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Luke 8:19-21

The Word of God

Then Jesus' mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

Luke 8:19-21
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    • A Jew is one whose mother is a Jew; a Christian is one who has been baptised and believes that Jesus is the Son of God and is a committed follower of his. There is no such thing as a born Christian; one can be born into a Christian family and the family may well see that one becomes a disciple of Christ and so become a real not just a nominal Christian. Discipleship, not family, determines whether one is or is not Christian. Although St. Luke follows St. Mark and St. Matthews, he gives a different sense to the Lord’s words.
    • It is worth getting your New Testament and reading the three accounts of this incident (Lk. 8: 19-21 Mt.12:46-50, Mk. 3: 31-35). Luke does not contrast the natural family to the family of disciples. There is simply praise for his mother and brothers: ‘my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice’. In other words, they are disciples.
    • This change marks a development of Mary’s portrayal in the New Testament from receiving no mention in Paul’s writings, through her prominence in the infancy narratives to her iconic status at the foot of the Cross in John’s gospel.
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    • When Jesus was talking to others, he was not just giving a few rules for better living. He was inviting us to accept adoption into the Divine family of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So these words of Jesus about his mother and his family are not a slight on Mary but are reminding us of how he wants everyone to belong to His family. In our adopted life, He, even from the Cross, gave us Mary as our mother through the symbolism of Saint John when he said to him “Here is your mother” (John 19:27). It is wonderful to realise that we belong to God’s family.
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    • Hearing the word and doing it: for Jesus these two verbs go together. Once he said that those who do so are building their life on rock rather than on sand so that they can be strong in the midst of difficulties.
    • Here he goes even further, identifying those who hear the word of God and do it with his own innermost circle, with his own mother and brothers. I thank Jesus for this great compliment, and ask for the grace to be able to put into practice the word of God in my life, not as an obligation but as a privilege.
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    • It is worth comparing and contrasting this passage with the parallel passages in Matthew and particularly in Mark. Here the family of the Lord are praised; in Mark they are sidelined. The attitude towards Mary and the family of Jesus developed during the New Testament period; the family of the Lord gains its distinction from hearing the word of God and doing it.
    • Ask the Lord to help you see the ways you best hear his word and do it and to sharpen your hearing and develop your keenness to follow him.
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    • People naturally assumed that Jesus would give first place to his family. But with one sentence he reveals that every human being can become a member of his family. Closeness to Jesus does not depend on social standing or academic achievement or affluence. It depends instead on ‘hearing the word and doing it’.
    • But what is ‘the word’ and how do we ‘do it’? The primary word told us by Jesus is that the love of his Father for us is infinite; we are to trust this word and live by it. As Pope Francis says: ‘When everything is said and done, we are infinitely loved’. When we know how well we are loved, and how well our neighbours are loved, our attitude to others is transformed and the world becomes a warmer place.
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    • Calling God our father or Mary our mother are not pious notions; they spring from the heart of Jesus which embraces everyone who follows him and invites us to find life where he has received it. Jesus invites us to be his next of kin, his close relations, his family. His story is our story, he gives us his word to be our own.
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    • Our bond with Jesus expands and enriches our family ties. Grace-inspired kinship goes beyond the even the closeness of flesh and blood. Christian couples are bonded in Christ in a privileged way so that Christian families are the heartbeat of the Christian community.
    • Today’s internet enables a worldwide community in Christ to flourish. This includes our Sacred Space community, which prays in19 languages. Truly, Lord, you are with us, always, everywhere. We play an important part in holding the world together around you.
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    • Here Jesus relativizes family relationships. To our ears, his words can sound both strange and cold. But Luke’s audience knew that the cost of receiving Jesus’ word led them into opposition and family ruptures. Choices had to be made between Jesus and family. Jesus comes first. Everyone who hears and acts on his word is a relative of Jesus.
    • Lord, fidelity to your word is the only basis for my Christian identity. As I daily sit at your feet in Sacred Space, may I draw nourishment from listening to you and may I reveal you through my actions.
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    • The compass of God’s family is not limited by blood or heritage, but is thrown open to include all who receive and enact the word of God. I review any boundaries I tolerate and look beyond them in response to Jesus’ words.
    • Hear’ and ‘do’; this is my time for listening closely, for attending to where God is speaking in my life. Later I will move into the ‘doing’ when I express my responses to what this time of prayer brings me to understand. I ask God now to help me later.
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    • There is your family, Lord Jesus: Mary, and the others of the household - perhaps Joseph was already dead. Now you widen it. We become your family not by birth, nor by being female, nor by rituals, but by hearing and acting on God's word. You welcome me into the same intimate relationship with you as Mary your mother.
    • Our prime relationship in life is our relationship with God. This explains why Jesus' words about his mother and brothers. Even the strongest family bonds and ties fit into a prior relationship we all enter into at conception - we belong to God before we belong to anyone else. Our relationship to each other is deepest in our common belonging to God. Our relationship with God grows by listening to his word, praying over his word, and translating his word into christian life and service.