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Homily for 19 July 2022, Tuesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time, Matthew 12:46-50

Today we reflect on one of the attitudes Jesus strongly detested: a sense of entitlement.

The Gospel writer tells us the ones who presented themselves as “family” or “close relatives” to Jesus wanted to talk to him. But take note of what they did. Instead of entering the house where he was, they “STOOD OUTSIDE” and expected him to come out and meet with them. Meaning, not only did they expect special treatment from Jesus because they were “close relations”; they did not want to mingle with the people who were with him inside the house.

You know, of course how controversial Jesus had become because of the kind of people he socialized with. He wasn’t very choosy with his company. Many of them were the kind of people who were looked down upon in Jewish society as “unclean”, “sinners”, “impure”, etc. There were tax-collectors among them, some rebels, prostitutes, and even lepers. Perhaps the closest equivalent would be the people regarded in Indian society as “untouchables”, especially by those who think of themselves as belonging to a higher class of human beings—the caste system whose abolition Mahatma Gandhi strongly advocated.

What people found most radical about Jesus’ behavior was his non-discriminatory attitude towards people. He did not seem to care very much about his reputation in regard to the kind of people he circulated with.

By the way, this passage which we read from Matthew has a context in the Gospel of Mark. In Mark 3:21, just a few verses before the parallel about the “standing outside” passage, we are told that word had gotten around that Jesus was not eating anymore because he had become too engrossed with his Mission. Mark tells us his relatives set out to take him by force back to Nazareth because they thought he was already “out of his mind.”

Reading between lines, I suspect that they even brought along his mother so that they could pressure him to submit to their wishes. They probably felt that the kind of company that he was keeping was bringing dishonor to the family. (Although I am sure Mary did not feel that way herself about him.)

We have another version of this kind of presumptuousness in the Religious leaders who referred to themselves as the CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM. Remember that scene when Sadducees and Pharisees were also asking to be baptized by John, and John said, in Matthew 3:9, “Do not presume to say to yourselves we have Abraham as our father. God can raise up children to Abraham even from these stones.”

Or remember the Roman Centurion who impressed Jesus with his deep faith and how Jesus remarked, “Many will come from the east and west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be left out in the darkness outside…” (Mat 8:11) They might even knock and cry out “Lord, Lord, open the door for us… We ate and drank with you, remember?” But he will say, “I do not know you, depart from me.” Jesus often communicated this strong warning to those who tended to exclude others and presumed rather arrogantly that only they would be saved, how they might find themselves being the ones excluded in the end?

We also have that interesting parable in Luke 16, where it is not the man of high stature but the excluded poor beggar who ends up in the bosom of Abraham.

In our own Christian setting, especially in parishes, we know how our close coworkers in the parish refer to one another as “Bro. So-and-so and Sis. So-and-so. “ I’d be surprised if they would also refer to those who don’t come regularly to the parish as “brothers and sisters”. It is easy for those who frequent Church to become presumptuous about their closeness to God and to the gates of heaven over against those who are “distant” from the Church.

Jesus turns the tables on his relatives when he says, “Who is family to me? Who is my brother, my sister or my mother?” and he points at the disciples who were around him and says, “Here they are. It is THOSE WHO DO THE WILL OF MY FATHER in heaven who are brothers and sisters and mothers to me.”

Actually, he is not saying this to disown his relatives who were “standing outside”. If we apply this to ourselves, I’d say, Jesus is merely inviting us to widen our notion of family to include even those whom we are not related to by blood. Yes, it is true that “Charity begins at home.” But it should not end at home! Can we call it charity if we can do it only at home, if we cannot extend it to include the last, the least, and the lost in society. Matthew 25 tells us at the last judgment, he will “Whatever you have done for the least of MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS, you have done for me.”

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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