Readings: Joshua 24:14-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Matthew 12:46-50
I always say that I don’t know how my mother would react if I pretended not to know her when she came to visit. But that’s not actually true. I am pretty sure that I do know how she would react, and I don’t think it would be pretty! But I honestly don’t think Jesus was trying to distance himself from his Blessed Mother. I think Jesus knew well that Mary inherited a great deal of grace from her Immaculate Conception that made her well aware of Jesus’ priorities and willing to assist in his ministry.
I think we should take two things from today’s readings. First, families are called to be holy. Sure, you say, how do we even try to get to that point? It might almost seem like the lack of holiness is a human condition, and so we cannot even expect to yearn for that great virtue. But nothing could be further from the truth. Sin is not a human attribute, in fact it’s about the least human thing there is. Sin is us trying to be something we weren’t meant to be, to follow in a path we weren’t meant to trod.
What is truly human is virtue. We know this because Jesus was perfectly divine and perfectly human, and he never sinned. So sin is something we were not meant to do.
The source of holiness is the family unit. As we grow in our families we learn. Hopefully we learn holiness and virtue. That’s what Joshua was trying to elicit in tonight’s first reading. As the people Israel prepared to take the promised land, they would be tempted by all sorts of things. They would be tempted to “fit in” with the rest of the people of the land and worship their so-called gods. Joshua says they have to decide now whom they will serve. Will it be those so-called gods, or will they, like his family, serve the LORD?
It’s not just a quaint question for us, or a curiosity from ancient times. It’s a question we all have to struggle with, to decide if we and our families will serve the Lord or serve someone or something else. Will we instead serve the gods who demand that we play sports to the extent that we can’t get to Sunday Mass? Will we instead serve the gods who demand that we sacrifice our time so much that we miss the growth of our children and distance ourselves from our families? These questions are real ones, and we have to struggle with worshipping rightly just as much in our day as the people Israel did in Joshua’s day.
The second thing we should take from these readings is that the call to discipleship is learned in the family. That’s why the vignette with Mary is so important in our Gospel reading today. Mary was clearly one of Jesus’ disciples, we know that from our Church history. So when he said “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” we know that he certainly included Mary, but also meant to include us too. Brothers and sisters of the Lord are his disciples; together we carry out the ministry he wants to accomplish in the world. We are meant to proclaim his word to all people in our actions.
As families, we learn that as we pray and work together. Making a family habit of prayer helps children – and adults too! – to work for the kingdom and not just for our own comfort. Prayer helps us to be concerned for the welfare of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and is the activity that gives us the grace to reach out in service.
What we should hear in this holy hour then, is how Jesus wants us to serve him. We see Jesus clearly here on the altar. But we also have to see Jesus in the poor, in the sick, in every person God puts in our path. Each one of them is our brother and sister, and if we would be brothers and sisters of the Lord, then we must reach out to them and show them God’s love.
As we pray this evening then, I think we should all ask God to help us to be better disciples. We should ask him how to serve him by serving our brothers and sisters in need. Ask him to help us see the people around us who most need us right now, who most need to know how much God loves them. Then we can take the grace and love of this Holy Hour to them.
May God bless all of our families with holiness and grace, now and for ever.