Passages in Scripture speak to the faithful in different ways at different times. Admitting this dynamic holds the original context of the passage in creative tension with the current pastoral needs of the Church and the world. In the first century Church, Jesus’ Gospel statement that membership in his family involves doing the will of his Father is a message of hope. The early Church struggled to find its identity amidst the Jewish religious communities since not all Christians belonged to God’s chosen people by hereditary descent.
Today, the Gospel speaks to our current interreligious, post-modern context, and invites us to work with all people of good will to build God’s Kingdom. Further, recent invitations from Pope Francis to evangelize the world remind us that those who do not share our religious identity are our sisters and brothers too. Like the early Church, our identity is still rooted in Jesus Christ, as we also remain open to embrace the fractious world beyond .
Whom do I call “sister” or “brother”? Does my sense of family extend to the whole Church? To the whole world? How do I balance the commitment to my hereditary family with service to the broader human family?
—Dano Kennedy, S.J. is a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at St. Louis University. He lives at the Bellarmine House of Studies.