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The Christian vocation is fundamentally about relationship and communion.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?"

We are made part of the family of God through Jesus Christ

We are made part of the family of God through Jesus Christ

CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - With the First Sunday of Advent, we begin, as a Church, to walk through the liturgical year again. The cycle is a constant reminder to us that every end is a beginning. In and through our liturgical seasons we mark our journey with the great events that constitute the Christian Mystery.

As Christians, we know that all time is a gift, given by God. There is no such thing as profane time for a Christian because time has been transformed by the Paschal mystery; the Incarnation, Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Coming Return of Jesus Christ. The eternal entered into history and it, and we, are forever changed through His coming. He has come, He comes and He will come! He is coming right now for those who have the eyes of faith to see Him and are willing to make room for Him in their lives.

This Sunday we are invited to begin again. Throughout this season of preparation called Advent, two central figures are proposed for our reflection; John the Baptizer and Mary, the Mother of the Lord. I propose for our consideration a somewhat perplexing and often misunderstood encounter between Jesus, the crowds and His mother for us as we begin our Advent Journey.

"While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother and who are my brothers?" Pointing to 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." (Matthew 12:48-50)

This biblical passage is too often misinterpreted. Some have argued that it stands for the proposition that Jesus was making a comment intended to lessen the importance of his earthly mother. This "mother is unimportant" interpretation is textually inaccurate and theologically mistaken. It runs contrary to the biblical context of the encounter and rejects the consistent, unbroken Christian tradition. Such a misreading ascribes a minimalist role to Mary in the Christian revelation and consequently in the life of every Christian.

More importantly, in so doing; it can also cause us to miss a profound truth concerning the Christian life and vocation. It can discourage us from digging deeper into the text and thereby grasping a profoundly important insight. This insight has great implications and can lead us to a deeper experience of the Christian life and vocation.

I stand with the ancient Christian tradition, rooted in the patristic literature (writings of the early Church fathers). The opposite of this "mother is less important" claim is what is being revealed through these words and in this encounter. Understood in this light, this passage reveals a framework for an authentically human and relational spirituality, a spirituality of communion. We are made members of the very family of God through Jesus Christ and His saving Incarnation.

Through our Baptism, we are all invited into the very family of God. When we choose to be obedient to the will and the Word of God; we enter into an eternal relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We actually become a part of the "family" of God; we become "mother" sister" and "brother" to the Lord. We enter into "communion" with the Trinitarian God through Him.

This interchange was recorded for all time for a purpose. Through it, Jesus teaches us something about the interior meaning of our personal redemption, the redemption of the whole human race and the redemption of the entire created order. The message is simple but profound; God is a God of love and relationship. He has invited us into an intimate and eternal communion of love.

"Behold your mother; behold your son". In His final act of Self-giving love, revealed for all eternity on Golgotha's Hill, Jesus actually elevated and expanded the importance of His mother and "brothers". We read about this encounter in the Gospel of St. John. Picture the poignant scene, right before He was to breathe His last breath:

"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son."Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother." And from that hour the disciple took her into his home." (John 19:26-27).

From antiquity, the Fathers of the Church have correctly and uniformly taught that this encounter was also about more than the relationship between the Apostle John (whom sacred scripture calls "the beloved disciple") and Mary the mother of the Lord. It was -and is-  about the expanded family of the Church, the community that Jesus came to found - and of which He is the Head - and we are the members.

As a final gift, right before He died, He gave His mother to His whole family, through giving her to the beloved disciple John. This was a gift for all of us, an exchange, an expansion of His family. In this exchange, the tradition has long taught, He also entrusted all of us to her maternal care.

Something of the interior meaning of this exchange, this gift, is what is truly revealed in the passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew with which we began this discussion. Jesus was not minimizing His relationship with His mother through these words given in response to the crowd, He was expanding it. He hungers, through Divine love, to include all of us in the "family circle" of God. In doing so, He invites us on the journey home to the Father's house.

In this exchange, Jesus opens up the interior importance and meaning of the motherhood of Mary - and through that relationship - the interior meaning of all family relationships. He gives to those with ears to hear and eyes to see, a key insight - familial relationships touch upon, model and make present an eternal mystery into which each of us who are baptized into Him, are invited! The Church is a family. Understanding this insight, and living it, is a key to the spiritual life. The Christian vocation is fundamentally about relationship and communion.

