Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Anyone Who Does The Will Of God Is My Brother And Sister And Mother.

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops

Reading I             
either : 2 Timothy 1:1-8 
Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
for the promise of life in Christ Jesus,
to Timothy, my dear child:
grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father
and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am grateful to God,
whom I worship with a clear conscience as my ancestors did,
as I remember you constantly in my prayers, night and day.
I yearn to see you again, recalling your tears,
so that I may be filled with joy,
as I recall your sincere faith
that first lived in your grandmother Lois
and in your mother Eunice
and that I am confident lives also in you.

For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame
the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.
For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice
but rather of power and love and self-control.
So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord,
nor of me, a prisoner for his sake;
but bear your share of hardship for the Gospel
with the strength that comes from God.
Timothy was born at Lystra in the province of Pisidia (modern Turkey). He was the son of a Greek father and his mother, Eunice, was a convert from Judaism. When Paul preached at Lystra during his first missionary journey in the area, Timothy joined him and replaced Barnabas, with whom Paul had some differences over Barnabas’ cousin, Mark. Timothy soon became a close friend, confidant and partner of Paul in his missionary apostolate. In order to placate the Jewish Christians, Paul agreed to Timothy being circumcised. This was because Timothy’s mother had been Jewish and, for the Jews, it was the religion of the mother which was decisive. Timothy then accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:1-18:22). When Paul was forced to flee Berea, in northern Greece, because of the hostility of the local Jews, Timothy stayed on (Acts 17:13), but soon after he was sent to nearby Thessalonica to report on the condition of the Christians there and to encourage them under persecution. This report led to Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians when he joined Timothy at Corinth in southern Greece. In the year 58 Timothy was sent with Erastus north to Macedonia but then went south to Corinth to remind the Corinthians of Paul’s teaching. He then accompanied Paul into Macedonia and Achaia. Timothy was probably with Paul when he was imprisoned at Caesarea and later in Rome. He was himself imprisoned but then freed. According to tradition, Timothy went to Ephesus in western Turkey, became its first bishop, and was stoned to death there when he opposed the pagan festival in honor of the goddess Diana. There are two letters reputedly written by Paul to Timothy, one written about 65 from Macedonia and the second from Rome, while Paul was in prison awaiting execution. Commentators today doubt, on the basis of style and content, that Paul could have written these letters. Nevertheless, they do reflect his teaching.
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or   Titus 1:1-5
Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones
and the recognition of religious truth,
in the hope of eternal life
that God, who does not lie, promised before time began,
who indeed at the proper time revealed his word
in the proclamation with which I was entrusted
by the command of God our savior,
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.

For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you.
Titus was a disciple and companion of Paul. One of Paul’s letters is addressed to him, although modern commentators doubt if Paul was really the author. (It was common in those days for writings to carry the name of a well-known person as the author.) Although not mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, Titus is mentioned in the Letter to the Galatians (2:1 and 3) where Paul writes of going to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus. He was then sent off to Corinth in southern Greece, where he successfully restored harmony between the Christian community there and Paul, its founder, who had some differences with them. Titus was later left on the island of Crete to help organize the Church there, although he soon went to Dalmatia, in Croatia. According to Eusebius of Caesarea in the Ecclesiastical History, Titus served as the first Bishop of Crete. He was buried in Cortyna (Gortyna), Crete. His head was later transferred to Venice at the time of the Saracen invasion of Crete in 832 and enshrined in St. Mark’s Church there.
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Responsorial            Psalm 96
Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all you lands.
Sing to the Lord; bless his name.
Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Announce his salvation, day after day.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Give to the Lord, you families of nations,
give to the Lord glory and praise;
give to the Lord the glory due his name!
Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
Say among the nations: The Lord is king.
He has made the world firm, not to be moved;
he governs the peoples with equity.
Proclaim God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations.
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Gospel                    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.”
We know that many of Jesus’ family already thought he was mad and he had become an embarrassment to them. Now they come to the house where Jesus is teaching and, standing outside, send in a message asking for him. Do they want to talk with him or to remove him from what he is doing?

