Confrontations continue for Jesus in today’s Gospel from Mark. There are two main groups that are highlighted, the scribes as well as his relatives. These are not just any two groups. If we think about the foundational support network for people of ancient Israel and many of us today, would it not be the family and the faith community? Yet, both are challenging Jesus today.
Jesus has returned home, and word of his preaching, teaching, exorcisms, and miracles has preceded him and reached the ears of the hometown faithful. The rumors have also sparked the attention of the religious leaders in Jerusalem who sent some of their emissaries, the scribes, to come and check out the matter. The reaction from the clan of Jesus is that, “He is out of his mind” (Mk 3:21). The scribes say that Jesus has performed such miracles because: “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons” (Mk 3:22).
Yet in both cases, Jesus does not cave, even to the most powerful of peer pressures: family and faith tradition. Jesus schools first the scribes on the basis of simple logic, stating that, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand” (Mk 3:23-24). This statement is rich in the historical mind of Israel, in that under the unification of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the Chosen People were free of oppression, but once they became divided they fell. Beginning with David’s own unfaithfulness and treachery, the excesses and unfaithfulness of Solomon in the latter part of his life, and the continuing decline and steady slide into corruption of successive kings, the gap between the rich and the poor increased, unfaithfulness to the God of Israel grew, and further polarization and division spread between the ten tribes of the north and the two to the south. The Assyrians would destroy the northern tribes around 721 BC and the Babylonians would finish the job in 587 BC and decimate, not only the final two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but destroy the Temple as well.
This was a lasting wound that had deep seeded roots in the people. Jesus came to restore that which has been lost. He had called the Twelve to himself. This is not an insignificant number. Jesus is restoring Israel, and through Israel the world. Jesus is also showing that entrance into the restored kingdom of Israel is not through bloodline, political, or religious position: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:33-35). The entrance into the new kingdom is through faithfulness to the God of Israel, the God of Jesus the Christ.
We see a clear demarcation point in today’s Gospel. There are those that are aligning themselves with Jesus and the reign he is ushering in. There are others who feel threated, do not understand, and/or are challenged by it. How can a mere carpenter say and do such things? To become a part of God’s kingdom, to be a part of God’s reign is to believe in the one whom God had sent, his Son and the love of the Holy Spirit.
To be followers of Jesus, we will face the same challenges that those people who witnessed Jesus faced. We will face the religious established order that have chosen pride of position over the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We will face family members who see the abuses of the Church, and rightly critique them, but unfortunately, walk away from the Truth, the Way, and the Life, because of the hypocrisy they witness, and think us mad for staying. We will also face the challenge that Jesus poses to us as well, to build on our identity, to go further, to be people of integrity.
We are to stand up for what is the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in God’s creation and the beginning place is with the dignity of the person. We are to resist the temptation to slip into gossip, dehumanization, and belittling of others, when we do not understand or agree with another, even those who are actively engaged in these actions, directing them at us or others. Instead we are to follow the will of God in and out of season, even when that means conflict within our families. We are to be people of prayer and worship, we are to serve one another through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
We follow Jesus as was recorded in today’s Gospel. We do not reject those who do not believe as we do, and who may even openly reject and attack us. Instead we continue to love God and place him first. As we do, we will grow, mature to be more patient, more present, more understanding and loving even when facing challenges from our own. As we grow closer to God we will face our conflicts with love and truth, so to grow closer to those in our realm of influence. Our task as disciples of Jesus is to follow the will of his Father, invite others to do the same, and allow God to happen.
Photo: Aspiring disciples of Jesus!
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, June 10, 2018: