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The Family of Jesus
Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you.” But he said in reply to the one who told him, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Opening Prayer: As we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, I thank you, Lord, for the gift of the papacy, which unites your holy Church. I thank you that, through the Holy Father in union with the bishops and led by the Holy Spirit, you continue to teach, addressing the challenges of today’s world. In today’s Gospel, Peter makes a personal profession of faith. In it, I see what it is you desire from me: my personal adherence to you and all you have revealed through your body on earth, the Church. Open my mind and heart to embrace all that you teach in and through your Church with love and humility.
- Mary Is Ever Virgin: A review of the footnotes in Catholic Bibles or the content in Catholic commentaries will show that they almost universally address the question of Jesus’ brothers. The consensus is that in biblical language the meaning of the word “brethren” was not limited to siblings but applied to other male relatives as well. The Catechism states, “The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of Mary…They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression” (CCC 500, emphasis added). The Church insists on “Mary’s real and perpetual virginity” (CCC 499), and at the same time affirms, “Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save” (CCC 501). We are the Lord’s brothers and sisters and Mary is our mother. Do we remember her daily in the Angelus or in the rosary? Do we seek her guidance and support in the trials of daily life?
- Doing the Will of the Father: Jesus said that he does not seek his own will “but the will of the one who sent me” (John 5:30). It is his desire for God’s will that Jesus is praising in this Gospel passage. It is similar to what he said in Luke 11:27-28; Jesus was teaching, and a woman “raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.’” In both this passage and the Gospel for today, Jesus points to the priority of obedience to the will of God, even above the relationship between mother and child. Mary exemplified this desire to do God’s will by her fiat at the Annunciation. And it was this shared love of the Father and the desire to do his will faithfully that united Jesus and Mary even more deeply than the natural bond of mother and child. The Catechism explains it this way: “Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly…she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him by God’s grace (CCC 494).
- Called to Holiness: According to St. Thomas Aquinas, our holiness consists in doing the will of God. What then is God’s will? Many answers may come to mind: prayer, living a moral life, going to Mass on Sunday, doing the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy out of love for our neighbor. All these are true, but one essential element that can be overlooked is that of fulfilling the duties of our state in life well, whatever it is. Pope Benedict XV is said to have noted: “Sanctity properly consists in the conformity to God’s will expressed in a constant and exact fulfillment of the duties of our state in life.” The very ordinary, even mundane, tasks that make up our lives are the means through which God shapes us into saints, if we let him. We can ask ourselves: Where in my life do I fight against God’s providence? What duties of my state in life do I fulfill in a cursory manner or leave unfulfilled? Do I treat those with whom I live with the same courtesy and charity that I do outside my home? How do I seek to serve those with whom I live and work?
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, sometimes it seems that holiness is a goal that I can reach if only I try hard enough. As I reflect on Mary’s example and your words, I see that it is an ongoing process of listening to you and doing what you ask in even the smallest detail of my life. Lord, I see so many ways that I can be more generous and self-giving. Help me love more like you do. Help me serve as you served. Help me see the duties of my state in life as my path to holiness and not as burdens.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make a list acts of service to do for the coming week, and do one each day with a smile.
For Further Reflection:
CCC 2013: “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: ‘Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ In order to reach this perfection, the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that…doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.”
CCC 2015: “The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the mortification that gradually leads to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes: He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.”
Janet McLaughlin and her husband Chris live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.