1) Opening prayer
All-powerful and ever-living God,
direct your love that is within us,
that our efforts in the name of your Son
may bring mankind to unity and peace.
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 3,31-35
Now his mother and his brothers arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him.
A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, 'Look, your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.'
He replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking at those sitting in a circle round him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.'
• The family of Jesus. The relatives reached the house where Jesus was. Probably they have come from Nazareth. From there up to Capernaum there is a distance of forty kilometres. His mother also comes together with them. They do not enter, but they send a messenger: “Look, your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you! Jesus’ reaction is clear: Who are my mother and my brothers? And he himself responds turning to look toward the crowd who is there around: Here are my mother and my brothers! Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother! To understand well the sense of this response it is convenient to look at the situation of the family in the time of Jesus.
• In the Old Israel, the clan, that is, the large family (the community), was the basis for social living together. It was the protection of the families and of the persons, the guarantee of the possession of the land, the principle vehicle of the tradition, the defence of identity. It was the concrete way on the part of the people of that time to incarnate the love of God and the love toward neighbour. To defend the clan was the same as to defend the Covenant.
• In the Galilee at the time of Jesus, because of the system established during the long periods of government of Herod the Great (37 BC to 4 BC) and of his son Herod Antipas (4 BC to 39 AD), the clan, (the community) was becoming weaker. The taxes to be paid, both to the Government and to the Temple, the debts which were increasing, the individualistic mentality of the Hellenistic ideology, the frequent threats of violent repression on the part of the Romans and the obligation to accept the soldiers and give them hospitality, the ever growing problem of survival , all this impelled the families to close themselves in self and to think only of their own needs. This closing up was strengthened by the religion of the time. For example: the one who gave his inheritance to the Temple, could leave his parents without any help. This weakened the fourth commandment which was the backbone of the clan (Mk 7, 8-13). Besides this, the observance of the Norms of purity was a factor of marginalization for many persons: women, children, Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, possessed persons, tax collectors or Publicans, the sick, mutilated persons and paraplegic persons.
• And thus, the concern with the problems of one’s own family prevented the persons to meet in community. Now, in order that the Kingdom of God could manifest itself in community living of the people, the persons had to overcome the narrow limits of the small family and open themselves again to the large family, to the Community. Jesus gave the example. When his own family tries to take possession of him, he reacted and extended the family: “Who are my mother and my brothers?”. And he himself gave the answer, turning his look toward the crowd: Here are my mother and my brothers! Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother, sister and mother! (Mk 3, 33-35). He crated a community.
• Jesus asked the same thing from all those who wanted to follow him. Families could not close themselves up in self . The excluded and the marginalized had to be accepted in the life with others, and in this way feel accepted by God (Lk 14, 12-14) This was the path to attain the objective of the Law which said “There must, then, be no poor among you” (Dt 15, 4). Like the great Prophets of the past, Jesus tries to consolidate community life in the villages of Galilee. He takes back the profound sense of the clan, of the family, of the community, as an expression of the incarnation of the love toward God and toward neighbour.
4) Personal questions
• To live faith in the community. What place and what influence does the community have in my way of living faith ?
• Today, in the large city, overcrowding promotes individualism which is contrary to life in community. What am I doing to counteract this evil?
5) Concluding prayer
I waited, I waited for Yahweh,
then he stooped to me
and heard my cry for help.
He put a fresh song in my mouth,
praise of our God. (Ps 40,1.3)