Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .
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GOSPEL Mark 3:20-35
Jesus went home with his disciples, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.
The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem were saying, ‘Beelzebul is in him,’ and, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.’ So he called them to him and spoke to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him. But no one can make his way into a strong man’s house and burgle his property unless he has tied up the strong man first. Only then can he burgle his house.
‘I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies; but let anyone blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he will never have forgiveness: he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ This was because they were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him.’
His mother and brothers now arrived and, standing outside, sent in a message asking for him. A crowd was sitting round him at the time the message was passed to him, ‘Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside asking for you.’ He replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
Kieran’s summary . . . Jesus tells us in this Sunday’s Gospel that we cannot make compromises with evil. If we wish to be liberated from sin, then it is only Christ that can liberate us authentically. Any other means of “liberation” will not be genuine. It is only Christ that can bind up the “strong man” of evil and free us from sin. At the end of the Gospel, Jesus appears to make a negative comment on his family. He says that his real family are not those according to the flesh but those who do the will of God. But this is actually a hymn of praise to his mother! The Church Fathers tell us that she is even more his mother according to faith than according to the flesh, because she is the one who believed and submitted to the will of God in such a perfect manner. The overall message of the Gospel is this: we must be freed from all dependencies on sin, on flesh, on familial ties, and our freedom allows us to follow the will of God. Only Jesus can liberate us from these dependencies. Once we are free, then, like Mary, we are enabled to enter into full communion with others. Then, like Mary, we will be brothers, sisters and mother of Jesus. While we remain in sin, we are not in communion even with those who are right next to us!
The Gospel tells us that there can be no compromise with evil. If we want to be liberated from evil, then we must embrace the only good - Jesus
The liturgy for the tenth Sunday of ordinary time has readings that are acute, profound and serious, although not readily comprehensible. The first reading contains the dialogue between the Lord and our first parents after the original sin. The serpent is cursed and we are told that the offspring of the woman will crush its head. Between the offspring of the woman and that of the serpent there will be enmity. “I will make you enemies of each other”, we are told. This enmity is actually a gift! It is a gift to consider evil to be an alien thing; it is a gift to be no longer under the sway of something that we once considered to be to our advantage. The history of the first sin consisted in the delusion of believing something to be good that was actually evil, of considering disobedience to God to be something beneficial. The fact is that there is no acceptable middle ground between good and evil. The Didache – one of the most ancient texts from the early Church – begins in this manner: “The ways of man are two in number: one is the way of life and the other is the way of death, and the difference between these two ways is great”. In the Gospel, Jesus is accused of being possessed by Beelzebul, of casting our demons through the power of the demon. The response of Jesus is uncompromising. Satan cannot do good. The most he can do is act for a false good, or convince us that something that is actually evil is good, or hide himself within something good so that it eventually leads to evil. But a man cannot enter the house of a strong man unless he has first tied up the strong man. What is needed is someone stronger than evil, someone who opposes evil, and this is who Jesus is. Jesus is the light who vanquishes darkness. Jesus does not do things in half measures, and with sin and vice one cannot use half measures. God cannot liberate us from sin unless we want to be liberated. We don’t wake up in the morning and find that we are freed from some vice as if by magic. The Lord asks our permission and the permission we give must be true and authentic. We cannot be liberated from slavery unless we hate that state of enslavement. Often we love our enslavement because we actually enjoy being dependent on it. Such dependency can give security whilst freedom has an inherent insecurity about it.
To live in God, I must be freed from every dependency, even the dependency on familial ties in the purely physical sense. Mary is mother of Jesus even more in the faith than in the flesh, because the true nature of her bond with Jesus is more through the power of the Holy Spirit than through physical considerations. I, too, am called to live in God, free from all dependencies. In this way I will be in true communion with others.
This Sunday we focus on the fact that the Lord Jesus is not ambiguous. We cannot seek to make him compatible with things that he is opposed to. We come face to face with the Lord Jesus when we discover the way that he is working in our lives. Each one of us, by the power of the Gospel, is challenged to be liberated and redeemed. This requires that we break away from everything that we are dependent on. It is interesting that in this Gospel the family of Jesus appears and they make certain demands upon Jesus. The mother of the Lord is also present. It is clear that Jesus is focussed on the things that lead to heaven, the things that are directed to his heavenly Father. Jesus responds to the request of his family with the words: “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’”. What might appear at first sight to be a slight on his family and his mother, is actually a hymn of praise to his mother! What Jesus is saying is this: “These relationships that are based on their point of origin no longer have value. All that matters is how the relationship fits within the plan of God. Whoever is faithful to the plan of God enters into relationship with me. The relationships that matter are those that have their origin in the action of the Holy Spirit”. The Fathers of the Church assert that Mary is even more the mother of Christ by faith than by the flesh. Mary first assents to the word of the angel, and it is only in the second instance that she becomes mother according to the flesh. The mission of Christ demands that he fulfil the will of God, not that he be at home with his family. Jesus’ apparent “negation” of the maternity of Mary in this sense actually underlines the fact that Mary is mother of Jesus according to the plan of God. They are tied together by faith and they have no need to be tied together physically in the familial sense. When I am faithful to the plan of God, I am in communion with the angels and the saints, the prophets and all who have ever wished me well. When I am in the faith, I am in communion with my parents who are no longer alive and with friends that I have not seen for a long time. When I am not in the faith, I am not even in communion with those who are right next to me! When I am in God, I am in communion with everyone, but when I am not in God, I am in a state of ambiguity and will not be able to take a single step, either interiorly or exteriorly, towards another person to love them authentically. This Sunday we are called to be liberated from every dependency and every ambiguity, and enter into the life that Jesus has brought through his power and grace