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What Is Family Anyway?
Gospel Reflection for January 24th, 2023: Mark 3:31-35
When I think about my family I automatically picture both my immediate family as well as my family of origin. Even more so would this be for those listening in the Gospel today than most of us. I am far from knowing much about Middle-Eastern cultural norms regarding family, but my impression is that family holds far more sway than it does in western society.
It would be difficult to understand Jesus’ words today about family without the previous section in Mark 3 on discipleship. In 3:16-19 he calls his apostles. Of these, James (son of Alphaeus) is conceivably Jesus’ relative, but throughout the New Testament the other eleven are not given any blood-relative status to Jesus. All are called because Jesus chose them, not due to family hierarchy and relations.
Pope Benedict XVI said that Jesus’ inclusion of his disciples in his mission activity and his proclamation means that the ‘we’ of family “no longer rests on birth, but on communion with Jesus, who is himself God’s living Torah.”1
We read that Jesus said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” 3:34b-35.
Jesus seems to be speaking more to the importance of communion with God (a.k.a himself) than he is on rejecting his family’s request (acknowledging that many of his family seemed to think he was crazy: 3:21). We who have no blood relation to Jesus have good news! We can be his family: he chooses and calls us. The foundation for us to be called is being in communion with him, doing his will. In this way, we are as good as his brother and sister and mother.
And that’s no small thing. It’s rather radically astonishing.
Question: Can you authentically pray, “Lord, your will be done”?
Pope Benedict XVI, “Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration,” trans. Adrian J. Walker (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 169.