Jesus's Relatives

First Reading ( Gen 3:9-15 ) : Our first parent disobeyed
Second Reading (2 Cor 4:13-5:1 ) : The apostles' goal
Gospel ( Mk 3:20-35 ) : Jesus endured slander. Jesus' true relatives
Chinese Classics :
“Who am I? These ten years my parents cannot call me their son, my wife cannot call me her husband, my brothers cannot call me their brother, my friends cannot call me their friend. Who am I?”(1)

Jesus' mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” ( Mk 3:31-35 )

Jesus is true God and also human. Since he was truly human, he had similar troubles to the rest of us. This included troubles from family members. In the movie “The Exorcist”, one of the reasons the priest could not concentrate on dispelling the demon was because of a sense of guilt: his mother had lived alone, and he only discovered her death until several days later. He felt ashamed about this.

I have a priest friend in Taiwan whose mother wanted to move from Mainland China to live with him in Taiwan. He could not refuse her nor did he want to. But he felt to have her live with him would be very difficult. So he tactfully told her that if she moved to Taiwan she would be alone most of the time, because his public duties as a priest often would prevent him from accompanying her anywhere. His mother understood that her son's position would prevent him from being with her and later decided not to move to Taiwan.

Yuen Shung Woon, a general who was guarding Liu Tung towards the end of the Ming Dynasty, sadly said, “Who am I? These ten years, my parents cannot call me their son, my wife cannot call me her husband, my brothers cannot call me their brother, my friends cannot call me their friend. Who am I?”A great General became like a person deceased for the sake of his nation, his duties, his responsibilities and ideals. And his dearest ones had to accompany him in this sacrifice. That is really one of life's most helpless situations!

When Jesus was on earth did he have trouble with his relations? In Mark's Gospel which we read today, Mark says that his relatives came looking for him because they heard that "he has gone out of his mind." ( Mk 3:21 ) They wanted to curtail his preaching because due to it “he could not even eat.” ( Mk 3:20 ). It was really too much!

It was true that among Jesus' relatives, some didn't understand him, and some did not have any faith in him. John's Gospel clearly says, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” ( Jn 7:5 ) When he was twelve years old and sat with the doctors of the Law in the temple, even his dearest mother did not understand why he had stayed behind. “My child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety." ( Lk 2:48 ) But Jesus did love all his relatives all and had a good relationship with them. To love our families is natural, and mutual care for each other is surely God's will. When Jesus' mother, brothers and sisters more than once came looking for him when he was preaching, it may have seemed as if they were trying to prevent him, but it was really out of love. (Here ‘brothers and sisters' refer to Jesus' cousins as the Blessed Mother remained a virgin, having conceived Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.)

But Jesus had a wider perspective on the word ‘family’ or ‘relations’. He said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Kinship is a good thing. But unity and communion in God, together striving to do God's will as best we can, mutually encouraging each other, adds an even greater luster to the precious gift of family love.

Jesus never neglected his family or devalued human relationships as some fundamentalist Christians sometimes say. On the contrary, from Jesus' words we see that the Blessed Mother is worthy of our respect not just because she is Jesus' mother but because she is the most faithful doer of the will of God. From the moment of her acceptance of the angel's message until she stood at the foot of the Cross, there was not one moment when she was not attuned to God's will for her.

Jesus experienced mistrust and misunderstanding, the pain of helplessness, be cause of his relatives. The fact that some closest to him did not believe in him certainly caused him pain. Perhaps many of us have endured the same suffering. Isn't it sometimes a fact that we can help many people only to find we have no way to help members of our own family?

Let us follow Jesus' example and courageously accept any pain that may arise from family relationships. At the same time let us broaden the concept of ‘relations’ and, following God's plan, draw into the circle of our loving care for ‘family’’ all persons of good will, indeed all human beings.

(1)予何人哉? 十年以來,父母不得以為子,妻孥不得以為夫,手足不得以為兄弟,交遊不得以為朋友。予何人哉?

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