The old saying is “blood is thicker than water” and it seems that every culture has some form of this saying to reinforce the idea that family comes first!
One of the strongest memories that I have as a boy growing up is my own mother reminding me that my behavior reflects on her and how she did as a mother to me. Bringing shame on my mother through bad behavior was always seen as something to be avoided at all costs. Besides, she would remind me, you have a family name to live up to. Family comes first!
And that makes perfect sense in a society made up of family relationships. But we live in an age where the term “family” is being redefined; where a “family” can be anything we want it to be. I wonder if folks stop to consider the unintended consequences of their tinkering with foundational principles of society?
In any event, our Gospel Lesson today gives us something of an amazing take on the idea of “family” and, as usual, the Lord Jesus confronts us with His unique and soul shaping insight into this very emotional and vital subject.
Look at Matthew 12:46-50; 13:1-3. The Lord is beginning His teaching ministry that will last a little over 3 years until His crucifixion in Jerusalem. Naturally, His earthly family is concerned about Him, and their concern only grows as His popularity and His notoriety increases. This is the scene in today’s lesson. The Lord is teaching and His earthly family is worried.
“At that time, while Jesus was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.'”
Now some moderns have suggested this passage proves that the Lord dismissed the importance of His family, even His mother, the Theotokos. Others point to this as proof that Mary and Joseph had other children besides the Lord Jesus after the Lord was born. Lot’s to say about this but there is no room here. Suffice it to say that, as usual, they are reading more into the passage than is allowed and they are ignoring other information that would correct their snap judgement.
But the passage does do something for us to see the Lord’s priorities in life and just how these priorities reorient how we spend the years God gives us to prepare for life with Him forever.
And the key is verse 50 of Matthew 12: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Doing the will of God, knowing the will of God, following the will of God, creates a deeper bond with Christ than the bond created by family ties. This foundational principle in being a purposeful disciple of Jesus Christ doesn’t negate family ties, it fulfills them! Because the scriptures declare that this is why we call the Theotokos blessed for all generations – She did the will of God. Far from dismissing His family as unimportant, this passage reinforces just WHY we hold following the will of God so very important! By the way, the very act of the Lord caring for His mother’s well being while He hung on the cross (see John 19:25-27) is proof that the Lord never dismissed His relationship with His mother!
Today, is your relationship so strong with Christ that you know His will for your life? This revelation that doing the will of God creates a stronger bond with God than even our blood relationships insists on an intimacy with God that allows us to know His will for our lives and hear His will for our lives. The purposeful practice of the wisdom of the Faith creates that intimacy that allows you to know God’s will and even the strength to follow it. Doing that hard work puts all other relationships into proper perspective and sets you free to love all others as God loves them, and that, my precious one, is the very heart of true family!