1) Opening prayer
ruler of all things in heaven and on earth,
listen favourably to the prayer of your people,
and grant us your peace in our day.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Mark 3,20-21
Jesus went home again, and once more such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. 21 When his relations heard of this, they set out to take charge of him; they said, 'He is out of his mind.'
• The Gospel today is very short. There are only two verses. It speaks about two things: (a) about the great activity of Jesus up to the point of not even having time to eat, and (b) the contrary reaction of the family of Jesus up to the point of thinking that he was out of his mind. Jesus had problems with his family. Sometimes, the family helps, and other times it constitutes an obstacle. This is what happened with Jesus, and this is what happens with us also.
• Mark 3, 20: The activity of Jesus. Jesus returned home. His home is now in Capernaum (Mk 2, 1). He is no longer living with his family in Nazareth. People knowing that Jesus was in the house, they went there. Such a crowd of people gathered there that He and his disciples did not even have time to eat calmly (Mk 6, 31)
• Mark 3, 20: Conflict with his family. When Jesus’ relatives knew this, they said: “He has lost his mind!” Perhaps, this was so because Jesus did not seem to be behaving normally. Perhaps, because they thought that with this he jeopardized the name of the family. Whatever it was, the relatives decided to take him back to Nazareth. This is a sign that the relationship of Jesus with his family was suffering. This must have been a source of suffering, for him as well as for Mary, his Mother. Later on (Mk 3, 31-35) Mark tells how the encounter of Jesus with his relatives was. They arrived to the house where Jesus was staying. Probably they had gone there from Nazareth. There is a distance of about 40 km. from there to Capernaum. His mother was with them. They could not enter the house because there were many people there at the entrance. This is the reason why they sent him a message: “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside asking for you!” The reaction of Jesus was firm and he asked: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And he himself answers pointing out to the crowd gather there around him: “Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother”. He extended the family! Jesus does not allow the family to draw him away from the mission.
• The situation of the family at the time of Jesus. In the ancient Israel, the clan, that is, the large family (the community) was the basis of social living together. This was the protection of the small families and of the persons, the guarantee of the possession of the land, the principal channel of tradition, the defence of identity. That was the concrete way in which the people of that time had to incarnate the love of God in the love toward neighbour. To defend the clan, the community it was the same as to defend the Covenant. In Galilee at the time of Jesus, because of the Roman system, introduced and imposed during the long years of government of Herod the Great (37 BC to 4 BC) and of his son Herod Antipas (4 BC to 39 AD), all this had ceased to exist, or existed every day less. The clan (community) was becoming weaker. The taxes that had to be paid to the government and to the Temple, the increasing getting into debt, the individualist mentality of the Hellenistic ideology, the frequent threats of the violent repression on the part of the Romans, the obligation to accept the soldiers and to give them lodging, the always greater problems for survival, all this led the families to close up in themselves and in their own needs. Hospitality was no longer practiced; neither was sharing, nor communion around the table, the acceptance of the excluded. This closing up was strengthened by the religion of the time. The observance of the norms of purity was a factor of marginalization for many people: women, children Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, possessed, publicans or tax collectors, the sick, mutilated persons, the paraplegics. These norms, instead of helping and favouring acceptance, sharing and communion, favoured separation and exclusion.
Thus, the political, social and economic situation as well as the religious ideology of the time, everything was against and contributed to weaken the central values of the clan, of the community. Therefore, in order that the Kingdom of God could manifest itself, once again, in the community living of the people, persons had to overcome the narrow limits of the small family and open themselves up once again to the large family, the Community.
Jesus gives the example. When his relatives get to Capernaum and try to take hold of him to take him back home, he reacts. Instead of remaining closed up in his small family, he extends the family (Mk 3, 33-35). He creates the community. He asks the same thing to those who want to follow him. Families cannot close up in themselves. The excluded and the marginalized should be accepted, once again, into the community, and in this way feel accepted by God (cf. Lk 14, 12-14). This is the path to be followed in order to attain the objective of the Law which said: “Let there be no poor among you” (Dt 15, 4). Just like the great prophets, Jesus tries to strengthen and affirm community life in the villages of Galilee. He takes the profound sense or significance of the clan, of the family, of the community, like an expression of the incarnation of the love of God in the love toward neighbour.
4) Personal questions
• Does the family help participation in the Christian community or does it make it difficult? How do you assume your commitment in the Christian community?
• What can all this tell us concerning our relationships in the family and in the community?
5) Concluding prayer
Clap your hands, all peoples,
acclaim God with shouts of joy.
For Yahweh, the Most High, is glorious,
the great king over all the earth. (Ps 47,1-2)