Summary: Our brotherhood is in Christ, and cannot exclude other Christians.

January 27, 2009

Who are my brothers

The passage I just proclaimed from the third chapter of Mark is one that has caused volumes of ink to be spilled. When I talk Church with my non-Catholic friends, they frequently bring up our alleged “worship” of the Blessed Virgin Mary and then these lines come up. “Surely,” they say, “even Jesus did not regard his mother as special, so why do you Catholics.”

The easy answer, of course–and nothing in theology is really easy–is to reply, “so you are saying that, contrary to the Fourth Commandment, Jesus is ‘dissing’ his mom?” Jesus committed no sin, and Luke is clear that Jesus was obedient and respectful to Mary and Joseph. So this passage is not given to us primarily to tell us about Mary. As always, it has just as much a “now” meaning as a “then” meaning.

Mark’s community, the primary audience for this reading, was a community in persecution from both the Roman authorities and the local Jewish synagogues. It was made up of both Jews and Gentiles. To the Jewish converts, joining the “Way” of Jesus was particularly difficult, because it meant splitting from their family. They would be disinherited, probably not even welcome any more in their family’s homes. So this passage, and others in Mark’s Gospel, told them that they were now members of the family of Jesus, and that family was formed by faith, not blood relations and circumcision.

For us, too, at this school in this time, there is a clear meaning. We talk about our brotherhood as if, sometimes, we think it is something restricted to students and alumni of our school. We talk about other Catholic schools as if they were the enemy. But that’s just pep rally talk. We who are baptized into Jesus are all brothers and sisters. It’s particularly important in this Catholic schools week to acknowledge that fact, and to celebrate that we can build a culture of life and sacrament in a culture where public school teachers and students have to live their lives cautious not to say certain words or celebrate certain realities. The real enemy is not some other school, but the thought police of the ACLU.

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