WHO IS MY FAMILY ?
“Who is my mother and who are my brothers ?”
When I first read these words of Jesus, I thought they sounded a bit uncaring, even callous. His mother and brothers had come over specially from Nazareth to see him and speak to him, but he didn’t seem to bother about them at first. The disciples thought it was a bit strange that he then referred to them (the disciples) as his mother, brother and sister. They knew his message was different and even revolutionary, but this was going too far, they thought.
They simply had to ask him what he meant. He reassured them that he was not intending to disown his mother, but said he could understand why they were thinking that. He was after all speaking to fairly large crowds that day, including the tricky Pharisees, and saw an opportunity to make a fundamental point about what binds us all together.
Of course the Pharisees, their scribes and teachers, were very keen to point out that some people like tax-collectors were definitely less than equal with the rest and did not belong in polite society, whereas they the Pharisees obviously did. They were judging an entire class of people, no matter how they led their lives. Remember Zacchaeus, for example.
But Jesus is at pains to show us all that there is nothing that divides us from each other, providing we repent of our sins and turn to God and our neighbour with love and humility in our hearts. In other words, we must leave behind all human divisions and regard ourselves as equal members of the great family of God.
Gradually the disciples and many others who followed Jesus during that time came to see what a wonderful, extraordinary and incredibly simple message this is. Yes, we have our own nuclear families, where we come from, and we don’t neglect them, but we see them from now on as just small cogs in the huge machinery of God’s creation, where everything that moves and grows is intended to move in loving interaction with everything else.
As we enter the season of waiting for Jesus to arrive among us, and look forward to Christmas when most of us will be with our families, it is good to remember those who either have no families or have been rejected by them. The Rotary Club of Battersea Park and all their volunteers show us the way by the enormous lunch and fellowship they lay on for hundreds of local people on Christmas Day.
Now that is something to inspire us ! As Jesus said on that day: “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother”.