Greetings my brothers and sisters in Christ . . . and peace be with you! Shalom!!! First I’d like to thank-you for inviting me into your parish family for this weekend. What specifically brings me here – and brings us together at this point – is that we’re seeking a chance to get to know each other – asking the Holy Spirit to be with us and guide us as you consider a longer-term relationship with a new priest.
But more important, I think, in the spiritual sense – what brings us together today is that we are all followers of Jesus Christ. And as followers of Jesus we profess to do the will of God – it’s our desire and intention to discern, and then to do God’s bidding. And according to the gospel lesson we just heard that’s actually what draws us together as Jesus’ family. Jesus says “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother. . . Here – here are my mother and my brothers!”
But I wonder: When you listen to this gospel story does it leave you feeling a little bit uneasy? Doesn’t it almost sound like Jesus is rejecting, his biological family – even abandoning his mother and brothers and sisters who are left outside the house? Imagine the scenario:
In the chapters before today’s lesson, Jesus began his ministry of healing and preaching. With his teaching, he’s captured the hearts of the multitudes – he’s gathered a following of close disciples around him – – and he’s attracted the attention of authority figures who are threatened by all this!
Jesus’ family must have come to the conclusion that he’s out of his mind. His mother Mary thinks he is having a nervous breakdown. So out of concern for his safety, Mary brings the whole family to find her son and stop his outrageous behavior . . . and perhaps, she may want to put an end to the disgrace Jesus is bringing to her family. When they arrive at the house where Jesus is teaching, they find the place packed – people sitting on the floor, in and around the doors, the windows. His family can’t get through to him, so they send in a message, and it passes from person to person. The message finally reaches Jesus : “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you!”
Jesus ignores the message – he says that those around him, those on the inside of the house, are his real brothers and sisters. And left on the outside is the family he’s bound to by blood – the family who has intimately shared his everyday joys and sorrows.
This scene might leave us wondering about Jesus’ family values – How does this story square with the commandment “Honor your father and your mother.” But this isn’t the first, or last time that we come across stories about Jesus’ family that can challenge our concepts of ideal family values. Do you remember the story of the young boy Jesus – found in the temple days after his parents discovered he was missing? Many of you are parents – can you imagine the distress and anguish of losing your young son or daughter, looking frantically for him for days – and when you are finally reunited, your child says to you: “What’s the big deal? You should have known where I’d be.”
The point in both of these stories is that Jesus’ family just didn’t get it. They didn’t understand Jesus – they couldn’t see who he was, who he was becoming. For all the years they’d spent together as Jesus was growing up, at this point they couldn’t see the larger picture. They had not yet come to accept Jesus’ true identity and his mission as God’s Son.
All this may resonate with you – if you’ve experienced the pain a broken relationship with a dear friend – or especially if you are a parent – if you’ve raised a child, nurtured her interests and gifts the best you could – and then found it difficult to let her go. It can be very painful to let go of a son or daughter at the point when their growing sense of self-identity and purpose lead them “away” from home in new directions. And it may take time to come to see your son, your daughter with new eyes . . . In this same way, when Jesus moved out of his family house and into his mission of salvation and redemption – his biological family was slow to see – and slow to accept.
Jesus’ family did eventually come around – for instance his brother James became the first head of the Christian Church in Jerusalem. But it wasn’t until his family actually became his followers – his disciples – that a new understanding of purpose and relationship emerged.
And we also know that, in fact, Jesus’ loyalty and concern for his biological family were steadfast to the end of his life: Jesus’ deep sense of human, mother-son relationship was manifested in his words from the cross — when he lovingly placed his mother Mary in the care of the apostle John.
In today’s gospel story, Jesus ignores the message about his mother and brothers and sisters waiting for him outside – and when he replies that those on the inside are his real family, he’s talking about family in the Godly sense.
In this spiritual sense there are really only two human families – two ways of relating with God. First there are believers who respond to God – who say yes – those who accept the grace of God’s forgiveness. And then there are those who reject God and his call to repentance – and thus they reject His Love and redemption.
In this context we can begin to make sense of Jesus’ comment about eternal sin – when he says: “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
This teaching can be difficult . It’s frightening for some people – this idea of unforgiveable sin. This blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the one and only unforgivable sin because it is a willful and continuing rejection of the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is a willful rejection of Jesus who teaches and heals and redeems through the power of the Holy Spirit – a willful rejection of the grace of God’s forgiveness – and a willful refusal to be united with God and with each other.
But the good news is: Although the rejection of God’s grace through the Holy Spirit will leave us outside of God’s family – a faithful, receptive response to the Holy Spirit will draw us inside – will make us one Body – members of God’s Holy family.
The good news of today’s gospel is the inexhaustible and unexplainable mystery – that Christ dwells in us, and we are brothers and sisters dwelling in Him. Jesus calls us all, and when we join Christ’s family . . . “His Father” in heaven becomes “Our Father” in heaven.
As Jesus’ family, we continue to gather in a circle around Him – we gather around the family table – this altar – to receive Him through bread and wine. We eat . . . we are nourished . . . and we grow to be like Him in His Body and Blood.
Today we come as one family in union with Christ and each other to remember His death and resurrection . . . And we come to celebrate the greatest family re-union of all, the eternal heavenly reunion, the heavenly banquet that is yet to come.