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By Fr. Peter J. Irving III

1/26/2013 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

The Gospel of today's Mass is as shocking as it is short. Although just two verses long, it packs an unexpected punch when we our told Jesus' relatives try to seize him because, as they say: "He is out of his mind."


By Fr. Peter J. Irving III

Catholic Online (

1/26/2013 (3 years ago)

Published in Year of Faith

Keywords: homily, year of faith, gospel, Jesus, Father Peter Irving, saint Jose Maria Escriva

LONG BEACH, CA (Catholic Online) - The Gospel of today's Mass is as shocking as it is short. Although just two verses long, it packs an unexpected punch when we our told Jesus' relatives try to seize him because, as they say: "He is out of his mind." (St. Mark 3:21)

This passage which is unique to St. Mark has its interpretive challenges. Who are these "relatives," for instance? The Greek phrase that is employed here is variously translated "relatives," "family," and even "friends." It literally means "those from the side of him (Jesus)." While the argument can be made for a broader interpretation of this phrase (e.g., friends, disciples, or followers), it is most often rendered as "relatives" or "family" of Jesus.

Who are they exactly?

Some have identified these "relatives" with the "mother and brothers" of Jesus who show up later in this chapter: "His mother and his brothers arrived. Standing outside they sent word to him and called him" (verse 31). But this is a stretch that requires reading into the text something which isn't there.

The best argument of those who hold this view is that the linkage between verses 21 and 31 is implied. This argument is very weak. The identification of the "relatives" of verse 21 with the "mother and brothers" of verse 31 is far from explicit. Besides, the latter "arrive" after the former make their unsettling mental health assessment of Jesus.

If I may pursue this point further, the obvious must be stated: how could she to whom the identity of her Son had been revealed by the angel (St. Luke 1) arrive at the conclusion that "Son of the Most High" whose "Kingdom will have no end" was mentally unstable? The answer to this question is simply: it is not possible.

Setting aside these interpretive questions regarding the "who" of verse 21, let us now look at the statement itself: "He is out of his mind." There's no debate about the meaning of these words. Those who spoke them meant exactly what they said. They were convinced that Jesus had gone mad.

The irony of this is underscored when we consider who Jesus is. He is God Incarnate, "Perfect God" and "Perfect Man". In the sacred humanity of Jesus we have the "perfect specimen," so to speak, of human health and wholeness. This means if anyone was "out of his mind" that day, we can be sure it wasn't Jesus.

In a fallen, upside down world which calls evil good and good evil those who are truly sane will be written off as crazy. They did this to Jesus, they did this to the Saints throughout history and they will do the same to those who faithfully follow Him today.

Defend the dignity of the unborn child? They will call you an "anti-abortion extremist." Fight for the protection of marriage as the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of begetting children? They will call you a "hater." Strive to be a faithful Christian and live a life in conformity with Christ's teachings? They will call you a "right wing nut job."

If this is madness, would that we were all so mad.

St. John tells us that Jesus "loved His own to the end," to the extreme! His entire earthly life was poured out in love for us! Let us ask Our Lady to help us to love Him and all souls with the same madness of love with which Our Lord has loved us.

In closing, let us make this prayer of St. Josemaria our own: "Sweet Mother, lead us to that madness that will make others fall madly in love with our Christ. Sweet Lady Mary, may Love not be in us a flash in the pan, or a will-o'-the-wisp, such as decomposing corpses sometimes produce. May it be a true devouring fire, which sets alight and burns everything it touches." (The Forge, 57)


Fr. G. Peter Irving III is a priest of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and is Pastor of Holy Innocents Church, Long Beach, CA. 


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