Genesis 3: 9-15; 2Cor 4: 13–5: 1; Mark 3: 20-35
When we hear this gospel and the question of family, it’s important to remember that we’re not reading Matthew or Luke where we hear the narratives of the Holy Family that we have become accustomed to during the Christmas season. In Mark, who we hear from this weekend, they are nonexistent and so when family is spoken of today it’s a much larger context, we can define them as the human family that sets out with the accusation of him “being out of his mind”. That said, when it comes to family, it’s not so much as to whether there is dysfunction it’s a matter of the degree of dysfunction within the human family. Every family has secrets and things they don’t talk about. No family even wants to give the perception that they are far from perfect all while believing “out there” someone has it better than ourselves, creating a sense of shame and guilt that runs deep where no one can ever speak of the elephant in the room.
We also know, from the nuclear family, that it’s often an outsider who reveals our own insanity to us. When someone brings home a boyfriend, girlfriend, or just anyone who didn’t grow up within that family, they see things differently. Now our immediate reaction is to typically judge that person and cast them aside as being “out of his mind” but that’s our own way of avoiding the dysfunction. What we can do, though, is allow these things to surface and not to judge them or others but rather to allow them to be healed and redeemed. That’s what God desires of and for the human family. We can take that a step further also to this city or certainly as a country. We live in denial of our own history so often. We prefer not to look at it and avoid it all while the rest of the world already knows. It’s why we feel so threatened by outsiders. They have a way of revealing what we don’t like about ourselves and we’ll do anything to destroy, by word or action. We continue to see it today with families being torn apart, refugees being shunned, anyone that is seen as a threat to our own way of life is disposable.
Jesus, though, becomes the archetypal outsider, living on the edge of the inside. How quickly people, those in power in particular, feel threatened by his very existence. Today, it’s the human family. It’s a very simple question that is asked as to “who is my brother and mother”. We can come up with obvious answers to those questions but it seems to get clouded by Jesus. They want to immediately react and say he’s crazy, in the same way we do with people who do heinous acts, to somehow save them from themselves. But Jesus isn’t simply referring to his immediate family as I said. He becomes a perceived threat to the way of life for the human family. So their response to him is to label him crazy. They don’t want to associate with him or have any parts of him in that sense. As soon as he begins to threaten the status quo of their lives things are turned upside down. The very people who thought they were insiders now find themselves on the outside looking in because they don’t feel the need for redemption and refuse to look at their own sin. It’s a fascinating play on words and turning things upside down, allowing all to surface in order to be redeemed through a God how continues to look out at humanity with great love.
It takes us to one of the most famous passages of Genesis with Adam and Eve doing what they do in the Garden. They buy into the big lie just as we do. They are convinced, rather easily, that if they eat from that particular tree in the middle of the garden they can be God. There would no longer need to God and they can become self-sufficient, just as we often try. There is, in some sense from God today a level of disappointment with the human family for what they had done and the lie they so easily believed. God continues to look lovingly upon them as their own sin surfaces to be redeemed and reconciled. Whereas the human family wants to quickly label God as “out of his mind” God in turn looks lovingly. It’s not until they realize that they have become lost that they can be sought out and found by Love. It’s not about becoming God. Rather, it’s about seeing as God sees and to look at a hurting human family in that same way, in need of love, forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation.
It’s Paul’s continuous point to the people of Corinth as well, whom we hear from in the second reading. He reminds them that we have “the same spirit of faith” and that as a community which also had become reliant upon itself and self-sufficient, that it was still God who was working in and through them. They community was becoming its own judge and determining who was in and who was out, excluding people from the table, mistreating others, and simply seeing with their own eyes rather than the eyes of God. Paul, of course, knows this better than anyone. He was the one who judged and deemed who was in and out until his own conversion experience. Paul had to first find himself lost in order to be found by this God who loved and redeemed him for his own sin, sin which we’d find hard to forgive at times. Yet, that same God who looked lovingly upon Adam and Eve looked upon Paul and his vision had been restored and he began to look at the human family in a very different way. Paul sought a more just society, especially for those who were excluded. Like Jesus, he learned to live on the edge of the inside and never forgetting what it’s like to be the outsider.
The human family can be quite dysfunctional; and is quite often. It should not surprise us that our government is the same as family and also the Church. When the human family is involved there will always be problems. The question is do we live in denial of our own storied history or do we allow it to surface with purpose and meaning, revealing the great lies that we become attached to in order to be redeemed and reconciled, leading to a more just society. The ones who gather around Jesus in today’s gospel always has space for new faces. There are no walls, no divisions, nothing that separates, otherwise it’s not God. We put ourselves on the outside looking in when we make the mistake from the Garden, of thinking we know as God knows, of thinking we can be the judge. It becomes easier to blame and be victims rather than allow ourselves to be changed when our own sin surfaces. The Good News, as it always is, just as in the beginning, God still looks lovingly upon us, awaiting our own desire in our lostness to be found.