Tenth Sunday in ordinary time, Cycle B. Today’s readings: Genesis 3:9-15; 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1; Mark 3:20-35


Comedian Groucho Marx once quipped: “There are two kinds of people: those who divide the world into two kinds of people and those who do not.” There might be some truth to this observation. Thinking in terms of “us” and “them” seems to be hard-wired into us. Yet we are called for more than this.

We often define ourselves by our clan and the people we gather around us. Those who belong to our inner circle are those who are like us and who like us. We go to lengths to protect the stability of this group, because failing to do so might spell disaster for us.

However, protecting our group of like-minded individuals can sometimes lead to divisions that can turn dangerous when we become entrenched in tribalism, or denigrate and dehumanise others because they are not like us. This is particularly true when our allegiances are based on identity, be it one’s nationality, race, or religion.

In Jesus’s time, allegiance to one’s own family was important to ensure that the little wealth one had was kept in the family. This, together with the “honour and shame” dynamics that underpinned families in Mediterranean societies, ensured that loyalty was upheld at all costs and that there is no place for outliers who might rock the boat.

One can only imagine the drama when, upon entering a house and starting to teach, Jesus is confronted by his own relatives. They stand outside wanting to take him away, because, according to them, “he is out of his mind”.

Enter the scribes, who had the responsibility of interpreting the Scriptures. They go even further, claiming his condition was even worse than mental illness. They insist he was possessed by Satan.

Finally, even his closest family members come looking for him, but in what seems like an act of defiance, Jesus claims that his brother, sister and mother are those who listen to God and do God’s will.

Jesus redefines family ties, basing relationships this time not on blood ties, but on listening to the word of God and acting upon it

Those who are expected to be closest to Jesus, his own relatives and the scribes, fail to understand him. His teaching is a cause of scandal to them. His very presence makes them uneasy and they want to find ways of getting him out of the way.

Like his relatives, we who consider ourselves as those of the inner circle, often want to seize Jesus. We want Jesus to conform with us and with our values. We cannot afford to have him tarnish our reputation.

But Jesus redefines family ties, basing relationships this time not on blood ties, but on listening to the word of God and acting upon it. A relationship based on the word of God put into action transcends blood ties, nationality and race. It makes one family out of the human race, recognising God as the father of all and re-establishing our relationship with one another as brothers and sisters.

Mary, the mother of Jesus and our heavenly mother, is offered to us by Jesus himself as the prime exemplar for all to emulate in her readiness to listen to the word of God and to give it flesh within her.

The Sea and Poison, by Shusaku EndoThe Sea and Poison, by Shusaku Endo

Japanese novelist Shusaku Endo draws an aspect of this truth in his book The Sea and Poison. He introduces us to the intimate thoughts of the medical intern Suguro, who ruminates on his sinful past. After making a list of ways in which he abused of others through cheating, theft, adultery, rape, and abortion, he ponders on what is leading him to change his life and start afresh. Suguro is now acutely aware that he has hurt others. “Aren’t we brothers under the skin perhaps?” he asks, with an air of repentance for his misdeeds.

Indeed, how long until we realise that acting out of mercy transcends the petty boundaries that we set upon each other?



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