“He’s Out of His Mind”
10th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B); 6-10-18
Gn 3:9-15 Ps 130 2 Cor 4:13-5:1 Mk 3:20-35
Deacon Jim McFadden
Being misunderstood is never a pleasant experience, especially those to whom were close. Prior to this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus had formed a ministerial/apostolic community which would be the means by which He would proclaim the Good News. After he’s formed this prayer/friendship community, His natural family misunderstands and rejects Him—indeed, upon listening to His teaching, they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mk 3:21b).
Not only does His family misunderstand Him, but the religious establishment consider Him possessed; He’s not communicating a respectable message of an orthodox Jewish believer, but is speaking from a different authority; therefore, He must be in league with the Devil.
Why did Jesus’ natural family (we can safely presume that the latter did not include our Blessed Mother who is conceived without sin nor Joseph who was most likely deceased when Jesus began His ministry) and the religious authorities so misunderstand Who Jesus is and what His mission is about? The Word made Flesh, Immanuel is right in their very midst and their response is that He is crazy and that He is operating under Satan’s influence. How can this be? A Jewish aphorism offers us a clue: “We don’t see the world as it is, but as we are.”
Our first reading from the book of Genesis offers us an insight as to how we can distort reality. The third chapter of Genesis explains the beginning of Salvation History with the Fall of our original parents. While they were in the Garden, Adam and Eve were in full communion with God—they walked in the lush, life-giving Garden openly conversing with their Creator—and in fellowship with each other, symbolized by their nakedness. There was no barrier between themselves and God and each other: naked, “yet they felt no shame” (Gn 2:25).
Adam and Eve, like all of us, asked the question: “Is God enough?” Through their subsequent choices, they answered “No,” as they rejected the unconditional love of God and, in so doing, rejected their identity as God’s children. Rather than to gratefully receive God’s love, they chose instead to grasp, to take eternal life from the Tree of Knowledge and to do so without God. They inappropriately used their freedom, not to be in communion with God or fellowship with each other, but to embark on a way of seeking happiness through having the goods of the world. They tried to create their own identity, their own world based on the illusion of separation. This Original Sin necessarily led to the universal condition of sin and death. Only God redeem this loss by re-creating the Garden through the death and Resurrection of the only begotten Son of God.
With that frame of reference, let’s get back to today’s Gospel reading. Jesus formed his apostolic community not drawing from family members because He knew that his natural family would reject Him. Why? Jesus is not some respectable, traveling guru who’s offering comfortable, easy to digest platitudes. While we tend to domesticate Jesus’ teachings, His message has radical, transformational power because He challenges us to become poor, detached from the goods of the world, so that we can BE in right relationship with God and our neighbor through self-gifting love. His Way to realize our destiny is through self-denial (rejection of the False Self), taking up our Cross, and following Him no matter where He may lead us. In other words, our life is no longer about us, but is about Him. Jesus’s message then and now is not respectable, safe, or conventional; indeed, it’s a radically “new wineskin” and that’s why His family was convinced that He was crazy.
Not only does His family misunderstand Him, but the religious establishment, the custodians of the Jewish tradition, the Law of Moses, consider Him possessed by Beelzebul because He is not communicating a respectable, safe message that has already been established. Jesus is calling them to go beyond the external observance of the Law to its underlying spirit and fulfillment. Jesus speaks with authority because He is the author of the Law. How so? Jesus is the Word of God, which means that He teaches and acts in the person of God. They got that, but they didn’t believe, which is why they thought He was a blasphemer and was possessed.
As the Gospel reading concludes, we continue to see his family have confusion and disagreement. Jesus is redefining the family not in terms of blood but in terms of Spirit. Obedience to our heavenly Father as revealed through the life and teachings of His Son, is the criterium for being a member of the family of God. Jesus is saying that unless we do the will of God, family doesn’t mean anything to me. In a kinfolk society of ancient Israel, family-clan-tribe was everything. Jesus is relativising an absolute, which the family can become. But, Jesus says that “Whoever oves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worth of me”
(Mt 10:37). Besides the goods of the world—the 4 Ps: property, prestige, pleasure, and power—there is another thing that that can keep us from the Truth, namely, the family. That’s hard to talk about because we identify so much with our family. In some cases, family has probably kept as much people from the Truth as the 4 Ps. It’s very hard to buck what everybody within the family or my tribe is telling me to do and think. If my family is embracing the affluent, success-trip and you do not fit that worldview, it’s very hard to resist, let alone challenge. Indeed, in a recent article in The Atlantic, it describes The Birth of a New Aristocracy (June 2018) in which “The meritocratic class has mastered the old trick of consolidating wealth and passing privilege along at the expense of other people’s children.”
In today’s Gospel Jesus is questioning the conventional family thing. In our highly individualized culture in which I am the center of my universe, life is about me, and I am in control, children are often extensions of one’s ego. To love our children can be merely an extension of loving yourself. The point that Jesus is making, are we capable of loving those who aren’t related to us–who aren’t part of our natural family, of our little enclave and tribe in which “love” rebounds back to us. Jesus is calling us to love those who aren’t like us, even our enemies—now, we are talking about genuine, self-gifting love.
Brothers and sisters, charity begins at home; indeed, the family is the domestic Church where we learn to love and forgive. But, charity does not end there. Jesus talks the way that He does in order to relativize the family so that even it is not the Center, but God is. We can easily idealize the family, which can become a protective cocoon. It’s very socially acceptable, even a pious way of running away from and surrendering to the Gospel and the Kingdom.
“And looking around at those seated in the circle (of inclusivity of the universal, Catholic Church) he said, “Here re my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (vs. 34-35). That’s it: anyone who does the will of God is Jesus’ family. As members of His mystical Body, the Church, do we concur?