Are you a family member? Memorial of St Francis De Sales – Mark 3:31-35

Are you a family member? Memorial of St Francis De Sales – Mark 3:31-35

Every year on Good Friday we attend services in large numbers. The ‘faithful’ who may not be very faithful the whole year round will not miss the service on this day. Sadly, for many, Good Friday is a check box ticked. What we have never seen perhaps is someone break down during the proclamation of the Lord’s passion. Such a sight would be understandable at a funeral of a loved one prompting one to ask the mourner, “are you a member of the family?” That’s a question we can ask ourselves today when we think of Jesus; are we a member of his family?

The text of today must be seen in the larger context of the rejection of Jesus in Galilee 3:7-6:6. This rejection comes from a number of quarters; the Jewish leaders, the disciples of John the Baptist, the people and even His own family. We know that his family tried to “restrain him” (3:21) thinking that Jesus was out of His mind.

Look at the scriptures and you realise that the brothers of Jesus had their moments when they were not supportive of His ministry (John 7:5). It is only after his resurrection that James, the brother of Our Lord became an important person in the early church (Acts 12:17; 15:3; 21:17-26; Galatians 1:19—2:14). He was a leader in the Jerusalem church, and possibly the first bishop of Jerusalem.

In the Gospel of today we are told that his mother and brothers are ‘standing outside’; they have come to meet him. There is a crowd of people that have gathered around the Lord and someone brings the news that his relatives are waiting “outside.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (v. 33) asks Jesus? While this may sound disrespectful, it is not the case. Jesus does not ask this question to exclude his mother and brothers, but rather to set the stage for expanding the concept of family to include all those who do the will of God.

We should note that Jesus’ family is described twice as being on the “outside”; they are “outsiders”. By implication, those sitting in a circle with Jesus are on the “inside”; they are the “insiders”. What Jesus is clearly saying is that being on the “inside” is not just a question of location, but of relationship. That relationship is not by blood, but by identification with the Way of Jesus.

A question that might arise from this passage and one that might disturb us is the status of Jesus’ mother, Mary. Was she an ‘outsider’? The answer is an unequivocal ‘No‘. When reading this or any other text we need to read it in the larger context of the Gospels. We know from Luke’s gospel that when invited by the angel to be the mother of Jesus, Mary gave an unconditional ‘Yes’. This was her total surrender to the will of God. On one occasion, when Mary was praised as blessed and privileged for having a Son like Jesus, Jesus replied: No, blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it. (Luke 11:27-28). Mary is on the “inside”, not because she was the mother of Jesus, but because of her total identifying with his mission and being with him to the very end.

In this Gospel narration we have a revelation of what intimacy means for Jesus. The crowd, according to the norms of the time, thought of family as the chief place where you would experience it but Jesus finds it primarily in the intimacy or union that God wants with us. Jesus highlights that the primary relationship in life is to God. Mother and family were important to Jesus in his life and at his death; but the real call was within this family relationship to hear and keep the word of God.

Jesus acknowledges elsewhere, that faith requires disciples to put God above family and sometimes results in families divided over the issue of faith (Matthew 10:37; Mark 10:29-30; Luke 12:52-53). Faithfulness to families is important, but faithfulness to God is even more important.

The rejection from the family of Jesus in His own hometown of Nazareth was also written by the sacred writer to give hope to the Gentile followers of Christ who lived around 65 AD and who were unfamiliar with Jewish customs and traditions. The Gospel of Mark which was written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome was written at a time of impending persecution, when destruction loomed over Jerusalem. The book aimed to equip such Christians to stand faithful in the face of persecution (Mark13:9-13), while carrying on with the proclamation of the Gospel that was preached by Jesus in Galilee (Mark13:10; 14-19).

The early Christians, like Jesus and His disciples, may have lost mothers, fathers , sisters, brothers, houses and fields for the sake of the Good News (10:28-30) and may have felt themselves under threat from powers and principalities as He was. So for those people, then and through the ages, there is comfort in the turn from restraint and threat to freedom, courage, and hope, even in the face of the ones who would kill Jesus.
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