Tuesday, January 29, 2008

We are family

From morning Mass, January 29, 2008:

"Then David, girt with a linen apron, came dancing before the LORD with abandon." (2 Samuel 6.14)

"But he said to them in reply, 'Who are my mother and (my) brothers?' And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.'" (Mark, 3.33-35)

Our readings today can at first glance seem to be very disparate passages. However, I would like to suggest today that even though the surface of the readings is very different, they are actually both about the same thing.

We have the great reading from Samuel that tells of the return of the Ark of the Covenant to the people of Israel. They had lost it in their dealings with the Philistines, but now it is back. And, this is so momentous an occassion that David dances uncontrollably - or "with abandon" as the Scripture reads.

He does this because it is far more than the recovery of an historic or religious object. The Ark of the Covenant symbolizes for the people of Israel God's presence abiding with them. So, they are not celebrating an artifact, but they are celebrating a person, a relationship. With the return of the Ark, their God dwells in their midst once again. And a great celebration that is.

And David celebrates the way we still celebrate today when someone who was gone comes home - with a meal. As we heard, "He then distributed among all the people,to each man and each woman in the entire multitude of Israel,a loaf of bread, a cut of roast meat, and a raisin cake."

In our Gospel passage today from Mark, at first glance it can seem a bit odd, even a bit rude. Here is Jesus teaching and preaching and someone comes along to let Him know that His family is there. Notice Jesus doesn't react with joy. He doesn't say, "Bring them in. Give them a seat in the front row. I'd like to introduce you to my mother and siblings." Instead, Jesus says, "Who are my mother and brothers?"

Of course, Jesus isn't being rude. He isn't rejecting His family. But, Jesus is once again using every possible opportunity He is faced with to teach the people. So, even something as simple as a notification that His family is there can become a moment to teach.

So, what's the message? Well, far from being a rejection of His family, when Jesus says, "Here are my mother and my brothers. (For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother," what He is actually doing is expanding and widening His family. His family doesn't include only his birth family and His blood relatives, but anyone who follows the will of God has the opportunity to be considered a member of the family of Jesus.

So, He could have said, "Yes, Mary is my mother, and they are my brothers and sisters. But, so are you, because you follow the will of God."

Why is this important? Well, this is where our readings intersect today. This is an important distinction because it is in the family of God that the presence of God exists. Jesus invites us into His family through baptism and membership in the Church because just as in the Ark of old, this is where His presence now dwells.

As we gather for Eucharist this morning, we are mindful that our celebration of the Mass and our Tabernacle are not unlike the Ark of the Covenant, in that God's presence wells there and we have accesst our God in this sacred space. And through our reception of the Sacrament and participation in the life of faith, God allows that presence to dwell in us, so that we become that presence in the world, so that we become the new Ark, the new Tabernacle.

All because God has welcomed us into His family and pledged to us to be present there. And, don't lose sight of the fact that just like David, we too are invited to celebrate at a meal. As we today once again break the bread and share the cup, let us remember that our God is in our midst, here in the middle of His family.

"Who are my mother and brothers and sisters?" My friends - you are.

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