The well-loved carpenter turned crazy preacher:Jesus constantly reminded us that sin and evil must be confronted at the root whether it is in ourselves, others or in our enemies. The first part of today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus’ relatives and fellow-villagers wrongly judged him as out of his mind and consequently tried to take him by force back to Nazareth to do his safe and secure job as a good carpenter. That is why Jesus remarked, “A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Matthew 10:36). There were four reasons why Jesus’ people thought he was mad and attempted to dissuade him from his preaching and healing mission. First, Jesus had abandoned his safe and secure job as a much-needed village carpenter with steady income to become a wandering preacher with no residence or steady income. Second, Jesus had chosen a band of fishermen with no political or social influence, a hated tax collector and a fanatic zealot as his disciples. Third, Jesus had begun to criticize the power lobby – the scribes and Pharisees – in the Jewish religious headquarters, Jerusalem, labeling them hypocrites. Jesus’ relatives might really have been afraid that Jesus would be arrested, and they would be persecuted with him for criticizing those in power. Fourth, Jesus had silently claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah and had worked miracles to support his claim.
The Sanhedrin slander refuted: The second part of today’s Gospel passage gives Jesus’ crushing reply to the slander propagated by the observers sent from the Sanhedrin, that Jesus expelled devils using the assistance of the leader of devils. Jesus refutes the false allegation raised against him by the Sanhedrin scribes with three counter-arguments and a warning:
1) A house divided against itself will perish, and a country engaged in civil war will be ruined. Hence, Satan will not fight against Satan by helping Jesus to expel his coworkers. 2) If Jesus is collaborating with Satan to exorcise minor demons, then the Jewish exorcists are doing the same. 3) Jesus claims that he is using the power of his Heavenly Father to evict devils just as a strong man guards a house and its possessions from the thief. 4) Finally, Jesus gives a crushing blow to his accusers, warning them that by telling blatant lies they are blaspheming against the Holy Spirit and, hence, their sins are unforgivable.
That battle and interior conflict has been around since Adam and Eve separated themselves from God and hid amongst the trees of the garden. It is seen in Israel wanting a king so it can be like all the other nations; forgetting that it has a unique calling, that it is to be different from other nations, that it is through Israel, the people of God, that God will act for the benefit of all people. This division and inner conflict is a reality of today’s world and our lives. A marriage divided is a divorce. A nation divided results in vitriolic politics and in the extreme, civil war. An economy divided yields poverty and injustice. A community divided becomes individualism and tribalism, prejudice and violence. Humanity divided is all these things on a global level. Faith divided is sin.
Jesus always stands before us as the image of unity, wholeness, integration. He is the stronger one. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He puts our lives and houses back in order. Jesus offers a different image of what life might look like. He does so by revealing the division in our lives, the houses that cannot stand, and the crumbling of our kingdoms. There are all sorts of forces, things, events, sometimes even people by which our lives are broken and through which we are separated from God, others, and our self. Christ is stronger than anything that fragments our lives. He binds the forces that divide, heals the wounds that separate, and refashions pieces into a new whole. There is nothing about your life or my life that cannot be put back together by the love God in Christ.
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” As Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his mother and cousins came to take him to Nazareth by force, perhaps because they feared that Jesus would be arrested and put to death. Today’s Gospel episode seems to suggest that Jesus ignored the request of his mother and close relatives who had traveled a long distance to talk to him. But everyone in the audience knew that Jesus loved his mother and had taken care of her for thirty years. Besides, Jesus’ plain answer, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother” was actually a compliment to his mother who had always listened to the word of God and obeyed it. Jesus was declaring, “Blessed are those who hear and keep the word of God as she is faithfully doing” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58). Jesus was also using the occasion to teach the congregation a new lesson about their relationship with God. Being a disciple of Jesus, or a Christian, is first and foremost a relationship – a relationship of love and unity with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children. Jesus has changed the order of relationships and shows us here that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. God’s gracious gift to us is His adoption of us as His sons and daughters. This gift enables us to recognize all those who belong to Christ as our brothers and sisters. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and His kingdom. “Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he is like Him who fulfilled the will of His Father. But he who not only obeys but converts others, begets Christ in them, and thus becomes like the Mother of Christ”