Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?

Exodus 14:21-15:1
Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh's horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, "Let's get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt."

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen." Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD :
"I will sing to the LORD,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has cast into the sea.

Matthew 12:46-50
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you."

He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

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For the last several days, the first Reading brought memories of going to the movies to see the magnificent Cinemascope of Cecil B. Demille’s motion picture, The Ten Commandments. If you are old enough, you probably saw that film in a movie theatre or at a drive-in. If you are somewhat younger, you no doubt watched it on television, every year in the early Spring – at the time the Passover and the Resurrection are celebrated. But, if there is a scene that stands out in your mind – as it does in mine – it is the parting of the Red Sea. As a teen, whenever I heard this reading or saw the motion picture I rooted for the “children of Israel” to win – which they did, of course. But today, the digits of my age are reversed, and at this stage of my journey toward the Promised Land, I respond somewhat differently. I no longer think of this movie as a propaganda piece for this nation’s involvement in conflicts in the lands on either side of the Red Sea.

There is a common theme between the first reading and the gospel. While Jesus was speaking to the crowd, Mary his mother and his brothers (James and John, Simon and Jude Thaddeus are his kinfolk). Jesus extends his hand to the folks in the crowd and verbally expands the definition of who is a brother, a sister, a mother to him.

Some commentators on Scripture suggest that the words of Jesus here, and at the wedding banquet at Cana in John’s gospel, are a “put-down” to the Mary. That is contrary to the truth: rather than insulting his mother, Jesus is inviting us to a high dignity and a great responsibility.

By trusting God’s word, and doing God’s will, Mary became the Mother of God, and the spiritual mother of every man, woman and child in earth.

Gracious Lord, we have the privilege, and the responsibility to live with ever greater awareness that you are with us. We ask your other now to intercede for us that we also might share with her in your great longing for the salvation of all God’s children.

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