Lectio: Matthew 12:46-50
1) Opening prayer
be merciful to Your people.
Fill us with Your gifts
and make us always eager to serve You
in faith, hope and love.
You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 12:46-50
While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with him. Someone told him, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with you." But he said in reply to the one who told him, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother."
• The family of Jesus. The relatives reached the house where Jesus was. They have probably come from Nazareth. From there up to Capernaum there is a distance of forty kilometers. His mother also comes with them. They do not enter, but they send a messenger: "Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with You." Jesus’ reaction is clear: "Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My heavenly Father is My brother, and sister, and mother." To understand the meaning of this response it is helpful to look at the situation of the family in the time of Jesus.
• In the old Israel, the clan, that is, the large family (the community), was the basis for social living together. It was the protection of families and of the people, the guarantee of possession of the land, the principal vehicle of the tradition, and the defense of identity. It was the concrete way on the part of the people of that time to incarnate the love of God and love toward neighbor. To defend the clan was the same as to defend the Covenant.
• In Galilee at the time of Jesus, because of the system established during the long periods of government of Herod the Great (37 BC to 4 BC) and of his son Herod Antipas (4 BC to 39 AD), the clan (the community) was becoming weaker. The taxes to be paid, both to the government and to the Temple, the debts which were increasing, the individualistic mentality of the Hellenistic ideology, the frequent threats of violent repression on the part of the Romans and the obligation to accept the soldiers and give them hospitality, the ever growing problem of survival, all this impelled the families to block things out and to think only of their own needs. This closing up was strengthened by the religion of the time. For example: one who gave his inheritance to the Temple could leave his parents without any help. This weakened the fourth commandment which was the backbone of the clan (Mk 7:8-13). Besides this, the observance of the norms of purity was a factor of marginalization for many people: women, children, Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, possessed people, tax collectors or publicans, the sick, the mutilated and paraplegics.
• Thus, concern with the problems of one’s own family prevented the people from meeting in community. Now, in order that the Kingdom of God manifest itself in community living , the people had to overcome the narrow limits of the small family and open themselves again to the large family, to the community. Jesus gave the example. When His own family tried to take possession of Him, He reacted and extended the family: "Who is My mother? Who are My brothers?" And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My heavenly Father is My brother, and sister, and mother." He created a community.
• Jesus asked the same thing of those who wanted to follow Him. Families could not close themselves off from the larger community. The excluded and the marginalized had to be accepted in life with others, and in this way feel accepted by God (Lk 14:12-14). This was the way to attain the objective of the Law, which said “There must, then, be no poor among you” (Dt 15:4). Like the great Prophets of the past, Jesus tried to consolidate community life in the villages of Galilee. He restored the profound meaning of the clan, of the family, of the community, as an expression of the incarnation of the love toward God and toward neighbor.
4) Personal questions
• To live faith in the community. What place and what influence does family and community have in my way of living my faith?
• Today, in large cities, overcrowding promotes individualism which is contrary to life in community. What am I doing to counteract this evil?
• There are many forms of community today, and some of these are dysfunctional. We have online communities, gangs (which are a form of community), lobbies, clubs, social and business societies, and so on. How do I bring the attitude of Jesus to these other communities I might be a member of?
• How broadly do I define what is my community? Why?
5) Concluding prayer
I waited, I waited for Yahweh,
then He stooped to me
and heard my cry for help.
He put a fresh song in my mouth,
praise of our God. (Ps 40:1.3)