Between Family and God

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The WORD in other words (2021) by Fr. John Seland, SVD (Japan)

Saturday 2nd Week in Ordinary Time

Jesus was a family-orientated person. Luke suggests this when he writes that, after returning from their pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Jesus “was obedient to [his parents]” (2:51).  The Gospels say little about his family life from that time until his public ministry, but we can imagine that he lived a happy life with Mary and Joseph at Nazareth. 

This situation changed after he began his public ministry.  As a foretaste of what was to come, the people in Nazareth didn’t accept him, couldn’t admit that a member of their community had much more wisdom and knowledge than they did.

 The response of Jesus’ family, as seen in today’s Gospel, may also reflect the fact that they were jealous of his popularity (undoubtedly, even of his wisdom and power).  Their excuse for taking him home is that he is insane.  But Jesus’ words and actions show just the opposite: his behavior is certainly within the bounds of sanity, while they are the ones acting unreasonably, allowing their emotions to overcome their reasoning. 

 As with everything in Jesus’ life, the reaction of his family caused Jesus to think.  And we hear him later saying some powerful words, not just about his relationship to his own family, but also the relationships we all have to our family.  We see this, for example, when Jesus speaks of denying oneself.  He says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:26).  To put it succinctly, regardless of how close family ties maybe, God must always come first.

 We see here how Jesus has extended his family.  He now considers everyone who accepts God and His will as members of his immediate family. 

 Jesus’ example encourages us, helping us to see that the difficulties we all experience at times can help us to develop a strong character.  Also, although our immediate family relationships can be a source of encouragement for us, our relationship with God must always take precedence.  Jesus always put God first.  May we do, too. 

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