Members of the Family

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home Depositphotos_151262852_m-2015.jpg

June 10, 2018 –10th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Mark 3:20-35

Today’s gospel provides us with one of the few appearances of Mary, the mother of Jesus, during his public life. Jesus is teaching near his home town, so it is not surprising that his mother appears on the scene. He is inside and she is outside and he is told of her nearness. His response is not easy to understand. Some have thought of it as a rebuke, a distancing of him from his mother. But I don’t think it is. In fact, I interpret his words as high praise for his mom.

Here is what’s recorded in Mark’s gospel. Jesus is told this: “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” (I will only briefly comment on who the brothers and sisters of Jesus might be, only to say that they are members of his family – perhaps step brothers and sisters, perhaps cousins.)

Then come the words of Jesus. “Who are my mother and my brothers? … Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Maybe we would like to know more, but the narrative ends.

Two things come to mind. First, ask yourself, who in Christianity most did the will of God, who most fully responded to God’s word? Is it not Mary? Did she not open her life to God most fully in her “let it be done to me according to your word?” So, when Jesus was told of his mother’s proximity, her responding to God immediately came to his mind. Thus, the text can indicate a very positive recognition of her goodness and holiness.

Second, this is also a narrative that suggests that Jesus is expanding on what is meant by family ties. During his time family connections were very important. Family responsibilities carried religious significance. I see Jesus in this gospel expanding on the idea of family by referring to relationships beyond biological or legal connections. In God’s sight and as we follow God’s will, we are all members of God’s family.

Seeing the church itself as familial has become a very significant way of describing the church in the younger churches of Africa. Thus, through Gods’ transforming grace, we are brought into broader and deeper family relationships. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ of all those joined to him. So next time you are visiting the Vatican, stop in and visit our brother, Francis. He’ll be happy to see you.

©David M. Thomas, PhD