Father Tom McKenna, CM reflects on Who’s In The “New Family”?
In the context of a recent homily for the Daughters of Charity he draws from Mk. 3:31-35 and also Psalm 40 (“Here I am, Lord…). It brings in Frances De Sales (and Vincent’s) notion of Devotion.
One commentary on this little section in Mark says that what Jesus is doing here is drawing a line, — and “setting up a New Family.”
Picture the scene all the people standing around — and Jesus saying “Over here, on this side of the line, in this crowd, are the members of my old family. But I’m setting up a new boundary — and so, in that new configuration, my new, real family is the group standing on this side of the line. And that line is: the doers of the Will of God.
Some particular things to keep in mind:
First, the crucial, life-and-death importance of family in the culture of that time. To be estranged from it, cut off and out of it, would mean everything –>social security, standing with the rest of the community, a place to go home to, jobs to aspire to, political protections, even everyday food and drink.
The point: this is a radical/life-altering thing Jesus does — setting a whole new course for him and his followers, the “new family.”
Paraphrasing Jesus: –> “All those people tuned into, receptive to, and acting on what My Father wants for this world; all those things I’ll speak about and act out in the months ahead; all those bordering the circle of who’s in and who’s out of The New Family is: this “listening and doing.”
There are many other kinds of boundary lines: blood relatives, clan and tribe, political leaning/allegiance, interest groups, economic status, education level, even “physical looks.”
But my boundary marker is: the hearers and the doers of God’s will.
And not just — or even — the ones who are doing that perfectly. But rather those for whom it’s of uppermost importance, those who keep on trying, however they stumble.”
And so to us standing here, Jesus draws the line once again today.
Can I keep trying to stay on Jesus’ side of that line and reaffirm that my highest allegiance is to that Will, that what’s going to make the crucial difference is my attention to the hearing and doing of that Will?
And also. Are the “boundary lines” I set for other people’s membership in the Family just the same? So even though I see many different “markers” around me in my world (family ties, political difference, ethnic distinctions, social and economic ranking, education levels, religions and even non-religions), I’m trying to connect along Jesus’ reckoning line –> who’s trying to hear and do the Will?
One more thing about The Will of God, and it’s the line in the responsorial: “Here I am Lord, I come to do Your Will.” (It might be easier for us to hear these words in their musical setting.)
The “here I am” part brings a certain quality to it — not just, “I’ll get around to doing your will, I’ll look up some things on it/research it, I’ll give it due consideration.” Rather, “Here I am.” And that is, readiness, anticipation, leaning into it, showing up “dressed and ready to play.”
The “Family reason” I underline this point? “Readiness” is the meaning that Vincent, but most famously, Francis de Sales, gives to the word “devotion; i.e., not being just passive before God, not studying God as a subject in a class, not putting God’s will as just one more thing on my To Do list. But rather, eager to serve, being at the ready, wanting to take the initiative, leaning into it.
As in the words of the psalm, “The eyes of the servant are on the hands of the Master.” This servant is not just waiting around for a written instruction, but is trying to catch the first body-language indication of what that Master wants.
So the title of Francis’ classic, “The Introduction to the Devout Life” could well be taken as “The Introduction to the Ready Life!”
“Here I am, Lord. I come to do Your will.” This is a lyric for knowing who’s really “in” in Jesus “New Family.” It also sets down a distinctive stance before that will: always trying to be on the alert for it, always devout, always “Ready” to hear and do it.