Gospel reflection for the Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gabriel Ringlet June 9, 2018
The following verse could well be one of the most surprising from the Gospel of Mark: “When his family heard, they came to take charge of him.” But who exactly are they?
Some translations refer to “his relatives” or “his friends,” while others say “his people.” Whatever the case, they are certainly people closely associated with him.
We learn, a few verses further, that “his mother and his brothers” are looking for him. They take the long journey from Nazareth to Capernaum to try to persuade him to come home.
Have we really grasped the scale of the situation? For Jesus, it things seem to be going well. The crowd that gathers around him is so great and so animated that he and his disciples aren’t able to take a single mouthful of their meal.
How could it be that the people from home are not proud of him? What was being said in Nazareth to make his friends and family so worried? Did they believe the scribes’ declarations that he was “possessed by Beelzebub?” It seems that the rumor that Jesus “was out of his mind” had taken hold in the village.
Worried by the circulating stories, and perhaps concerned that his success was provoking leaders of the official religion and winning them enemies, “his family” hurried to Capernaum in the hope of calming the drama.
It is quite astonishing to think that both his family and the authorities were fighting the same battle!
It is not hard to find Jesus since there is a large crowd of people sitting around him in the house of Simon, where he often went. He is in the middle of speaking in parables to the crowd when his mother and brothers arrive.
From the first centuries of our era, there have been three principal interpretations of the “brothers and sisters of Jesus.”
For some, Jesus was the eldest of a large family, for others, he had half-sisters and brothers from Joseph’s earlier marriage, while a third interpretation, like that of Saint Jerome, says we should take “brothers” to mean first cousins.
However, this is not the main issue. In the scene we have before us, we read that “standing outside, they sent someone in to call him” (Mk 3:31).
Was Mary the first to start worrying? Does she too believe he has gone mad? Does she already have an inkling that something bad is bound to happen? Was it to avoid confrontation that she went to Capernaum to take him home and hide him?
On a human level, what follows is excruciating. Jesus renounces his mother to those who tell him that his mother is there: “Who is my mother?” reminding us of the sword of which Simeon speaks at the presentation in the temple: “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (Lk 2: 35).
Mary is addressed bluntly, as she was at Cana when Jesus said: “Woman, what does this have to do with me?” (Jn 2:4). But there, she still supports him: “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5). Here, she says nothing. Even worse, Jesus doesn’t recognize her: “Who is my mother?”
Of course, the Gospel opens a way of going beyond the level of the clan and beyond blood relations. Our family ties should not keep us from broader fraternal bonds.
Indeed, your parents are not your parents! And yet, I have cause for concern. So many sectarian movements have demanded that these links be severed only to take firmer hold.
Who is my mother? Who is this mother beyond the mother? This plural mother? This universal mother?
A kind of mother-brother, a mother-sister? Perhaps in distancing Mary, Jesus is drawing her near by making an example of her, for who, if not Mary, could be said to have carried out “God’s will?”