Sunday (June 10):  "Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother"

Meditation: 

[Mark 3:20-21] Is the Lord Jesus honored in your home? Why would Jesus' relatives be so upset with him when he began his public ministry? On one occasion Jesus remarked that a man's enemies will be the members of his own household (Matthew 10:36). The Gospel of Mark records the reaction of Jesus' relatives when he went home: they came to seize him. They, no doubt, thought that Jesus must have gone mad or become a religious fanatic. How could a good home-body from Nazareth leave his father's carpentry trade and go off to become a traveling preacher?

Jesus had thrown away the security and safety of a quiet and respectable life close to his family and relatives. He, undoubtedly, expected opposition from the Jewish authorities. The hardest opposition, however, may come from someone close to us, even your own kin. Jesus met opposition with grace and with determination to fulfill his Father's will. Are you ready to obey and follow the Lord even if others oppose your doing so?

"Lord Jesus, may I always put you first and find joy in doing your will. May your love and charity grow in me, especially in the face of opposition and adversity."



[Mark 3:22-30] When danger lurks, what kind of protection do you seek? Jesus came to free us from the greatest danger of all - the corrupting force of evil which destroys us from within and makes us slaves to sin and Satan (John 8:34). Evil is not an impersonal force that just happens. It has a name and a face and it seeks to master every heart and soul on the face of the earth (1 Peter 5:8-9). Scripture identifies the Evil One by many names, 'Satan', 'Beelzebul - the prince of demons', the 'Devil', the 'Deceiver', the 'Father of Lies', and 'Lucifier', the fallen angel who broke rank with God and established his own army and kingdom in opposition to God. Jesus declared that he came to overthrow the power of Satan and his kingdom (John 12:31).

Jesus' numerous exorcisms brought freedom to many who were troubled and oppressed by the work of evil spirits. Jesus himself encountered personal opposition and battle with Satan when he was put to the test in the wilderness just before his public ministry (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). He overcame the Evil One through his obedience to the will of his Father.

Some of the Jewish leaders reacted vehemently to Jesus' healings and exorcisms and they opposed him with malicious slander. How could Jesus get the power and authority to release individuals from Satan's influence and control? They assumed that he had to be in league with Satan. They attributed his power to Satan rather than to God. Jesus asserts that no kingdom divided against itself can survive for long.

We have witnessed enough civil wars in our own time to prove the destructive force at work here for the annihilation of whole peoples and their land. If Satan lends his power against his own forces then he is finished. Cyril of Alexandria, a 5th century church father explains the force of Jesus' argument:

Kingdoms are established by the fidelity of subjects and the obedience of those under the royal scepter. Houses are established when those who belong to them in no way whatsoever thwart one another but, on the contrary, agree in will and deed. I suppose it would establish the kingdom too of Beelzebub, had he determined to abstain from everything contrary to himself. How then does Satan cast out Satan? It follows then that devils do not depart from people on their own accord but retire unwillingly. 'Satan,' he says, 'does not fight with himself.' He does not rebuke his own servants. He does not permit himself to injure his own armor-bearers. On the contrary, he helps his kingdom. 'It remains for you to understand that I crush Satan by divine power.' [Commentary on Luke, Homily 80]
Jesus asserted his authority to cast out demons as a clear demonstration of the reign of God. God's power is clearly at work in the exorcisms which Jesus performed and they give evidence that God's kingdom has come.

What kind of spiritual danger or harm should we avoid at all costs? Jesus used the illustration of a strong man whose house and possessions were kept secure. How could such a person be overtaken and robbed of his goods except by someone who is stronger than himself? Satan, who is our foe and the arch-enemy of God, is stronger than us. Unless we are clothed in God's strength, we cannot withstand Satan with our own human strength.

What does Satan wish to take from us - our faith and confidence in God and our allegiance to follow God's law. Satan is a rebel and a liar. Satan can only have power or dominion over us if we listen to his lies and succumb to his will which is contrary to the will of God. Jesus makes it clear that there are no neutral parties in this world. We are either for Jesus or against him, for the kingdom of God or against it. There are two kingdoms in opposition to one another - the kingdom of God's light and truth and the kingdom of darkness and deception under the rule of Satan. If we disobey God's word, we open to door to the power of sin and Satan's influence in our lives. If we want to live in true freedom from the power of sin and Satan, then our "house" - our mind and heart and whatever we allow to control our appetites and desires - must be occupied and ruled by Jesus Christ where he is enthroned as Lord and Savior. Do you know the peace and security of a life submitted to God and to his word?

