Welcome, Pope Francis!

Even though Pope Francis has just arrived in our country to help celebrate the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia (with stops in Washington, DC, and New York), today’s Gospel reading is, believe it or not, somewhat critical of the family.

Jesus’ family, including his mother, have come all the way from Nazareth to Capernaum, a distance of some 40 miles, to see him. In another Gospel passage, they have come to “restrain him.” The clear implication is that they don’t agree with what he is doing, or are at least hoping for an explanation.

But when Jesus is told that they have arrived, he says that his mother and family are those who hear and put into practice the word of God. Jesus isn’t saying it’s not important to love our families. Rather, the most important relationship in our lives is with God. Nothing comes before that, and it trumps even family ties. So the main focus of the World Meeting of Families is not, in point of fact, the family—it’s God.

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine;a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.