All who are incorporated into the Body of Jesus Christ through Baptism begin even now to experience the intimacy, (expressed in family relationships), that is the essence of the very life of the Trinity. Through His life, death and Resurrection (the "Paschal mystery"), He opens a way for every man, woman and child, who chooses to do the will of His Father, to enter into the very family circle of God through truly living our lives in Him.

His Father becomes our Father as we enter, through Him, into the inner life of the Trinity. He underscores this truth right before He ascended when He instructed Mary of Magdala to tell the disciples "I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' (John 20:17). Understanding this "mystery" requires prayer and revelation. Our Advent season presents us with such a time as a gift. Let us use it fully and grow in our Christian faith as members of the very Family of God.


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.

Keywords: Mary, Mother of God, John the Baptizer, Church, Holy Trinity, marriage, family, conversion, communion, Incarnation, Advent, Deacon Keith Fournier


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1 - 7 of 7 Comments

  1. Michael
    9 months ago

    I disagree with the commentary that says these verses are about brotherly love. It is unclear what Jesus was saying to the people at the gathering before his mother and brothers approached . It is clear they interrupted Him however. As in other parts of the new testament it is clear that familial lines don't always grant salvation. We are told for instance that in some cases mother will be against daughter and son against father regarding the belief in God the Father and his Son Jesus. For instance, if you worship Allah or Shiva and your son or daughter find life in Christ, there will be a division with parent against child in this case. For the child it is more important to stay rooted in what scripture says about salvation and disregard what his parent says about their faith and their god. If the parent will not convert and the child is unsafe living with this family the person must leave the family. Islam has mercy killings for example of heretics.
    Getting back to the verse about Jesus and his mother. He does not elevate her or demand that a path be made so she can sit by his side. What He does do is make the statement that those that are obedient and faithful to God the Father through Jesus are his family where unbelievers are not part of His family. We are not saved by birthright. We are saved by the Fathers Grace through belief in Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross and his resurrection. Nothing else saves us.

  2. jose gonzales
    1 year ago

    I have nothing against catholics, but breaking that culture and tradition was the greatest gift! Love god pray to god and god only, in the name of the father the son and the holly spirit amen.

  3. Larry
    3 years ago

    @ No Way- "Mary did a good thing" does not quite cover her role as the mother of Christ, nor of the importance of what she did. " Christ is God and no one is more important or equally important than God" ignores what Christ himself says, and who he prays to. Clearly Christ is teaching the importance of love one another, but also of doing the will of our Father in heaven. I do not believe in all the catholic teaching concerning the blessed mother, not because I pick and choose what I want nor that I'm a catholic in name only. It's simply that I do not understand. Whether you are catholic or not and do not believe in the catholic teachings of the Blessed Mother and the saints, everything else Keith Fournier says here is accepted by most all christian religions. We should ignore these differences, and focus on doing the will of the father.

  4. No Way
    3 years ago

    I disagree with the "Behold your mother/son" interpretation laid out here. What Christ is saying here is a re-iteration of the new covenant to "Love one another." He clearly shows that he meant business when he stressed the importance of brotherly love to each other. This claim is more in line with the teachings of Christ than the one in this write-up. Mary did a good thing, but Christ is God and no one is more important or equally important than God.

  5. Larry
    3 years ago

    Those who claim it lessens the importance of his earthly mother clearly misunderstand. It raises the importance of God, and reminds us that we are all part of His family. Those who argue over the doctrine of Mary his mother miss the point completely. Come to my church go to heaven, go to that church go to hell. It's not about us individually/selfishly, " whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." (Matthew 12:48-50), it's about God. Those who would claim anything else, those who want to divide us over doctrine, have also forgotten Jesus prayer, "May they all be one" John 17:21

  6. abey
    3 years ago

    Deacon Keith has said it well "Jesus gave His Mother(Mary) to us through His beloved disciple John". John himself can be considered as the beginning of this generation . The beauty of Christ is that He was born of the woman as per the law, such that she first come in Christ followed by the first family & relates to the bible in Chapter revelations which states - The seed of the woman who keep the commandments of GOD & have the testimony of Jesus Christ. IN His statement regarding His Mother & brothers he was emphasizing His first Love - THE FATHER in eternity, which ought to be ours too, through Him. For as the Bible states, before the foundations were laid GOD chose each one in His Christ, which Christ Jesus is the only way, life & Truth to The Father, without exceptions.

  7. Alfred Naroka Bagudu
    3 years ago

    I love ur good works keep it up.

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