The message is sent in: “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.” To which Jesus replies, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And pointing to those sitting at his feet listening to his teaching, he says, “Here are my mother and my brothers." And he clarifies that further by adding, “Anyone who does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

We should note that Jesus’ family members are described twice as being on the “outside”. They are “outsiders”. By implication, those sitting in a circle with Jesus are on the “inside”; they are the “insiders”.

What Jesus is clearly saying is that being on the “inside” is not just a question of location but of relationship. That relationship is not by blood but by identification with the Way of Jesus. To be a Christian is to enter into a new family, with stronger ties than those of blood and where everyone is seen as a brother of a sister. The “insider” is defined simply as “anyone who does the will of God”. So it can include those who are not Christian at all.

A disturbing question that might arise from this passage is the status of Jesus’ mother, Mary. Was she also on the “outside”? The answer is an unequivocal ‘No’. We know from Luke’s gospel that, when invited by the angel to be the mother of Jesus, Mary gave an unconditional ‘Yes’. “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” This was her total surrender to the will of God and it was something that she never withdrew through all the difficulties she experienced and, most of all, when the “sword of sorrow” pierced her heart as she saw her own Son’s heart pierced on the Cross. She was with him to the very end and finally would share his joy in the Resurrection.

On another occasion (Luke 11:27-28), when Mary was praised as blessed and privileged for having a Son like Jesus, Jesus replied, "No, blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it." Mary is on the "inside", not because she was the mother of Jesus but because of her total identifying with his mission and being with him to the very end.

May we be able to say the same.


Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

"Sarah in the tent" raised an interesting but rather complex question about the words of Jesus at the end of today's gospel. "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother." The points she makes in her question are included, and answered (I hope clearly) in the following comment:

Mary and the brothers of Jesus are looking for him, as Mary and Joseph must have done many times before. Remember the pilgrimage to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12 years old, how he stayed behind in the Temple discussing the Torah with the priests and the doctors of the law. On both occasions, Christ seems to rebuke them unfairly, “Don’t you know that I have to be about my Father’s business?” and now, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” The tone of this rebuke might make the others in the synagogue -- and perhaps some of us – to ask: “Just, who does he think he is?”
Reading this gospel passage, some might get the impression that those who do the will of the Father can be his brothers, his sisters, and his mother. But, if we read this gospel text more closely, Jesus did not say “can be”, but “is”. Many leaders tell their followers that they are a “band of brothers”. Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, my sister, and my mother.” Peter and Andrew are blood brothers, as are James and John, and these two are also blood relatives of Jesus (also called “brothers” in the Jewish tradition). They are also “brothers of Jesus” as his disciples – but, so is Luke the evangelist, who was not yet born when Jesus walked the earth, as was the lad who keep watch on the cloaks of those who stoned the deacon Stephen – that boy’s name was Saul, and later was known as Paul.
On the other hand, Mary Magdalene, Salome and the other women who stood at the foot of the Cross are rightly called “sisters of Jesus”, not his “brothers”, for obvious reasons. The last word of today’s gospel reads, “For whoever does the will of God IS my brother, and sister, and mother.” All of Jesus’ followers are either his brothers or sisters. But Mary, who did the will of God perfectly, from the moment she accepted the mission announced to her by the angel Gabriel, is his Mother.

Sarah in the tent said...

Thank you for your response, Father!
I was thinking along the lines of the connection between Mary and 'Holy Mother Church'. But there is also the place mother love has in the totality of love. It may not move mountains but, anecdotally at least, it has been known to lift the odd car off a trapped child. Also, when a parent says they would happily die for their child, it's because they know they would not want to live anyway in a world without him or her. I think some of the early martyrs might have made a similar gut calculation. It's quite hard to imagine that Christ might be excised from the world and our lives these days, but it would have been much easier for people living under the Roman Empire, which had brutally and effectively suppressed the Celtic beliefs of the whole of northern Europe.
Mother love is not the greatest love: it is not as selfless as laying down your life for your friend (or the stranger you make your friend, like Father Kolbe). But there it is, in need of sanctification, now perhaps more than ever.