Someone said to him (Jesus) "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wishing to speak with you." Matthew 12:47
Chapter 12 of the Gospel according to Matthew paints a picture of a Jesus consistently being harassed by Pharisees for disobeying Jewish law and for doing good works. Some Pharisees even accused Jesus of expelling demons by the power of Beelzebub. (Mt. 12:24) Jesus’ strong reaction to this accusation was quick and clear: "How can you utter anything good, you brood of vipers?" (Mt. 12:34) Earlier, Matthew reported: "When the Pharisees were outside they began to plot against him to find a way to destroy him." (Mt 12: 14) Jesus’ mission was one of mercy and healing, giving food to those who were hungry (Mt. 12:1), restoring full health to the man with a shriveled hand (Mt. 12:13), healing the many in need (Mt. 12:16), sight and speech to the blind and mute (Mt: 12:22), and he still could not convince the Pharisees that he was sent by God and of his power to heal, to redeem, to bring new life as a God-given power. One of them says, "Teacher, we want to see you work some signs." (Mt. 12:38). He says this after he has just witnessed one sign after another!
This scripture leads me to ask, why is it so difficult for me to believe in this Jesus we find in the Gospel according to Matthew as the One sent by God, full of love and compassion? It may be because I have my own understanding of Who God Is. The God of my faith is sometimes so different than the God of the Scriptures, of both the Old and New Testament. I sometimes want a God who will punish the evildoer immediately and mercilessly. I want the lawbreaker to get caught and be dealt with swift justice. I am not always so willing to give help to those with shriveled hands, those who are blind, those who cannot speak, those who have been possessed by unclean spirits. These are social ills and not necessarily connected and integral to our Faith Life. For some of us, believing in God and believing in Jesus does not oblige me to feed the hungry, clothed the naked, heal the sick, treat the criminal as my brother or sister, or any of the other kindnesses or mercies enumerated by Jesus in Matthew 25:31 ff.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is still addressing the crowds when his family appears outside, wanting to speak to him. This is the moment we see the depth of Jesus’ Gospel, the good news of the Reign of God. For Jesus did not say, please excuse me, let me go out to see what my mother and my family wants. Rather, he asks, "Who is my mother, who are my brothers?" (Mt. 12:48) Then pointing to his disciples, he says, "There are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me." (Mt. 50)
To believe in this Jesus, we do not only have to change the way we are with one another, but we also have to redefine our relationship with one another. This is easier said than done. This is why the Pharisees were so opposed to Jesus. This is why it is so difficult even now to believe fully in the Jesus of the Gospels. For the Pharisees, the people in power, it was easier to get rid of Jesus than to have a conversion of heart.
Today, as we do every day, we have a chance to choose to be a Pharisee or a disciple. Only with God’s help can we be a disciple. Help me today, O God, to do your will!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.