i am reading mark's gospel once more, this time in small bits, thinking about the short passages i've read for a few moments to seek understanding of the teaching(s) in each reading. in the past few days, i've been struck by two in particular: mark 3:20-35 and mark 9:42-50. both of these are passages that are difficult for me to understand, but as i've prayed and meditated on them, i think perhaps a little light is beginning to dawn. today, i'll address the first of these and write about the other in my next post.
in the first passage, jesus' family has come to "take charge of him." they believe that he is mentally unstable. he has chosen the life of itinerant teacher and gathered a group of disciples around him, abandoning his home in nazareth and his work as a carpenter. perhaps jesus had helped to support his family and established a lucrative carpentry business, following in joseph's footsteps. jesus' response always seemed cruel to me. when he is told that his mother and brothers are there for him, he asks, "who are my mother and brothers?" he then says that those gathered around him are his family, that all those who do God's will are his "brother, sister, and mother." it seems to me now that jesus was making a larger point. he was teaching us that we are all related. his words suggest that, as God's creations, an unhealthy reliance on the ties of blood are an impediment to truly loving others as we love ourselves.
as i thought more along these lines, i was reminded of how much evil has been done because of the overemphasis on family relationships. we see this played out every day, as related tribes or clans make war on those that are seen as being "the [unrelated] other." we see this in the ethnic differences that divide us. we see this as family members scheme for wealth and power, intriguing to elevate one family over another or to become the most powerful member of a family group. jesus saw this in the constant grasping for power in the families that controlled the priesthood and thereby the religious life of the jewish people. he saw that the "elitist" attitude of the religious leaders was falsely teaching his fellow jews that theirs was a superior ethnic group with access to the "true" God.
my prayer for each of us today is that we see each other as father, mother, sister, brother, embracing each other in love as jesus taught so long ago. shalom.