My Mother and Brothers
My three brothers are best friends. They are also my best friends. They are law partners in a firm founded by my Dad and my Uncle Arlo. They laugh together more than anyone I know, and when one suffers a hard blow, they all feel it. Their Faith is strong, and that makes them especially close. They love one another “like brothers” in an extraordinary way. Loving them as I do, today’s gospel is a puzzler:
Doesn’t this passage strike you as odd? What He is saying here appears almost dismissive of the ones he grew up with – His Mother and family, who are at this moment within ear-shot of his words during this Gospel moment. It is important to realize that the ones telling Him the news His Mother and family are wanting to see him were disciples (Cf. Matthew's version of this same story). It’s hard to get what is going on here without realizing why Jesus speaks to them and the crowd the way He does in today's Gospel. He is saying they represent all who follow him — including us. His words are direct and forceful, expressing a commitment to them, and us, as brothers and sisters. He is raising the caliber of his love for us all by telling us that we are to Him as dear as His own Mother and family.
What is going on, the reason Our Lord says these words, is that in God our Father’s eyes, they are His brothers. They are His Mother. His mission to them from His Father is embraced with such overpowering warmth and desire that He holds nothing back. He would (and soon will) die for them, He loves them so much. His words, far from being dismissive to his family, are precisely chosen. A stronger statement of love – love for one’s own family – cannot be found; and Our Lord’s words, in this moment of the gospel story, capture the essence of His mission. They are like a signature written under the one commandment He passes on to us: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
In saying these words of love to the disciples so that everyone there could hear Him – and then living them in the performance of His mission, Our Lord demonstrates what I think is the most powerful commitment He makes to His Father and Ours: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” This is His particular mission, and it is ours too. We are called to lift the level of our love for others to the level of love which we thought only a family could enjoy. It’s what’s behind Our Lord’s words from the cross when He says, “Mother, behold thy son. Son, behold they Mother.” The bond between Mary and John at Golgotha is now and must be the bond we strive for with everyone that the Father places in our lives: the down and out, the well to do, our close circles of friends, our collaborators at work, the neighbors next door, and all those for whom we pray. Our adversaries too, and even our enemies!
I love my three brothers, and I am called to love everyone else as much as I love them. This of course seems impossible. But it is not. That’s what the grace of God is for. Nothing is impossible for God – living with us, through us, and in us. Christ gives us the way and the grace to do it if we rely on Him. Christ shows us how in His own love for all those men, women, and children – including ourselves – the Father places in His life. He died for them, as He does for us. And in His death, He makes it possible for us to die for love of one another, and for all those the Father places in our lives.
This superlative love is what the community of the Church is blessed to give to the world.
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