Monday, July 18, 2016


Homily for July 19th, 2016: Matthew 12:46-50.

          Told that his mother and other close relatives are “outside, wishing to speak with him,” Jesus seems to be dismissive. “Who is my mother?” he asks. “Who are my brothers? And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he says, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers.’” What seems to us to be dismissive is in reality inclusive. Jesus makes this clear by adding at once: “Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother and sister and mother.”

          Jesus lived, died, and rose again fully two millennia ago. Yet we are never distant from him, save by our own choice. As long as we are trying to be faithful to him, by doing his Father’s will, we are as close to Jesus as his blood relatives. Note, that I said “trying.” That is what is crucial: our effort, not our success. Mother Teresa, soon to be St. Teresa of Calcutta, used to tell her Sisters: “The Lord He does not ask us to be successful. He asks us to be faithful.” When we fail in faithfulness, we need to remember what our wonderful Pope Francis never tires of telling us: “The Lord never tires of forgiving us. It is we who grow tired of asking for forgiveness.”

          Who were the “brothers” who wished to speak with Jesus in today’s gospel reading? The Church has always believed that Jesus was Mary’s only child. Why? Having given herself completely to the Lord when she told the angel Gabriel, “Be it done to me according to your word,” Mary was so totally united to God that she could never give herself to another, not even to Joseph. The “brothers” of Jesus mentioned here and elsewhere in the gospels were either cousins, or possibly half-siblings: children of Joseph with a wife who had died before he married Mary.

          Crucial for us is Jesus’ assurance that we who live remote from him in time, are still as close to him as his blood relatives, as long as we are trying to do each day what God asks of us.