And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Mar 3:33
While Jesus is speaking to a large crowd, he is told his mother and brothers are outside waiting for him. He responds to this by asking, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Then he says that his mother and brothers are those who do the will of God. Whenever I read this it comes across to me like a rather rude comment. Is Jesus really dismissing his kindred as if they are somehow no longer important to him? Or maybe it's not as rude as it sounds. Maybe he sees a teachable moment in which he can describe the kinship that forms among those who together serve God.
They say that 80% of communication is non verbal, so words on a page (or in a blog) can never completely convey what someone is trying to say. So who knows how this comment was delivered or taken at the time. Reading scripture is often like that. The way it hits you can be positive or negative by the way the words take form in your own mind. I have very negative reactions to some Bible passages and stories because I can't help but read them through the lenses of my own life and experience. Sometimes it helps to try to intellectually put the passage into its own context to better understand what the author might have meant, but even then, sometimes I just don't connect - or even greatly dislike - some of the words of the bible.
Whenever that happens, I have come to learn there is something to pay attention to there. I have come to trust that I can grow in faith even - maybe even especially - by listening to things that do not naturally resonate with me. For example, if you really take time to sit with Jesus' question - “Who are my mother and my siblings?” you may find, as I have, that there are many layers in that question that bring up a lot of my deeply personal assumptions about life, fidelity, connection, family and God. You just may find, as I have, that the passages that make you uncomfortable are where you find transformation (though maybe only after years of wrestling!)
Reading scripture is not like reading a novel. It's got so many different voices and viewpoints in it and it is full of challenging passages that are very easy to just skip over as you look ahead to find something you like better. It's a book to be taken in small bites and to be chewed on thoughtfully - even those bits that don't suit your taste. It is a life-long practice to engage with the bible in its fullness, but it yields life-long fruits. I invite you to contemplate the question, "Who are my mother and siblings?" in a few quiet moments each day this week and see how God begins to speak to you through it.
And I hope you'll come to church this Sunday to hear what I wrestled out of this Sunday's readings!
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE. Note that in Ordinary Time, we are using "track 2"