Mother of Jesus… but not the only one.
When Jesus is at the temple at age 12 we see the beginnings perhaps of childhood rebellion. The child, a product in many ways, of his or her parents goes through a process of self-differentiation of their own identity from that of their parents. They become “their own authentic person” so to speak.
I wonder if this gives different insight to Jesus later saying he has come to set family against each other (Matthew 10:35ish) or when Jesus denies special place to his mother and brothers and sisters and claims, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35)
Do you really think Jesus, who has come because God loves the world, wants to deny family members honor (which would break a commandment among other things)? Or could it be that Jesus continues here what was started in the temple at age 12… a shift in identity from the child who was dependent upon his mother and father to the young adult and later adult who has – thanks to Mary among others – become a self-differentiated adult ready to fly the coup. In that process Jesus doesn’t seek to deny family, but expand family. Jesus must – as we must – break down the tight bonds of strong isolated family unit in order to expand his orientation towards others, outsiders, the lost and the lonely.
These alone are not my family Jesus is saying in Mark, but all people are my family as they seek to follow in my way and none are more, or less, entitled to my attention, honor, and care. And what is the lesson in this to us, who are so inclined to tribal alliances of those who are in and those who are out? What does it mean that Jesus calls us to leave such alliances behind as we grow into maturity and an ever-expanding notion of family? How do we honor our mothers and fathers by not living exclusively oriented to them – but to the whole world?
We are pit against family because we must, on some level, break down the walls we grew up with in order to grow into our place in the humanity where we are always our brother (and sisters) keeper, called to love neighbor, and sent out to the world to bearers of good news to all people and not just the people that look and act like we were raised.
We turn family into Family, church into Church, and even Jesus into the Body of Christ.
Mary helps us get there – our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters – help us get to that point. But we also have to get to the point where it’s about many more people than them alone. And in that moment it can be hard to be Mary… but it is also perhaps the single most important moment as parent: to allow the child to live beyond us, apart from us (still knowing that they are a part of us). Its hard as well for us as well, who like to be led, to realize that there is time when we need to lead. Leading as we are led. Teacher and student. Discipling and discipled. Lover and beloved. Individual person and yet part of a human collective family larger than we can fathom.
Thanks be to God.