“Brothers” of Jesus are mentioned in all four gospels, causing some people to deny Mary’s perpetual virginity. But that theological question and its resolution postdate the New Testament. As a matter of fact, in the culture of Jesus’ time the designations “brother” and “sister” extended as far as cousins and adopted children and included them. Be that as it may, the emphasis here is not on heredity or blood relationship, but on family as embracing all those who hear and obey the word of God!
In this gospel passage we see how Jesus responds to someone interrupting his teaching. We all deal with interruptions every day of our lives. Sometimes they’re as mundane as a wrong number — other times they’re a major crisis — or a big surprise. But no matter what the interruption, be it big or small, it forces us to stop doing one thing and, at least momentarily, to do something else.
According to Luke, Jesus doesn’t seem to take too kindly to this interruption. He sounds a little annoyed. But let’s look at the context and the circumstances of this scene and what he was doing when he was interrupted. Jesus at this point in his life is well into his public ministry; he’s left home and is preaching the good news throughout Judea, attracting huge crowds, telling them that the kingdom of God is in their midst. And now he’s interrupted and told that his mother and brothers can’t get near him because of the crowd.
Jesus doesn’t let this interruption distract him from the task at hand – and neither does he dismiss his family. Rather he expands it – it’s not limited to merely blood ties. His family embraces all those who hear his teaching and put it into practice. Jesus is being absolutely consistent. You recall how on another occasion, also in Luke’s gospel, someone in the crowd interrupts his teaching by praising his mother, crying out: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you” – and Jesus objects to this depiction of his mother as inadequate – “Rather”, he says, “blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it”. Mary is the blessed one par excellance.
If we want to be counted among those whom Jesus includes in his family, we must become hearers and doers of the word of God – and accept that word from wherever or whomever it comes – even, or perhaps especially – when it comes as an interruption to whatever else we may be doing.
- Fr. Damian Towey, CP is a member of the community at Our Lady of Florida Spiritual Center,North Palm Beach,Florida.