“Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:47-50)
A couple of Sundays ago, we had a scholar of the law ask Jesus, “Who is our neighbor?” Jesus responded with one of the most well known parables of his preaching ministry: the parable of the “Good Samaritan.” In that passage from Luke (10:25 – 37) we learn that a neighbor is defined by the person who responds compassionately to the one who is dying. Jesus disconnects “neighbor” from ethnicity and country and connects it with an act of compassion. This, indeed, is a new teaching! This is a new way of looking at our lives, our society and world events!
In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus asking: “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” For many of us, we think we know the answer to those questions. But Jesus gives us an answer that we do not expect: the ones who do the Will of His Heavenly Father.
Being family goes way beyond being blood. Most of all, it has to do with the recognition of a God who is the author of all life, the good and the bad, and the recognition that we all are brothers and sisters. We are all called to love one another as brothers and sisters and we are all called to love our neighbor as ourselves. These two new teachings from Jesus are very closely tied to each other.
Here in the United States and across the world, we have been shocked by the multiple news stories of hatred of other peoples, revenge killings and the taking of human life in order to make a statement about “God and Justice.”
Our human response is to respond in kind: anger, hatred, and a hundred deaths for everyone you kill one of ours. We dehumanize the people who hate us. We depersonalize the enemy. They are no longer our neighbor, our mother, our brother and sister.
Yet, this response has never worked. The only way forward is to take the teachings of Jesus to heart and not allow the angry voices full of revenge and injustice and blame to take over our soul. Jesus also told us not fear those who can harm the body, but those who can harm our very soul. Hatred destroys the person who hates, revenge destroys the person who harms. Violence only begets more violence.
So, when we read these news stories, hear the rhetoric of hatred and violence, and see the devastation that bullets and bombs can cause because of hatred, we do have a choice. We can choose life. We can choose to follow Jesus and his teachings. We can choose to be missionaries of love and compassion.
Difficult? Yes. But doable, yes, but only with the grace of God! May we always be good neighbors and do the Will of Jesus’ Heavenly Father!
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Christ the King Community in Citrus Heights, California.