27th January. Tuesday of Week 3.
Saint Angela de Merici, virgin.
Angela de Merici, (1474-1540) from Desenzano del Garda converted her house into a school for girls and later founded an association of consecrated women to devote their lives to this work. She founded the Order of Ursulines in 1535 in Brescia, northern Italy.
1st Reading: Hebrews 10:1-10
The temple rituals were a type of the new covenant, brought by Jesus for all
Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who approach. Otherwise, would they not have ceased being offered, since the worshippers, cleansed once for all, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘See, God, I have come to do your will, O God’ (in the scroll of the book it is written of me).”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “See, I have come to do your will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And it is by God’s will that we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Gospel: Mark 3:31-35
Jesus calls whoever does God’s will his own brothers and sisters
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Smaller and Wider Family
Fidelity to God’s will makes a family of all Christians. Jesus identifies the true disciple not by by rank or position, special privileges of birth, talents and financial resources, but by fidelity in the routines of life. We are asked to undertake all we do as though in the context of family life, regarding others as sister or brother, mother or father to me.
At first reading today’s gospel seems to show Jesus as breaking with family ties rather than as forming a new one for his followers. When his mother Mary and others of his relatives come to him, one might expect him to drop everything else and devote all his attention to them. The words of Jesus startle us. Clearly there are moments when we should embrace our family circle and other moments when we turn outward to be of loving service to outsiders. Jesus gives the example of both these apects: he is conscious of his world family, yet from the cross in his dying moments he provides for his mother Mary (John 19:25-27). Here as elsewhere, Mary is representative of the church, the centre of a praying community (Acts 1:12-14).
If God’s prompting is normally found in both the small events of family life and in sharing of loving concern for others, the message in Hebrews is that we should root our daily intentions in the strength and goodness of Jesus. Repeatedly we need to turn to him, to purify our motives and to form an ever wider circle of love. The attitude of Jesus sanctifies our daily actions: “I have come to do your will, O God.”
The spontaneity of children can teach grown-ups the spirit of the Kingdom of God. Children can flourish in the warm embrace of the family; but they can also run through the neighbourhood and wave at total strangers. They teach us the meaning of Jesus’ words as he embraced people from all parts of the land: “These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is brother and sister and mother to me.”
Part of the family
This is the only passage in Mark’s gospel where the mother of Jesus features, when she comes with other members of the family to “restrain” Jesus, to bring him home, because some people thought he was out of his mind. Mark presents Mary and other family members as acting out of genuine concern for Jesus. However, the fact that we do something out of concern for someone doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the right thing to do. On this occasion, Jesus kept his distance from his mother and the other members of his family, in spite of their good intentions. When word came to him that his mother and brothers and sisters were outside the house looking for him, he identified those inside the house, his disciples, as his real family. There was an implicit invitation here to his mother and family members to come inside and to be part of his new family.
“Whoever does the will of God,” Jesus said, “that person is my brother and sister and mother.” Mary and the other family members had to learn to set aside their own plans for Jesus and surrender to God’s will for him. It is perhaps reassuring to be reminded that even for Our Blessed Lady it was a struggle to live out the implications of the prayer, “thy will be done on earth as in heaven.” It is a daily struggle for all of us to give priority to what God wants, but it is a worthwhile effort; it is the Christian effort and in that struggle we are assured of the help of Jesus and Mary. [Martin Hogan]