A reflection by Fr. Jack Lynch, SFM, on Luke 8.19–21
We really don’t know a great deal about the family or the family life of Jesus but the abrupt and seemingly dismissive response to the messenger who told Jesus that his family was outside waiting to see him is perplexing and quite out of character. That is especially so when we consider that one of the principal points of Jesus’ teaching was about relationships, with God, with ourselves, with each other and with all of our creation.
There is obviously no rejection of Mary or family ties. In today’s text, Jesus takes advantage of that particular moment to clarify who belongs to his true family and the criterion consists in putting God’s will into practice. We know that Mary’s physical motherhood is inseparable from her acceptance of God’s will. In Mary, the woman and the believer become one.
We need to recall that the gospels are an overview of the life and teaching of Jesus and not a detailed biography. Eugene Maly reminds us that the evangelists have taken the words and actions of Jesus and put them in writing in a way that makes them relevant to contemporary Christians. He goes on to say that the Gospels “are interpretations of the whole mission of Jesus developed within the church and for the Church.”
Today we encounter Jesus completely involved and absorbed in his mission, preaching the word of God to the poor announcing and bringing the kingdom among those in desperate need of hope, life, forgiveness, justice, mercy and peace. Jesus is also very clear on what constitutes intimacy and closeness in the family of baptism and grace, “My mother and brothers and sisters are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
Life on earth is threatened by an escalating ecological crisis—climate change, deforestation, pollution, species extinction and more. Ecological destruction, poverty and injustice are all intertwined in social structures and lifestyles which value individual status over community well-being, possessions over relationships, and profits over the common good of all life. We believe God is calling all of us in the human family to conversion—to a profound respect for all life; to a mending of our broken relationships with our sisters and brothers, with the community of life, and with the Creator.
We have to acknowledge our failures in this area and the deep wounds that have been inflicted on creation and on each other. Today’s readings call us to a true justice in the family of Jesus, in the family of God the source of all life. Who are the true brothers and sisters? They who hear the word of God or are inspired by God and obey it – beyond any line of blood, marriage, religion, nation, economic bracket or personal connection. We are all called to be the family of God. We must remember and pray for and work with all peoples as children of the one God.