While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’Matthew 12.46-50
I am sure that we have all heard the proverb: The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Perhaps fewer of us have come across its alternative form: Hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works.
It is so easy for all of us to intend to do good but, so often, those intentions slip further and further down our To Do lists. We become distracted and diverted, and we quickly forget all that ‘good’ we intended to do.
Very often the distractions and diversions that get in the way of our Christian discipleship are rooted in family and friends. Some sort of personal crisis, whether real of perceived, arises and every good work we intended to do is swept aside. It is in exactly these sort of circumstances that the terrible phrase Charity begins at home is used. We forget Christ’s teaching on love and service. We cast aside the challenge to love our neighbour as ourselves. We do not give a second thought to Jesus’ teaching that every time we care for a stranger we are caring for him. And, to make the situation worse, our families and friends often demand that they be given priority over everything else, no matter how trivial their need, simply because they are family and friends.
In today’s reading Jesus seems to have very harsh words to say about his family. But, does he really? Jesus is addressing the crowds. He is teaching those who have come to hear the good news. Unexpectedly, his family show up and, we are told, they want to speak to him. Now read the text carefully! Jesus does not dismiss them or reject them! Nowhere does it say that he does not go out and speak with them. Instead, the text says that he uses their presence as an illustration. Jesus says to his disciples, as he says to us: You too can be part of my family, if only you will set aside the transient good intentions and live the life of faithful discipleship.
So … how are our To Do lists looking?
Are Christian love and service at the top of the list?
Are we strong enough to keep Christian love and service as our number one priority?