The Gospel according to Mark (3:31-35)
The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, “Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.” But he said to them in reply, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Opening Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to see all the people I meet as you see them, as your children, and as my brothers and sisters. Help me, too, to serve them as you would, and to love them as you would, even when it is difficult. Amen.
Reading today’s Gospel account would make anyone wonder what exactly Jesus meant. Did he really say that His Mother wasn’t His Mother? Did He really mean to disown the family He came from? If you only read these verses, then that’s a very likely understanding you may have. To understand what Jesus truly was saying, we have to dig deeper into the situation behind today’s Gospel.
On the one hand, He does seem to be disowning His family. But, we have to realize that He was speaking of His heavenly calling and of the family that includes all the children of His Father. In short, He was not disowning as much as opening our minds to the fact that we are all related, because we all share the same Heavenly Father. That was what was meant when He said that His “brother and sister and mother” were those who do the will of God.
Being Jesus’ brother or sister is something that requires action. To be in His family means having care for everyone we meet, not just those we with whom we live. He was describing the life of a servant, the life that He Himself lived.
As was the custom of the time, Jesus used what we now would call hyperbole in some of the sayings we read in Scriptures. There is also the matter that the society and way of speaking at the time of Jesus was quite different from what we now know in our modern society. That is why it’s important to understand the society of the times, and the community to whom this Gospel was written.
At Jesus’ time, the family unit was everything. Multiple generations of the same family would occupy a space that we would think could not possibly accommodate them. Furthermore, an individual received his or her identity from his or her family. Recall that Jesus referred to Simon Peter as “Simon, son of John”. At that time, that was how Simon would have introduced himself.
But, because of the oppression of the Romans, there were many pressures on families from outside. Now, they had to pay taxes to Caesar, and it’s not like they had a lot to spare anyway. Even the Jewish religious leaders had to live within the regulations of the Roman leaders.
So, in many ways, Jesus was introducing a new way of looking at family, one that went well beyond one’s own community. He was telling the people of His day that they were all connected, and that they should extend love and concern to all, not just to those who were closest to them.
It’s the same lesson for us today. What can we do to be the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus? How do we “do the will of God”? How do we even know what the “will of God” is? The way we do that is to pray, and to ask our Lord to show us how to live a life as a son or daughter of the Almighty King. We ask for the grace to love, even when it is difficult, and to share our excess with those who are in want. That is how we follow the “will of God”, and that is how we truly live as “brothers and sisters” of Jesus.
Closing Prayer: My dear Lord, I desire deeply to become more fully a member of Your most intimate family in grace. Help me to always dedicate myself to the complete fulfillment of the will of our Father in Heaven. And as I conform my will more fully with that of the Father’s, draw me deeper and deeper into union with You. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Action for the Day: Consider reaching out to someone in your family that you have a difficult time with and share a kind word or do some act of kindness for that person.