Tuesday, January 23, 2018
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 the human race 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
The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him, "Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you." But he said to them in reply, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."
• The family of Jesus. The relatives reached the house where Jesus was. They have probably come from Nazareth. From there to Capernaum there is a distance of forty kilometers. His mother also comes 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 by turning to look toward the crowd who is there around Him: “Here are My mother and My brothers! Anyone who does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother!” To understand the meaning of this response it is necessary to look at the situation of the family at the time of Jesus.
• In old Israel, the clan (the large family, the community), was the basis of living together. It was protection for families and people, the guarantee of possession of the land, the principle vehicle of tradition, and the defense 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 neighbor. To defend the clan was the same as to defend the Covenant.
• In 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 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 Hellenism, the frequent threats of violent repression on the part of the Romans and the obligation to accept the soldiers and give them hospitality, and the ever growing problem of survival, impelled families to close themselves in on themselves and to think only of their own needs. This closing up was strengthened by the religion of the time. For example, 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). The observance of the norms of purity was a factor in the marginalization of many people too, such as women, children, Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, possessed people, tax collectors or publicans, the sick, mutilated people and paraplegics.
• The concern over the problems of one’s own family prevented people from meeting in community. Now, in order that the Kingdom of God could manifest itself in community living, people had to overcome the narrow limits of the small family and open themselves to the larger family, and the community. Jesus gave the example. When His own family tried to take control 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 is My brother, sister and mother!” (Mk 3:33-35). He created a community.
• Jesus asked the same thing from all those who wanted to follow Him. Families should not close themselves in on themselves . The excluded and the marginalized had to be accepted in life with others and feel accepted by God (Lk 14:12-14). This was the path to attaining 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, the family, and the community as an expression of the incarnation of the love toward God and toward neighbor.
4) Personal questions
• What place and what influence does the community have in my way of living the faith ?
• Today, in the large city, overcrowding promotes individualism which is at odds with life in community. What am I doing to counteract this? How does one reconcile personal physical safety with community involvement in these urban areas?
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)