HOMILY for 25th Tue per annum (II)
This Gospel passage is sometimes used to argue that Jesus had siblings and it is thus used as a challenge to the dogma of Our Lady’s perpetual virginity. But this apologetic concern can distract us from the central point that Christ was making which is about who he is and how he calls all into a familial relationship with God. The Greek word adelphoi used in Gospel is itself a translation of the Hebrew or, more likely, of the Aramaic used by Our Lord. He would have said akhoon, which means ‘kin’ because this was the one word used for both cousin or brother – there was no distinct word as such. So, Jesus is referring to those who are part of his family, a kinsman.
Through various covenants with the people of Israel, God had made the Jews his kinsmen, members of his family. “You will be my people, and I will be your God”, the Lord says again and again to Israel. However, this covenant is ratified in the flesh of Jesus Christ for by his Incarnation, God has made himself kin to all humanity. Christ has become our brother, our kinsman in a radical way, and through his sacred humanity all peoples and not just the Jewish people are being invited to enter into a covenant with God. So, all who “hear the Word of God”, that is, who listen to Christ and believe in who he is – God’s incarnate Son – can have kinship with God. For it is through baptism, the sacrament of faith, that we become “co-heirs” with Christ, as St Paul says (cf Rom 8:17).
However Jesus doesn’t just say “my brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk 8:21), he adds “my mother and my brethren”. Why? Because motherhood implies a flesh and blood relationship and not just adoption. Hence, the new and eternal covenant of Mankind with God is signed and sealed in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Through partaking of the Eucharist, we are made one with God, and we truly become his kin, his own flesh and blood. As St Augustine says: “Christ the Lord willed to entrust to us his body and the blood which he shed for the forgiveness of our sins. If you have received them properly, you yourselves are what you have received”; Christ assimilates us to himself, and we, the Church, become his kin, his family, and his Mystical Body, the Mother Church.
Finally, Christ says that this belonging to God comes not only through hearing and believing the Word of God, but through what we do. This also follows the Old Testament dynamic of covenantal relationships. As Moses says to the people of Israel, “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good?” (Deut 10:12f). Hence, in co-operation with the grace of Christ, we Christians can be transformed so that we not only hear the Word but do it – we do as Jesus does – and so, we become like him. For grace transforms re-creates us in the image and likeness of Christ the Son, so that we become, sons and daughters of the Father, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 1 Pt 4).