What is the unforgivable sin which Jesus warns us to avoid? Jesus knows that his disciples will be tested and he assures them that the Holy Spirit will give them whatever grace and help they need in their time of adversity. He warns them, however, that it's possible to spurn the grace of God and to fall into apostasy (giving up the faith) out of cowardice or disbelief. Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit reprehensible? Blasphemy consists in uttering against God, inwardly or outwardly, words of hatred, reproach, or defiance. It's contrary to the respect due God and his holy name. Jesus speaks of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit as the unforgivable sin. Jesus spoke about this sin immediately after the scribes and Pharisees had attributed his miracles to the work of the devil instead of to God. A sin can only be unforgivable if repentance is impossible. If someone repeatedly closes their eyes to God, shuts their ears to his voice, and reject his word, they bring themselves to a point where they can no longer recognize God when he can be seen and heard. They become spiritually blind-sighted and speak of "evil as good and good as evil" (Isaiah 5:20).

To fear such a state of sin and spiritual blindness, however, signals that one is not dead to God and is conscious of the need for God's grace, mercy, and help. There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who refuses to acknowledge and confess their sins and to ask God for forgiveness, spurns God's generous offer of mercy, pardon, grace, and healing. Through their own stubborn pride and willfullness, they reject God, refuse his grace and help to turn away from sin, and reject the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to heal and restore them to wholeness. God always gives sufficient grace and help to all who humbly call upon him. Giving up on God and refusing to turn away from sin and disbelief results from pride and the loss of hope in God.

What is the basis of our hope and confidence in God? Through Jesus' death on the cross and his victory over the grave when he rose again on the third day, Satan has been defeated and death has been overcome. We now share in Christ's victory over sin and Satan and receive adoption as God's sons and daughters. Through the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord enables us to live a new life of love and freedom from slavery to sin. The Lord Jesus is our refuge and strength because he makes his home with us (John 15:4) and gives us the power and help of the Holy Spirit. Do you take refuge in the Lord and allow him to be the Ruler of your life?

"Lord Jesus, you are my hope and salvation. Be the ruler of my heart and the master of my home. May there be nothing in my life that is not under your lordship."



[Mark 3:31-35] Who do you love and cherish the most? God did not intend for us to be alone, but to be with others. He gives us many opportunities for developing relationships with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Why did Jesus, on this occasion, seem to ignore his own relatives when they pressed to see him? His love and respect for his mother and his relatives was unquestionable. Jesus never lost an opportunity to teach his disciples a spiritual lesson and truth about the kingdom of God. On this occasion when many gathered to hear Jesus he pointed to another higher reality of relationships, namely our relationship with God and with those who belong to God.

What is the essence of being a Christian? It is certainly more than doctrine, precepts, and commandments. It is first and foremost a relationship - a relationship of trust, affection, commitment, loyalty, faithfulness, kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion, mercy, helpfulness, encouragement, support, strength, protection, and so many other qualities that bind people together in mutual love and unity. God offers us the greatest of relationships - union of heart, mind, and spirit with himself, the very author and source of love (1 John 4:8,16). God's love never fails, never forgets, never compromises, never lies, never lets us down nor disappoints us. His love is consistent, unwavering, unconditional, and unstoppable. Nothing can deter him from ever leaving us, ignoring us, or treating us unkindly. He will love us no matter what. It is his nature to love. That is why he created us - to be united with him and to share in his love and unity of persons (1 John 3:1). God is a trinity of three divine persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - and a community of love. That is why Jesus challenged his followers and even his own earthly relatives to recognize that God is the true source of all relationships. God wants all of our relationships to be rooted in his love.

Jesus is God's love incarnate - God's love made visible in human flesh (1 John 4:9-10). That is why Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep and the shepherd who seeks out the sheep who have strayed and lost their way. God is like the father who yearns for his prodigal son to return home and then throws a great party for his son when he has a change of heart and comes back (Luke 15:11-32). Jesus offered up his life on the cross for our sake, so that we could be forgiven and restored to unity and friendship with God. It is through Jesus that we become the adopted children of God - his own sons and daughters. That is why Jesus told his disciples that they would have many new friends and family relationships in his kingdom. Whoever does the will of God is a friend of God and a member of his family - his sons and daughters who have been ransomed by the precious blood of Christ.

An early Christian martyr once said that "a Christian's only relatives are the saints" - namely those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and adopted as sons and daughters of God. Those who have been baptized into Jesus Christ and who live as his disciples enter into a new family, a family of "saints" here on earth and in heaven. Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood. Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all of our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God first and to his kingdom of righteousness and peace. Do you want to grow in love and friendship? Allow God's Holy Spirit to transform your heart, mind, and will to enable you to love freely and generously as he loves.

"Heavenly Father, you are the source of all true friendship and love. In all my relationships, may your love be my constant guide for choosing what is good and for rejecting what is contrary to your will."


This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/