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Saturday, 9 June 2018

10th Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

Tenth Sunday of Year B
(Genesis 3:9-15; 2nd. Corinthians 4:13 – 5:1; Saint Mark’s Gospel 3:20-35)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Jesus said in today’s Gospel reading words both puzzling and encouraging:

            Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.

To speak of one ‘doing the will of Godseems such an impersonal criterion, whereas ‘my brother and sister and mother’ are words so personal and bespeaking spontaneity. 

Of course, as you surely well know, we become brothers and sisters of Christ when He – by baptism and the Gift of His most Holy Spirit in and through Mother Church – assimilates us to Himself and so nourishes us that we become His brothers and sisters and adopted sons and daughters of His heavenly Father.  And we can even become His mother in the sense that Christ lives in us and grows gradually to maturity in us through our fidelity to His Gospel, Mother Church’s faith, and our responsiveness to His guiding Spirit.

And yet, for Jesus, the ultimate and supremely decisive criterion for a true and acceptable disciple is, ‘Whoever does the will of God’.

You will have noticed that Jesus’ words to describe a disciple of His speak of a brother, a sister, and mother.  There is no mention of ‘a father’.

Dear People of God, the relationship of Jesus on earth with His Father in heaven was so mysterious, so intimate and imperious, that even Our Blessed Lady was, so to speak, ‘at a loss’, at times or even ‘at sea’, with it, as we learn from the occasion when, in yesterday’s Gospel reading, she thought it right to reprove her Son Who had remained behind in the Temple at Jerusalem unknown to herself and Saint Joseph.  At that time Jesus’ answer totally puzzled her:

            Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?

words which can also mean, about my Father’s business, and which thus offered to one so contemplative as Mary something she would remember and ultimately treasure when her Son left her and went with His disciples to preach His Good News to the people; ultimately walking alone yet wholeheartedly -- because He was ‘about His father’s business’ -- to Calvary, before returning to His heavenly Father’s home.

So, brothers and sisters, dear fellow disciples in Christ, Jesus words:

            Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother,

are both heavenly and earthly words, perfectly befitting Him Who is God become Man for men; they are heavenly words of devotion, ‘Whoever does the will of My Father’, and of God-pleasing emotion, where ‘My brother and sister and mother’ are mentioned as true expressions of spontaneous human love.

The observance of God’s will has an indispensable role in leading us to the full development of our earthly role of ‘mother of Christ’.

‘Doing the will of God’ was the aim of the Law under the Old covenant.  St. Paul discussed that question of the role of the old Law, and his teaching is admirably summed up by the late C.H. Dodd in one of his early works:

‘Every individual of the human race is so entangled in the general “wrongness” that he has no power left to himself to avoid committing acts which, whether he knows it or not, add to the sum of wrong.  To know (thanks to the Law’s teaching) these acts are wrong does not prevent him from doing them, but it does imprint upon his conscience, in the indelible characters of shame and guilt, the contrast of good and evil.  It brings “sin” home, from being a general state of the human race, to be a conscious burden upon the mind of the individual.  And Paul sees that it is a great advance to have discovered sin in one’s own heart as guilt.  Only the man who is conscious of his guilt can be saved from the sin of which he is guilty.’

That saving from sin comes to us through Christ’s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, via the sacrament of Baptism; and today, our efforts to conform our behaviour in all circumstances to God’s will as revealed to us most sublimely by the teaching and example of our blessed Lord Jesus has a similar role to that of the Jewish Law in Old Testament times which is, to quote Saint Paul to the Ephesians 4:12–13:  

To equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ;

or in simpler words, to become sons and daughters of God to the utmost of Christ’s gift (by His Spirit) to us.

Our effort to do God’s will (we have indeed to be willing to make an effort to achieve salvation!) is not meant so much to disclose sin as guilt in our hearts, because the grace of Christ is given us to overcome sin and thus wipe out guilt, so much as to enable us to learn by experience that we are weak of ourselves and that God is faithful, true, and mysteriously powerful as He works in us by His grace in response to our prayer: doing, bringing about, for us the good we could not do of ourselves.

In sum, the effort to do God’s will is meant to make us profoundly humble as regards ourselves, and totally confident and trusting in God.  It is intended to promote and cement a truly intimate and adult relationship with God, one leading to spontaneity, for when we fully abandon ourselves, when we cast aside self-solicitude, we are then free to love Him and serve Him … in Jesus and by His Spirit … as members of His family with that spontaneous love acknowledged by Jesus in our Gospel reading, and now divinized to its ultimate beauty and worth, with emotion having become devotion and ultimately life in Christ, by the Spirit, for our heavenly Father.

Just a final word, however, and one of warning, because spontaneity before God is such a precious fruit of grace that attempts made to counterfeit it can be truly harmful, hypocrisy at a most dangerous level, and that is because spontaneity can only exist with most sincere humility as its bosom companion.  When true spontaneity comes it is impelling: not the following of a personal whim or thought-out measure, but an obligation of conscience and an expression of love for God … an expression which will be unique, corresponding to the subject’s unique relationship with God … and the joy that accompanies it is unique also, a milestone in life.

Let us, therefore, ask Our Blessed Lord in this Mass, at Holy Communion, to grant us that we may faithfully endeavour --- in all the manifold details of daily living --- to do the will of God our Father in heaven, again with and in Jesus and by His Spirit guiding and empowering us in all things, that we might thereby be brought to the fulness of our personal calling by, and relationship with, Christ as His brother, sister and mother.