DOES JESUS DISOWN HIS MOTHER?

There is a very interesting and at the same time puzzling passage in the Gospels. It is about Jesus’ Mother and brothers coming to meet him and his reaction. When his dear Mother Mary and his brothers come to meet him, Jesus does not seem to care for them! Instead Jesus in a way disowned them! For, he said pointing to his disciples sitting around him with rhetoric questions and a concrete answer:  “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? …  Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do, is my brother, my sister, and my mother”.

All the 3 Synoptic Evangelists narrate the event of Jesus’ Mother and brothers coming to meet him. (see Mt 12: 46-50; Mk 3: 31-35; & Lk 8: 19-21). The details of the narrations may differ from one to another. But one sentence specially appeals to me and it is expressed in the very same words by all the three Evangelists: Mathew, Mark & Luke. The sentence reads: “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do, is my brother and sister and mother”.

Here Jesus is telling us a very, very important thing. Family relationship is very important. Kinship is usually very strong between parents and children, between the brothers and sisters; between close relatives. But kinship is not everything. There could be equally strong or even stronger relationship beyond kinship and family relationship.

Jesus is calling our attention to a kinship or relationship beyond the family bond. People are ready to give their lives to save the life of a friend with whom he/she has no kinship. There have been instances in history that saintly people like Fr Macmillan in Nazi concentration camp gave his life in the place of a family man.

There is a story of two soldiers who were very good friends. In the war front one of them fell down mortally wounded. The captain decided to withdrew his troops from the war front for the safety of his soldiers saying that the mortally wounded soldier may be dead already. But the friend of the wounded soldier risking his own life went back and amidst firing of rockets crawled and dragged the wounded soldier to a safe bunker. The wounded soldier said to his friends, “I knew you would come to save me!” Indeed the two friends shared a bond, a relationship, much stronger than kinship! Jesus is speaking about such strong relationship.

Jesus is precisely telling about such deep bonds when he tells pointing to his disciples, crowded round him in a big circle: “Whoever does  what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother and sister and mother”. Here Jesus tells us what is real, true kinship, which is ever deeper than family bonds. Biblical scholar William Barclay commending on this passage of the Gospel points out 4 characteristics of deep relationship beyond kinship, family bond.

  • True kinship lies in common experience
  • True kinship lies in common interest
  • True kinship lies in common obedience and
  • True kinship lies in common goal

First, Common Experience: Young people in the same profession or enterprise struggle at the beginning to get to the top. They help each other, share both their joys and sufferings; their difficulties and problems and above all support each other. And then later years they recall such experiences with nostalgia as good friends do.

In para-Olympics games there was a race for the differently able children. On child practiced a lot to participate in the race. When the whistle blew the children started to run. A few meters on the race that particular child’s legs began to go different directions and he fell down. The other boys seeing their companion fallen all came back took the boy by hand and they all hand in hand reached the finishing line together! They all won the first prize! Christians have to common experience of being forgiven sinners through the sacrament of reconciliation.

Second, Common Interest: Religious Sister, Brothers & Priests all have the common interest of proclaiming Jesus in what they are and in what they do. In any one congregation, the members have particular interest according to the charisma of their congregation. So they have a deep bond among themselves than with those outside their congregation.

Third, Common Obedience:  Jesus chose 12 simple, ordinary people as his disciples. But they were an extra-ordinary mixture!  There was Mathew, a tax collector, who was serving the Romans in power in Palestine and hence he and all tax collectors were hated as sinners and enemies of the Jewish people. Then, there was Simon the Zealot, the freedom fighter. He belonged to the fourth group of Zealots after the Pharisees, Scribes and Essens. As freedom fighters Zealots were ready to kill the enemies and sacrifice their own lives.

If Simon and Mathew had met outside the circle of Jesus, Simon could have put a dragger into the side of Mathew! But now both have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Master and they have pledge their obedience to Jesus who has said, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you”. William Barclay says, “There is no way of showing the reality of love unless by the spirit of obedience”.

Fourth, Common Goal: The soldiers are trained to love their country and fight the enemy even at the cost of their lives. The soldiers may come from different background of castes, races, religions, cultures and languages. But their goal is concerned, the aim of their lives is concerned, they are a very united lot as if they have one mind and one heart! This is the secular world. But Jesus is speaking about the kingdom of God where “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother and sister and mother”.

Let us come back to the Gospel passage. Mother Mary has a deep kinship with Jesus. Their close and intimate relationship is as Mother and Son. But as we can see, their relationship is not limited to family kinship but goes much beyond it. So Mother Mary understands well when Jesus says, “Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants him to do is my brother and sister and mother”.  Mother Mary has shown herself far excellent in doing God, the Father’s will from the moment she said at the annunciation her “fiat”,  “I am the Lord’s servant, may it happen to me as you have said” (Lk 1: 38).

Mother Mary is doubly related to Jesus, first, as Jesus’ Mother and second, as a disciple sharing intimately in the mission of Jesus.

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Changed on: 01-08-2019

Next Change: 16-08-2019

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2019