Today’s gospel passage raises many questions. At the end of the gospel passage, Jesus was with the crowd, and some people came to him and told him that his mother, brothers, and sisters wanted to see him. In response, Jesus said, “Who are my mother and my brothers? He then pointed to those around in the crowd and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Some people jump on this response from Jesus to say, “You see, you Catholics worship the Blessed Virgin Mary; you give her a special place but look at how Jesus himself disregarded his mother!”

 What is going on here? Let us look at it this way: Jesus, as God, became a human being to teach us how to be human beings. God commands us, “Honor your father and your mother.” How will the same God teach us to disregard his own mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary? I don’t know about you; if you must choose between disregarding my mother and disregarding me, please choose to disregard me. If you offend me, I can easily settle it with you, but if you offend my mother, it will require extra grace from God for me to settle that with you. Mind you, this is me, a human being, speaking this way. I did not choose my mother. I only grew up and was told she was my mother, and we have continued to relate as mother and son. Yes, sometimes, she gets me mad; sometimes, she offends me, but she is still my mother, and I will never permit anyone to disregard her. That is how much I love her.

Now, let us talk about Jesus and his mother. As God, Jesus Christ chose his mother before he was born. Does it make any sense to suggest that he would disregard the mother he chose of all women? What, then, is going on here? In our relationships as human beings, we communicate with words; sometimes, we take them at face value, and other times, we read between the lines. Imagine a young man and a young girl who have been dating as boyfriend and girlfriend. One day, the girl tells the young man, “Hey, I just want to let you know that I saw your girlfriend at the shopping center today.” The young man must be careful with what he says and does not say. Such is a test to know whether the girl speaking has a competitor.

Sometimes, when children become angry and want to talk about their siblings to their parents, they would say, “Mom, come and take your son out of this place,” or “Mom, come and take your daughter out of this place.” They will not refer to their siblings as their brother and sister. They speak that way to distance themselves emotionally from their siblings.  

How do we relate these illustrations to today’s Gospel passage? When the crowd came to tell Jesus, “Your mother, your brothers, and your sisters are looking for you.” Jesus could read between the lines; he saw that they were testing him to see if they had any place in his heart. He understood them as saying, “Well, we cannot be part of your ministry because we are not your biological relatives.” In response, Jesus asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers? He then pointed to those around in the crowd and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Those in the crowd drew a little circle and kept themselves outside it. But Jesus expanded the circle and brought them inside. While they emphasized biological relationships, Jesus pointed to something greater, a relationship that comes from doing the will of God. Only one person can be Jesus’ biological mother; only a few persons can be from his biological extended family, but we all can be part of the larger family of those who do the will of God.

Furthermore, even if Jesus were to say he was not interested in his mother and biological family but only in those who do the will of God, would that kick the Blessed Virgin Mary outside the circle? Who does the will of God better than the Blessed Virgin Mary? Remember how it all started: she was on her own when the angel came and told her about God’s plan for her to be the mother of Jesus. She wondered how possible that would be. The angel explained that the power of God would do it. Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word.” What an expression of total submission to the will of God! So, if you are talking about biological relationships, the Blessed Virgin Mary is number one; if you are talking about doing the will of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary is also number one. But if you restrict it to biological relationships, many others will not have a place in Jesus’ ministry. So, to bring everybody into the family, Jesus went beyond a biological relationship to a relationship based on doing the will of God.

Finally, it seems those in the crowd came to give an excuse for why they cannot be part of Jesus’ ministry. But Jesus’ response meant that they had no excuse since doing the will of God is open to all. If we examine ourselves very well, you will agree that many times, as human beings, we put much effort into finding excuses rather than finding solutions. If half the effort we put into finding excuses for not doing the right thing goes into finding ways to do the right thing, the world would be a better place. Stephen Dolley Jr states, “A man who wants to be something will find a way; a man who doesn’t will find an excuse.” My dearly beloved in Christ, remember, “The past is only an explanation for the present but never an excuse.” Yes, you can do it; you have no excuse!

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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