You’ve heard the expression, “blood is thicker than water,” to refer to the importance of family relationships when compared to others such as friendships or work relationships. And yet, in today’s Gospel, Jesus upends that standard presumption. According to God’s vision for humanity, the strongest bonds are formed not by kinship of birth or association, but by doing the will of God and by living the Gospel.
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.”
It can appear as though Jesus is rejecting his birth family in this passage, that he’s being dismissive of those with whom he grew up and those who raised him. However, it’s more likely that Jesus is being hyperbolic in an attempt to awaken his would-be followers to the commitment that Christian discipleship demands.
Like the excuses given to Jesus by would-be followers elsewhere in the Gospels (“I need to say goodbye to my family,” “I need to bury my father,” etc.), here there is a sense that family ties can at times lead to distraction from the mission of the Kingdom of God.
As we see throughout the New Testament witness, and culminating during the passion and death, we know of Jesus’s love for his mother, so that’s not really in question. What’s in question is what takes priority in your life? Where there inevitable conflict between family or discipleship, between work and the Kingdom, between social norms and Jesus’s radical ministry, what do you choose?
The primary relationship for Jesus is that formed by the bonds of discipleship, all of God’s children and Jesus’s sisters and brothers working to make present the Kingdom of God so that it may truly come to pass that it be “on earth as it is in heaven.”