Jul. 7, 2018

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2018

THE FAMILY OF JESUS AND "THEIR LACK OF FAITH"

Readings: 1st- Ezk. 2:2-5; 2nd- 2 Cor. 12:7-10; Gospel- Mk. 6:1-6

The gospel of today is explicit about the people’s reaction to Jesus as he visits his hometown. They see him as that little, poor son of Joseph and Mary. They know his brothers James, Joses, Judas, and Simon. They are familiar with his family story, so, need not listen to him. Jesus pities them for their lack of faith. His remark explains the reason for their apathy, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his house” (Mk. 6:4). The people aren’t excited about Jesus simply because they know his biological origin. They don’t understand fully the ministry of Jesus.

What we hear from today’s gospel is a recurring question about Jesus’ family of origin. The people of Galilee ask, “Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon?” Jesus also indirectly explains his family of origin when he says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house” (Mk. 6:4). Questions have always arisen from time to time to claim that the Virgin Mary had other children. While the Catholic church teaches that the Virgin Mary did not have any other children before and after Jesus, the Protestants teach that Mary had other children. Today’s gospel is one of the scriptural references they use to defend their case.

In my opinion, this is not as important to us as the salvation that Christ has come to give. The people of his time missed the opportunity because they were so much concerned with his biological relationships. The Jesus of Nazareth is the son of Mary for sure, and the carpenter’s son. But Jesus is both God and man. Being God is way greater than being man. So, why don’t we concentrate on what his coming into the world merited for the sinful humanity. Peter says about him, “You are the Christ the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus has come to give us eternal life.

In responding to his people, spoke about “his native place and among his own kin.” The Semitic usage of the term “brother” and “sister” apply to a broader sense of familial relationship which includes nephews, nieces, cousins, half-brothers and half-sisters. This does not rule out the children of the same parents.

Let’s recall the time that Jesus was preaching in the temple and received the news that his mother and his brothers were outside waiting for him. His reply was, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he said, “For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matt. 12:46-50). Who really is the family of Jesus? Jude, one of those described as Jesus’ brother in today’s gospel once wrote, “I, Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept safe for Jesus Christ: may mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.” (Jude 1-2). James, the said brother of Jesus also wrote, “James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.” (Jas. 1:1). So, can these brothers be calling themselves slaves of Jesus? Therefore, what is the important thing for us as Christians and followers of Jesus?

Notice that Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty deeds there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” (Mk. 6:5). Jesus was not able to perform mighty deeds because, “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk. 6:6). Yet he cured some people. That means that he cured the few persons who had faith. He cured those who understood the meaning of his ministry. He cured those who belonged to the God-family despite the faithlessness of the people. Jesus wants to be amazed rather at our faith.

As human beings, we too belong to our biological families. We have parents, brothers, sisters, who are members of our nuclear family. We have grandparents. We have uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces, who form our extended families. In Africa where I come from, the extended family system is as strong as the nuclear family. Uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, and cousins, play great roles in the individual’s life. We also treat kinsmen/women, people from the same clan or village as brothers and sisters. This seems to be the same with the people in Jesus’ time. These are all important relationships.

Beyond these, we have our church community and parish family where we worship. For instance, we are a family of Saint Jane Frances catholic family. We are related with each other in faith. We care for one another. We support one another. We pray for one another. We are members of the family of Jesus. Sometimes, our church family is closer and more supportive than our biological family ties. We must not let our material affinity take away the important spiritual connection that we possess through Christ.

Unfortunately, though, most times, we face temptations that confront our faith. Saint Paul tells us about his own temptations; “a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being so elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Satan might want to distract us from the love of Christ. Satan might want us to focus on earthly relationships and disregard our heavenly heritage. Satan would always want to create a distance between us and the family of Jesus that we belong. I am here today to remind you that God’s grace is sufficient for you. God’s grace manifests in his support and strength for those who believe, those who are members of his family. God’s grace leads us to holy friendships and fellowships in Christ Jesus.

We are members of Christ’s family because we believe. We are constantly fighting battles with Satan whose goal is to pull us away from God’s grace. Jesus is not letting the devil take you away. He is not letting Satan use sickness, lacks, disappointments, hatreds, fears, or anxieties, to take you away. Jesus is saying to you, “My grace is enough for you. Have faith in me, and have faith in God.” May God’s grace enable you to appreciate your family and the family of God’s people. May God’s grace be sufficient for you always. Amen.