He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it” (Luke 8:21).
There are many popular genetic testing kits that are advertised on TV and through the internet. People have asked me is it possible to be a blood relation to Jesus. Jesus’ reply today can help you to save some money. What is important is not a blood relation with Jesus, but for “those who hear the word of God and act upon it.” God is to be first, even before family. We may experience a subtle shudder from this statement, but to those of Jesus’ time, it would have been apoplectic. Family meant everything in the Ancient Near East.
Jesus is not making the point that we disregard family but he is teaching us that if we are to be authentically present to our family this will come about best by following the will of God. As we deepen our relationship with Jesus and put his teachings into action, we begin to bear the relational fruits of the Spirit. Would not our familial relationships be much better if we were more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle and practiced self-control? Jesus taught and showed from his own life that the path to fulfilling and intimate relationships flourish when we put God first because as we grow closer in relationship with him we also do so with those around us.
Another point we can glean from Jesus’ response in today’s Gospel is that our “family” is to transcend bloodline, tribe, and nation. Any of “those who hear the word of God and act upon it” is spiritually akin to Jesus the Christ. The point is not that we may have a genetic, lineal relation with Jesus, but that when we live and act according to his Father’s will, we are part of the universal family of God’s grace and mercy and our relationship with him and one another grows as we continue to bear the fruits of the Spirit. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we can act with more caring and kindness, seek common ground through dialogue, be more willing to walk and accompany one another and seek to understand not to judge those who are different. The bottom line is that we are to love one another as Jesus loves us!
I have been blessed to experience the fruits of this teaching first hand. As I have grown closer to Jesus, I have not only grown closer in relationship with my immediate family but have also been blessed with a larger extended family through the communities of St. Peter Catholic Church, the Diocese of Palm Beach, Rosarian Academy, and Cardinal Newman High School. So many of whom JoAnn and I have been so grateful for in their outpouring of love, prayer, and support through JoAnn’s illness and most recent death three weeks ago.
Photo: Together with my sisters in Christ at CN after our last morning liturgy before I prepared to leave to be with JoAnn in California.