Monday, December 29, 2008

Matthew 12:46-50: Holy Family

Jesus true family

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."

Comments: Some traditions celebrate the feast of the Holy Family with in the first week of Christmas. It seems appropriate since we put so much emphasis on the family at Christmas time. But this passage is interesting in that Jesus seems to be choosing his followers over his family.

In the Middle East, one had to have family. It was impossible to function, even to get food and clothing if one was not member of a family, or adopted by one. One’s life was quite circumscribed by the family. The senior male, or patriarch dictated what you did, what you could have. The commandment to honor one’s father and mother took on incredible weight in such a system. The system had become so unbending that often people were imprisoned in their family system their whole lives, never exercising the talents that God had given them.

Jesus, in this passage, is offering a sense of freedom from the family system for those who were in the system’s grasp. I do not believe that Jesus was being disrespectful of his family in this passage. In fact, the kind of freedom that Jesus was offering in this passage would have made the family more loving by freeing it from its social expectations. Jesus shows that it is the respect and caring we have for others is what claims one as family rather than one’s blood kin. Faith is not a system we adhere to; it is a loving relationship we have with God.

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