Today’s Gospel invites us to ponder the question, “Who are my brothers and sisters?” Questions of family have always been important, but were particularly so in Jesus’ time. Because the ancient Jews lived in harsh climates and a world with foreign political boundaries, families formed the rock and center of life. When Jesus challenged the makeup of his family, he challenged the deepest social fabric of his time.
Although Jesus challenged the social norm of family, he did not reject it. Rather, he built upon an already solid foundation. He broadened the common understanding to demonstrate the awesome reach of God’s love and goodness. Rather than contain the fraternal love of God to an immediate nuclear family, Jesus shared the Good News with all who do the will of the Father. Although this message of openness may seem fluffy to our modern ears, Jesus’ statement bore amazing implications—families took special care, supporting each other economically, socially, and physically. Jesus’ compassion demonstrates the beautiful and awesome tenderness and self-sacrifice of God.
Despite its brevity, the Gospel asks questions that require depth—How do we act with love and mercy toward our brothers and sisters? Do we consider others our siblings, or are we sometimes too guarded with our love? Do we work for solidarity and peace, a sense of fraternal love in our world? Perhaps a quote from Thomas Aquinas, whose feast we celebrate today, can guide our thoughts for the day: “How can we live in harmony? First we need to know we are all madly in love with the same God.”
—Ken Homan, S.J. is a Jesuit brother from the Wisconsin Province. He is currently studying history and theology at Fordham University, New York.