Lectio Divina: Mark 3:20-21
1) Opening prayer
ruler of all things in heaven and on earth,
listen favorably to the prayer of Your people,
and grant us Your peace in our day.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
One God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel reading - Mark 3:20-21
Jesus came with his disciples into the house. Again the crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
• The Gospel today is very short. There are only two verses. It speaks about two things: (a) about the great activity of Jesus up to the point of not even having time to eat; (b) the contrary reaction of the family of Jesus up to the point of thinking that He was out of His mind. Jesus had problems with His family. Sometimes the family helps; at other times it constitutes an obstacle. This is what happened with Jesus, and this is what happens with us as well.
• Mark 3:20: The activity of Jesus. Jesus returned home. His home is now in Capernaum (Mk 2:1). He is no longer living with His family in Nazareth. People, knowing that Jesus was at home, went there. Such a crowd of people gathered there that He and His disciples did not even have time to eat calmly (Mk 6:31)
• Mark 3:20: Conflict with His family. When Jesus’ relatives knew this, they said, “He has lost His mind!” Perhaps this was so because Jesus did not seem to be behaving normally. Perhaps they thought that He was jeopardizing the name of the family. Whatever it was, the relatives decided to take Him back to Nazareth. This is a sign that the relationship of Jesus with His family was suffering. This must have been a source of suffering for Him as well as for Mary, His Mother. Later on (Mk 3:31-35) Mark tells what the encounter of Jesus with His relatives was like. They arrived at the house where Jesus was staying. They had probably come there from Nazareth. There is a distance of about 40 km from there to Capernaum. His mother was with them. They could not enter the house because there were many people there at the entrance. This is the reason why they sent Him a message: “Your mother and Your brothers and sisters are outside asking for You!” Jesus’ reaction was firm. He asked, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” And He Himself answers, pointing to the crowd gathered there around Him, “Here are My mother and My brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is My brother and sister and mother”. He extended the family! Jesus does not allow the family to draw Him away from the mission.
• The situation of the family at the time of Jesus. In ancient Israel, the clan, that is, the large family (the community), was the basis of living together. This was for the protection of small families and of people, the guarantee of the possession of the land, the principal channel of tradition, and the defense of identity. That was the way which the people of that time had to incarnate the love of God in the love toward neighbor. To defend the clan, the community, was the same as to defend the Covenant. In Galilee at the time of Jesus, because of the Roman system introduced and imposed during the long years under the government of Herod the Great (37 BC to 4 BC), and his son Herod Antipas (4 BC to 39 AD), all this had ceased to exist, or existed less every day. The clan (community) was becoming weaker. The taxes that had to be paid to the government and to the Temple, the increasing indebtedness, the individualistic mentality of Hellenism, the frequent threats of violent repression on the part of the Romans, the obligation to accept the soldiers and to give them lodging, the ever greater problems for survival, all led the families to close in on themselves and on their own needs. Hospitality was no longer practiced; neither was sharing, nor communion around the table, nor acceptance of the excluded. This closing in was strengthened by the religion of the time. The observance of the norms of purity was a factor in the marginalization of many people: women, children, Samaritans, foreigners, lepers, possessed, publicans or tax collectors, the sick, mutilated people, paraplegics. These norms, instead of helping and favoring acceptance, sharing and communion, favored separation and exclusion.
Thus, the political, social and economic situation as well as the religious ideology of the time, was against and contributed to the weakening of the central values of the clan and the community. Therefore, in order for the Kingdom of God to manifest itself once again in community living, the people had to overcome the narrow limits of the small family and open themselves up to the larger family and the community.
Jesus gives the example. When His relatives get to Capernaum and try to take hold of Him to take Him back home, He reacts. Instead of remaining closed up in His small family, He extends the family (Mk 3:33-35). He creates the community. He asks the same thing of those who want to follow Him. Families cannot close up in themselves. The excluded and the marginalized should be accepted, once again, into the community, and in this way feel accepted by God (cf. Lk 14:12-14). This is the path to be followed in order to attain the objective of the Law which said, “Let there be no poor among you” (Dt 15:4). Just like the great prophets, Jesus tries to strengthen and affirm community life in the villages of Galilee. He takes the profound sense or significance of the clan, the family, and the community, like an expression of the incarnation of the love of God in the love toward neighbor.
4) Personal questions
• Does the family help participation in the Christian community or does it make it difficult?
• How do you take on your commitment in the Christian community?
• What can all this tell us concerning our relationships in the family and in the community?
5) Concluding prayer
Clap your hands, all peoples,
acclaim God with shouts of joy.
For Yahweh, the Most High, is glorious,
the great king over all the earth. (Ps 47:1-2)