Mark 3:32-35. A crowd was sitting around Jesus; and they said to him, 'Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.' And he replied, 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking at those who sat around him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'
To set the stage for this passage, Jesus is in conflict with the Pharisees for healing in the synagogue on the Sabbath. He retreats to the shore with his followers, and yet is pursued by many more who wish to be healed. From there he goes to the mountain and selects his diverse band of 12 disciples. Together, they proceed into a house, where they are mobbed by an even bigger crowd. It is to this gathering his family comes to call him out – interrupting his time with the newly chosen disciples, believing that he has taken leave of his senses. When he receives the message that his mother and brothers and sisters are asking for him, Jesus looks around and claims his disciples as his true family – “whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother”. Although Jesus appears to disregard his mother, brothers and sisters who have come to reason with him, here he is identifying a different relationship, a higher relationship – a relationship with God and others who have a relationship with God.
As I reflect on these verses, the questions of family and relationships are very much on my mind. At the moment, I am in England assisting my mother after a fall. I must return to Bellevue in a few days, and naturally I wonder who will be there to support her going forward. Fortunately, she has a large group of friends and neighbors who have rallied – and will continue – to assist in whatever way she needs. I have not lived at home for more than 30 years, yet while I am here, I am welcomed by these friends and neighbors as if I had never left. Some only know me by anecdote, others knew me back when I was an exuberant teen in the local St. Mary’s parish youth group. This is the ‘family’ she has surrounded herself with, because her blood relations live so far away. Similarly, I know that I have an extended family at St. Thomas who will be there to support me when I need, much as I (have) had growing up at St. Mary’s. How lucky we are to have so many opportunities for relationship – relationships of birth, ‘extended family’ relationships and our relationship with God!
The question “who are my mother and my brothers?” is a pertinent challenge for each of us today as we seek God in our personal relationships, and each define our own ‘family’.