (to keep, observe, obey) and shama (to hear), in Deuteronomy 12:28 is translated as katechó (to hold fast) and akouó (to hear) in the Greek Septuagint version. The same Greek pair appears in Luke 8:15.
The Greek word phulassó (to guard, watch) translates the Hebrew word shamar (to keep, observe, obey) in Genesis 26:5. In turn, the Greek pair, akouó (to hear) and phulassó (to guard, watch), appears in Luke 11:28.
The first part of the Shema (“hear”) prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which shaped the daily life of Jesus and Mary, summed it up:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.
In a conversation with a scribe, Jesus taught that the Shema is intertwined with the command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31).
To hear is to obey, and to obey is to love. By nurturing the word in the heart, we become like the Blessed Virgin Mary carrying the Word in her womb and bringing the divine life within to fruition.